Conservatives see mixed results in politically charged school board election

A high-stakes election brought a mixed bag of victories and losses for conservative organizers driving Idaho school board elections.

A string of board shakeups are now on tap after a contentious election season. EdNews rounds up some of the biggest decisions voters made at the polls Tuesday.

Conservative sweeps in the Treasure Valley

Two of Idaho’s most heavily contested and politicized school board races ended in conservative sweeps.

West Ada. In the state’s largest district, Lori Frasure and Angie Redford — candidates endorsed by the local GOP in the nonpartisan race — beat out their Democrat-backed opponents, albeit by different margins. Frasure defeated Brent Hart with 64% of the vote, and Redford defeated Anita Beckman with 54%. Here are more details about these candidates.

Nampa. A trio of candidates who campaigned on opposition to mask mandates, critical race theory and universal social-emotional learning won out and will make up the majority of the district’s five-member board come Jan. 1. Brook Taylor (63%), Jeff Kirkman (65%) and Tracey Pearson (66%) all captured nearly two-thirds of the vote Tuesday. Their opponents — Sarah Riley, Patrick Tanner and Chandra Reyna, respectively — were all making their first runs for public office. More details about these candidates here.

In addition to their politically charged platforms, Kirkman and Pearson had engaged with the Idaho Freedom Foundation, a conservative group, as the only candidates in Nampa or West Ada to complete surveys focused on the Foundation’s choice education issues.

Caldwell. Trish Robertson beat Britany Gish with 58% of ballots. Gish had campaigned on a conservative platform, decrying sex education, mask mandates and critical race theory.

Kuna. Teacher Kim Nixon survived a challenge from GOP-backed Mike Ambler, pulling 55% of the vote. But fellow incumbent Sallie Ann McArthur was ousted by Kyrsti Bruce, who took 40% of the vote in a three-candidate race. McArthur was next closest, with 35%, while Eleanor Hurst pulled 25%.

Middleton. The Middleton board will change shape after challengers prevailed over incumbents in both races. Cynthia Powell beat trustee Kirk Adams with 58% support, and Jay Clark defeated trustee Aleisha McConkie with 54%.

Vallivue. Board chair Jeff Forsberg took only 15% of the vote and will be replaced by Clay Christensen, who took 63%. Christensen’s fellow challenger, Jackie Groves, also beat out Forsberg, with 22% of ballots.

Kootenai County races take on partisan overtones

Post Falls. In an open trustee race that drew national coverage, Jake Dawson won with 53% of the vote. Dawson defeated David Reilly — who came under scrutiny for his far-right ties and a string of anti-Semitic tweets. Despite the controversy, Reilly ran with the support of the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee. Here are more details about these candidates.

In Post Falls’ other races, Logan Creighton ousted incumbent Bridget Malek by only 12 votes, and Guy McAninch won an open trustee’s race with 60% of the vote. Both Creighton and McAninch carried the GOP Central Committee endorsement.

Coeur d’Alene. Three narrow races, and a mixed result.

Allie Anderton ousted incumbent Lisa May, capturing 52% of the vote. In one open race, Lesli Bjerke defeated Lindsey Swingrover by only 23 votes. Incumbent Rebecca Smith was re-elected, capturing a 52% majority to defeat Glen Campbell.

The GOP Central Committee endorsed Anderton, Bjerke and Campbell.

Lakeland. David Quimby won an open trustee’s race with 54% of the vote. Bob Jones captured a 55% majority to defeat incumbent Debbie Major.

The GOP Central Committee endorsed Quimby and Major.

Trustee Michelle Thompson also survived the sole school board recall attempt made in Idaho this November, with 55% of voters opposing her ouster.

Kootenai. Incumbent Heather Wilcox was re-elected with 55% support. Challenger Cheri Thaut ran up a 63% majority to oust incumbent Tom Reinhardt. Ellie Getchius won an open three-person race with 43% of the vote.

The GOP Central Committee endorsed two unsuccessful candidates: Richard Meyer, who challenged Wilcox; and Vicki Haney, who finished third in the race won by Getchius.

Task force members lose handily

Two members of Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin’s education task force were trounced at the polls in eastern Idaho.

