A new political map charts a course for high-profile Statehouse showdowns

If it survives the inevitable legal challenges, a new legislative map will reshape Statehouse politics — immediately.

The new map, approved Friday, would pit incumbents against each other, in several corners of the state. And some big-name incumbents as well, including the chair of the Senate Education Committee, the chairs of both legislative tax committees, three members of the House’s Republican leadership team and the House Democrats’ floor leader.

Before we preview the prospective matchups, here’s the recap.

Last week, a bipartisan citizens’ commission finished drawing new congressional and legislative maps, an attempt to bring Idaho’s political geography in line with 2020 U.S. Census data. The maps change as the state’s population base changes — so as more people move into high-growth areas such as the Treasure Valley, the growing areas pick up legislative seats at the expense of other parts of the state. That shifting inevitably forces some sitting legislators into the same district.

If the maps stand up in court, they will remain in place for the next decade. But for political nerds, the fun is already getting started. (And we’re by no means the first to this party. Idaho political watcher Holly Cook has spent much of the past several days poring over the maps and scouting out the 2022 elections; here’s a link to her Twitter feed.)

Using the state’s handy mapping site, Idaho Education News conducted a similar exercise. By plotting out where incumbent lawmakers live, based on Idaho’s legislative directory and other public records, we were able to pinpoint several possible primary showdowns:

District 7 Senate, GOP. Carl Crabtree, Grangeville, Dan Johnson, Lewiston. Both lawmakers sit on the Senate Education Committee. Crabtree, a third-term senator, also sits on the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, where he has considerable sway over education budgets. One other wrinkle in this race: Last week, Johnson was elected Lewiston’s first full-time mayor in decades. The six-term senator has said he plans to juggle his municipal and legislative duties next session.

District 7 House, GOP. Three House incumbents for two seats: Mike Kingsley, Lewiston; Lori McCann, Lewiston; and Charlie Shepherd, Pollock. And with two Senate incumbents already in the mix, there’s no easy path for a House member to switch chambers.

Kingsley is in his third House term. Shepherd is a first-term lawmaker.

McCann was appointed this spring to succeed former Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger, now facing a rape charge. (The address McCann lists in the legislative directory places her in District 7, but it’s unclear whether she lives in District 7 or neighboring District 6. And that would put her in the same district with Reps. Caroline Nilsson Troy, R-Genesee, and Brandon Mitchell, R-Moscow.)

Shepherd’s current House seatmate, Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird, is running for lieutenant governor.

District 8 House, GOP. Megan Blanksma, Hammett; Matt Bundy, Mountain Home; and Terry Gestrin, Donnelly. Serving in her third term, Blanksma is the House’s majority caucus chair. Bundy, a first-term lawmaker, is a JFAC member. Gestrin is a six-term lawmaker.

There might not be an open path to a Senate seat here either. Incumbent Sen. Christy Zito, R-Hammett, lives in this reconfigured district.

Gestrin’s current House seatmate, Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley, last week announced her candidacy for secretary of state.

District 9 Senate, GOP. Jim Rice, Caldwell. Abby Lee, Fruitland. Rice, serving in his sixth term, chairs the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee. Lee, a four-term lawmaker, is the Senate’s assistant majority leader. Another wrinkle: Lee is a finalist for the president’s job at the College of Western Idaho, and will interview for the job next week.

District 10 House, GOP. Mike Moyle, Star; Tammy Nichols, Middleton; Bruce Skaug, Nampa. One of these three incumbents could move into an open Senate race. But Moyle is House majority leader. And with House Speaker Scott Bedke running for lieutenant governor, Moyle would be next in line for the top spot in leadership. Nichols is in her second House term, Skaug is in his first term.

District 14 Senate, GOP. Steven Thayn, Emmett; C. Scott Grow, Eagle. Thayn, an eight-term House and Senate member, chairs Senate Education, making him one of the Statehouse’s key players in K-12 and higher education policy. Grow is a JFAC member, serving his third term.

District 18 House, Democrat. Redistricting puts three Boise Democrats in the same district: Sue Chew, Brooke Green and Ilana Rubel, the House’s minority leader. Chew is in her eighth House term, Green is in her second term, Rubel is in her fifth term.

This one might be subject to change, however. Chew recently moved into the new version of her old legislative District 17, Rubel told Idaho Education News Wednesday.

District 22 House, GOP. A real logjam in this suburban district: Greg Ferch, Boise; Steven Harris, Meridian; Jason Monks, Meridian; John Vander Woude, Nampa. Harris, a five-term House member, chairs the House Revenue and Taxation Committee. Monks, also in his fifth term, is House assistant majority leader. Vander Woude is in his seventh House term. Ferch is a first-term lawmaker.

District 23 Senate, GOP. Patti Anne Lodge, Caldwell; Todd Lakey, Nampa. Two committee chairs on a potential collision course. Lodge — the senior member of the Senate, serving her 11th term — chairs the State Affairs Committee. Lakey, in his fifth Senate term, heads the Judiciary and Rules Committee.

District 35 House, GOP. Another four-incumbent logjam: Kevin Andrus, Lava Hot Springs; Randy Armstrong, Inkom; Chad Christensen, Iona; Marc Gibbs, Grace. Gibbs is the senior member of this group, in his seventh term. Armstrong is in his third term, Andrus and Christensen are in their second terms. Christensen may be best known in education circles for pushing for guns-in-schools legislation.

The four House members have no clear path to the Senate; GOP caucus chair Mark Harris lives in District 35.

The legislative map received unanimous support Friday, from the commission’s three Republicans and three Democrats. But it received a lukewarm reception from House Republicans, who said the state will lose “considerable talent and dedication to service” when some veteran lawmakers are pushed out.

“The Idaho House Republican Caucus is not entirely thrilled,” Bedke said in a statement Friday. “In some cases, highly-qualified and established legislators may be forced to campaign against equally skilled former colleagues.”

Coming Friday: Clark Corbin of Idaho Capital Sun joins the Kevin Richert Podcast to talk more about the redistricting process.

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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