Election 2020: Strong showing for Republicans in the Legislature

Republicans will add two seats to their supermajority in the Idaho Legislature when the 2021 session begins in January.

Two GOP challengers defeated incumbent Democrats with, according to complete but unofficial election results with all 44 counties reporting Wednesday.

That moves the balance of power in the Idaho House to 58 Republicans and 12 Democrats.

Heading into Election Day, Democrats controlled 14 seats in the House.

One of the Republicans pick-ups came at the expense of a Democrat serving on the House Education Committee. With all 54 Bannock County precincts reporting Wednesday morning, GOP challenger Dustin Manwaring defeated Rep. Chris Abernathy, D-Pocatello.

Manwaring is a former legislator who won his seat back.

  • Manwaring: 10,181 votes; 53.8 percent.
  • Abernathy: 8,753; 46.2 percent.

Another Republican pickup came in Boise’s District 15, which was expected to be a district to watch.

Rep. Steve Berch questions a speaker during a House Education Committee hearing on English Language Arts standards on Jan. 15, 2020.

Just before midnight, final unofficial results showed Republican challenger Codi Galloway defeating Rep. Jake Ellis, D-Boise.

  • Galloway: 11,975; 52.6 percent.
  • Ellis: 10,785; 47.4 percent.

In the House Seat A race, Rep. Steve Berch, D-Boise, defeated Republican challenger Patrick McDonald.

  • Berch: 11,567; 50.6 percent.
  • McDonald: 10,933; 47.8 percent.
  • David Hartigan, Constitution Party: 365; 1.6 percent.

Berch serves on the House Education Committee, while McDonald is a former vice chairman of House Education.

In District 15 Senate’s race, Sen. Fred Martin, R-Boise, defeated Democratic challenger Rick Just.

  • Martin: 12,009; 53 percent.
  • Just: 10,654; 47 percent.

District 15 is a split, or purple, district that Democrats have long hoped to take control of and Republicans want to hold on to. With Galloway’s victory, the GOP now controls two of the district’s three legislative seats.

Other legislators involved in education and budget setting committees were cruising to reelection.

  • In District 8’s Senate race, Sen. Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, comfortably defeated two third-party challengers. Thayn is vice chairman of the Senate Education Committee, and could be in line to become chairman by next year.
  • In District 24’s House Seat B race, House Education Committee Chairman Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, beat Constitution Party challenger Paul Thompson.
  • In District 33’s House Seat A race, Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, defeated Democratic Challenger Miranda Marquit. Ehardt is a member of the House Education Committee and she sponsored Idaho’s law banning transgender girls and women from participating in women’s sports.

Results were delayed in some parts of the state. With midnight approaching, only about 38 percent of statewide precincts had reported. Bonneville County did not post any results from in-person voting to its elections website until after 11 p.m.

At 2:30 a.m., Boise and Valley counties did not have any results reported through the Secretary of State’s website.

In one of the least surprising developments of the presidential election, the Associated Press called Idaho for President Trump just as polls closed at 9 p.m.

“The game was over as it started on that one,” Chief Deputy Secretary of State Chad Houck said on a Zoom call with reporters Tuesday night.

Houck and other officials with the Secretary of State’s Office said they were bracing for a record turnout in terms of raw numbers. Idaho may even set a record for percentage turnout. In Ada County, final unofficial results showed turnout at 87.8 percent of registered voters.

Since 2000, the highest statewide turnout in Idaho was 77.3 percent in the 2008 presidential election. Turnout for this year’s election won’t be known until all the votes are counted, Houck said.

Overall, Houck said state elections officials were pleased with how things were going as of 10:30 p.m. Tuesday.

“Clerks have been working hard and their staffs have been working hard for months prepping for and learning this new system in a very short period of time,” Houck said. “It went as well if not maybe better, than expected.”

All results reported Tuesday and Wednesday by the state and counties are unofficial. The results will not become official until after they are certified by the State Board of Canvassers. The deadline to certify Idaho election results is Nov. 18.

College of Western Idaho

Three new trustees will take seats on the College of Western Idaho board after challengers toppled a pair of incumbents.

In Zone 1, Samantha Guerro defeated incumbent Skip Smyser by more than 25,000 votes.

In Zone 3, April Baylon-Mendoza, defeated founding CWI trustee Mary Niland after Baylon-Mendoza secured 51 percent of the vote.

In Zone 5, retiring state Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb ran unopposed to succeed retiring trustee Mark Dunham.

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