Incumbent Blackfoot trustee Sonya Harris received only 32% of the vote Tuesday, falling to challenger Cleon Chapman.

In Sugar-Salem, Elaine King received only 36% support, as voters re-elected incumbent Kristin Galbraith.

McGeachin, a GOP gubernatorial candidate, assembled the task force to investigate claims of indoctrination in K-12 schools and higher education.

East Idaho incumbents saw mixed results

In other East Idaho results:

Aberdeen. Incumbent David Wahlen beat Tiffany Jenkins by just two votes to secure the district’s Zone 1 seat. Amy Burusco garnered 74% of the vote to oust incumbent Mike Shackelford.

Blackfoot. In the district’s two other contested races, Kevin Callahan secured 51% of votes over Lee Griffin, in a tight race for the district’s Zone 1 seat. Trustee Mary Jo Marlow won her contested race against Ronda Cheatham, securing almost 70% of the vote.

Bonneville. In East Idaho’s largest district, Carissa Coats took 61% of the vote over Matthew Sather. Randy Smith ousted trustee Scott Lynch, also winning 61% of the vote.

Fremont County. Incumbent Coy Crapo retained his seat after winning 79% of the vote over challenger Jerod Brig.

Idaho Falls. Trustee Paul Haacke secured another term, winning 65% of the vote over challenger Kenneth Williams.

Jefferson County. In an open three-way race, Angela Reed secured 70% of votes. Taelyn Nelson received 18%, while Austin Rasmussen garnered 11%.

Marsh Valley. Williams Jons won with 79% support over Amy Hemsley.

Pocatello-Chubbuck. Heather Clarke won 58% of the vote over two opponents. Incumbent Dave Mattson lost his Zone 5 seat to Deanna Judy, who won over 56% of votes.

Teton County. Ray Hinchcliff won 54% of the vote over Jeanette Boner for the district’s Zone 3 seat. Incumbent Jake Kunz beat Kathleen Haar, with 52% support.

West Jefferson. Incumbent Nedra Perkins won 91% of votes over Annie Dalling.

A rough night for incumbents across the state

Across Idaho, 47 incumbent school trustees sought re-election Tuesday.

Only 26 — or 55% — managed to win.

Incumbents lost in some of Idaho’s largest districts, such as Coeur d’Alene and Bonneville, and rural districts from St. Maries to Basin to Aberdeen.

In Middleton and Mountain View, voters turned out two incumbents apiece.

In Jerome and Parma, incumbents lost to write-in candidates.

Here’s a list of the incumbents who lost Tuesday.

Mike Shackelford (Aberdeen); Brent Adamson (Basin); Sonya Harris (Blackfoot); Scott Lynch (Bonneville); Bruce Thompson (Cassia County); Lisa May (Coeur d’Alene);  Sallie Ann McArthur (Kuna); Gary Suppiger (Lake Pend Oreille);

Debbie Major (Lakeland); Aleisha McConkie (Middleton); Kirk Adams (Middleton); Rebecca Warden (Mountain View); Kaylana Matthews (Mountain View); Paige Goodson (Parma); Dave Mattson (Pocatello-Chubbuck); Bridget Malek (Post Falls); Pete Dirlam (St. Maries); Jeff Forsberg (Vallivue); Margaret Chipman (Weiser).

Levies pass

Three districts had supplemental levies on Tuesday’s ballot. All three were successful.

West Ada. Voters narrowly reupped the district’s two-year, $28 million supplemental levy, lending 52% support.

The levy pays for staff salaries and daily operations. If the levy wasn’t renewed before expiring in the summer of 2022, it could have resulted in staff cutbacks or a shortened school calendar, Superintendent Derek Bub said at a recent Boise Metro Chamber meeting.

“We’ve taken hits in education,” Bub said. “We hope that we (can) get it under our belt and move forward” by sustaining current operations with the levy funding.

Minidoka County. Voters renewed its two-year, $4.5 million supplemental levy with 59% support.

Buhl. The district earned 60% support for a two-year, $800,000 levy. That’s an increase from an expiring $700,000 levy.

Look below for a full list of results. Prevailing candidates are highlighted in yellow.

EdNews data analyst Randy Schrader contributed. 

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