After the filings: 10 legislative races to watch

Now that the 10-day candidate filing window is closed, let’s take a closer look at what jumps out from the filings.

First, a few numbers:

30. The number of legislators who will get a free ride this year — with neither a primary nor a general election opponent. The list includes 23 Republicans and seven Democrats, and comprises close to a third of the 105-member Legislature. By comparison, 29 legislators ran unopposed in 2014, and 13 had no opposition in 2012.

6. The number of candidates in a crowded race to succeed retiring Idaho Supreme Court Chief Justice Jim Jones. The list is heavy with familiar names and political veterans: Robyn Brody of Rupert; Sergio Gutierrez of Nampa, an Idaho Court of Appeals justice; Curt McKenzie of Nampa, a Republican state senator who is leaving the Legislature; Wm. Breck Seiniger of Boise, who ran unsuccessfully for Supreme Court in 2014; Christ Troupis of Eagle, an unsuccessful Republican candidate for attorney general in 2014; and Clive Strong, a deputy attorney general specializing in water issues.

The civics: all six names will appear on the nonpartisan May 17 ballot — and Idahoans can vote in this race if they take part in a party primary, or vote only in judicial races. Odds are this race won’t be settled until fall. Unless a candidate clears the 50 percent threshold in May, the top two candidates will square off in November.

3. The number of legislative committee chairmen who aren’t seeking re-election. That includes McKenzie, chairman of the Senate State Affairs Committee; Rep. Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, chairman of the House Education Committee; and Rep. Ken Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs, chairman of the House Agricultural Affairs Committee.

And now, 10 legislative races to watch this year:

Keough 2016 JFAC
Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint

District 1 Senate. Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, is the Senate’s senior member and she co-chairs the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. But that resume might be a drawback with conservative voters in Idaho’s northernmost district; she was nominated with only 54 percent backing in the May 2014 primary. This time around, she faces Glenn Rohrer of Priest River in the GOP primary. Bonners Ferry Democrat Steve Tanner has also filed for office. (Here’s a link to my recent profile of Keough.)

District 4, House Seat A. Another incumbent who has been fighting the conservative headwinds in North Idaho. Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, faces Arthur Macomber of Coeur d’Alene in the May primary. Coeur d’Alene Democrats Patrick Mitchell and Turns to the East have also filed.

District 4, House Seat B. Rep. Kathleen Sims, R-Coeur d’Alene, has a GOP primary opponent, Paul Amador of Coeur d’Alene. Tom Hearn, a Coeur d’Alene School District trustee, is running on the Democratic ticket.

Jordan New
Rep. Paulette Jordan, D-Plummer

District 5, House Seat A. Rep. Paulette Jordan, D-Plummer, ousted incumbent Rep. Lucinda Agidius in a narrow race in 2014. She has two Republican opponents, Carl Berglund of Kendrick and Bill Goesling of Moscow, a State Board of Education member.

District 6, House Seat A. Two years ago, Democrat Dan Rudolph ousted Rep. Thyra Stevenson, R-Lewiston, by a scant 25 votes. Rudolph is not seeking re-election. Stevenson wants to return to the Statehouse, and is opposed by Bob Blakey, a Lewiston Democrat.

District 6, House Seat B. In 2014, Rep. John Rusche, D-Lewiston, staved off a challenge from Lewiston Republican Mike Kingsley. The House minority leader won by only 48 votes. Rusche and Kingsley meet again this fall.

District 14, House Seat B. The race to succeed DeMordaunt, who is retiring after six years in the Legislature. DeMordaunt’s wife, Gayann, has filed; she sits on the state’s Public Charter School Commission. Meridian Republican Douglas Jones is also in the race; a former resident of Filer, he served in the Legislature from 1985 to 2006 and chaired the House Agricultural Affairs Committee. The nominee faces Eagle Democrat Glida Bothwell in November.

Patrick McDonald
Rep. Patrick McDonald, R-Boise

District 15, House Seat B. Rep. Patrick McDonald, R-Boise, faces two GOP opponents in his bid for a third term: Jason Robinson and Rod Beck, both of Boise. Beck, a former state senator, is chairing Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in Idaho. The nominee will face Boise Democrat Jake Ellis in November.

District 26, House Seat A. Rep. Steven Miller, R-Fairfield, is seeking a third term in a swing district that includes Blaine County. Miller, a JFAC member, won by only 126 votes in 2014. Miller’s Democratic opponent, Kathleen Eder, is a retired postmaster and chairs the Hailey Rotary Club.

Packer New
Rep. Kelley Packer, R-McCammon

District 28, House Seat B. Worth watching in light of a recent war of words. First, Rep. Kelley Packer, R-McCammon, called out the Idaho Freedom Foundation in her weekly podcast. Then the conservative group fired back with a robocall labeling Packer a liberal. She faces Pocatello Republican Jason West in May. The winner will be unopposed in November.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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