After Idaho Education News sat down with Sherri Ybarra to discuss her surprising win in the GOP state superintendent’s primary, I decided to take a closer look at last week’s results.
The county-by-county breakdowns are perhaps what you would expect in a race like this: a race involving four small-town educators who had never run for state office before.
The four Republicans all fared well where they are best known — closest to home.
Ybarra, a Mountain Home school administrator, pulled some of her best numbers in Southwest Idaho — and not just Elmore County, where she did most of her modest campaign fundraising. She captured Ada County and several adjacent counties in the Treasure Valley, won a fair chunk of the Magic Valley and Central Idaho. Significantly, she was able to move beyond her geographic stronghold to win two counties in Eastern Idaho: Bonneville and Fremont.
In all, Ybarra won 19 counties: Ada, Adams, Blaine, Boise, Bonneville, Butte, Camas, Custer, Elmore, Fremont, Gem, Gooding, Jerome, Lemhi, Lincoln, Owyhee, Payette, Valley and Washington counties.
Randy Jensen, a longtime American Falls principal, won big in Southeast Idaho, and also picked up wins in the Magic Valley.
His 11 counties: Bannock, Bear Lake, Bingham, Caribou, Cassia, Franklin, Minidoka, Oneida, Power, Teton and Twin Falls counties.
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John Eynon, a teacher in the Cottonwood School District, carried all 10 counties in the Pacific time zone. That mirrors what we saw in other races as well. It was a big night for Eynon and fellow conservatives in the Panhandle, and not just in the state races, as conservative challengers knocked off Senate Education Committee Chairman John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, and Reps. George Eskridge, R-Dover, and Ed Morse, R-Hayden.
Eynon won Benewah, Bonner, Boundary, Clearwater, Idaho, Kootenai, Latah, Lewis, Nez Perce and Shoshone counties.
Andy Grover, superintendent of the Melba School District, picked up his home Canyon County. He also carried three eastern Idaho counties — which could be explained by the fact that he grew up in Ririe, in rural eastern Idaho, and taught in the area before moving to Melba.
Grover’s four counties: Canyon, Clark, Jefferson and Madison counties.
The short takeaway: Regionalism matters, especially in a wide-open race like this one. Ybarra, however, did a better job outside her home turf.