Democrats aim to lock in a superintendent candidate ‘early next year’

Two Republicans have already announced they’ll run for state superintendent of public instruction, while the Idaho Democratic Party is still looking for a candidate with five months to go until the primary.

Democrats are still recruiting candidates and “hope to have someone committed early next year” for the statewide election, party executive director Jared DeLoof told EdNews by phone Monday.

So the minority party in deep-red Idaho doesn’t yet have a hat in the ring for superintendent, despite earlier recruiting successes in the races for governor and lieutenant governor.

The superintendent’s race has provided Democrats their most recent success, as compared to other statewide elections. The last Democratic official to win election to a state executive office in Idaho was the late Marilyn Howard. She secured her second and final term in 2002.

DeLoof pointed to Howard’s success, and said, “This is definitely a big race that we are watching and have our eye on. … Our performance in this race in the past has been a real high-water mark for Democrats, and that definitely seems to be one of those spots where our strength on education issues attracts people across the political spectrum.”

Jared Deloof / Idaho Democratic Party

Still, he stopped short of saying the party will put a higher share of fundraising efforts into the race. And DeLoof doesn’t think a late announcement from Democrats will hurt their competitiveness. The party has in recent years focused on the general election in November, as statewide Democratic primaries often go uncontested — like they did in two of the last three superintendent elections.

Not so for Republicans, who, since 2006, have fielded 10 primary candidates to Democrats’ six. The most lopsided example came in 2014, when four Republicans vied for the superintendent spot while Democrat Jana Jones sailed through to the general unchallenged.

This cycle, former Democratic lawmaker Branden Durst and former State Board of Education President Debbie Critchfield have already formally announced they’ll run in the Republican primary in May. (Incumbent two-term superintendent Sherri Ybarra is widely expected to run for reelection, though she hasn’t announced her plans.)

“I think that whoever the candidate is that emerges out of the primary will be set to be competitive in the fall,” DeLoof said of Democrats’ chances.

The Democrats have reached out to “multiple” prospective candidates, including some sitting lawmakers, DeLoof said, “but I won’t get more specific than that.”

The deadline for candidates to file for a run is March 11, 2022.

Blake Jones

Blake Jones

Reporter Blake Jones covers the politics and policy of Idaho's K-12 public school system. He's a lifelong Idahoan, and holds degrees in Creative Writing and Political Economy from the College of Idaho. Follow Blake on Twitter @jonesblakej. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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