District 1 Senate, Keough vs. Rohrer

A political newcomer is taking on the most senior member of the Idaho Senate in a tough North Idaho Republican primary race.

On Tuesday, retired California Air National Guard pilot and engineer Glenn Rohrer will challenge Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, for the District 1 Senate seat.

Rohrer, who lives in Priest River, is a political rookie and opponent of Common Core.

Although Rohrer moved to Idaho as an adult, he has long been fascinated with the state.

“As a young kid, I always dreamed of mountain streams and rivers and rural life,” he said.

Rohrer calls himself a Reagan conservative and described Keough as a “tax-and-spend representative who voted to approve almost every single bill that came before her.”

Keough 2016 JFAC
Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint

Seeking her 11th term, Keough said her top priority is to provide stable funding for public schools and other programs that were frozen or cut back during the economic downturn.

“Should I be re-elected, I will continue to utilize my seniority to move our highway projects forward and to continue our efforts to be a business-friendly state so businesses can grow the jobs we need, especially in our rural areas,” Keough said.

Keough is in her first year as co-chairwoman of the budget-writing Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, a role that gives her great influence over budget and funding decisions.

The winner of Tuesday’s primary will face Steve Tanner, who filed as a Democrat, or Stephen Howlett, who is running as a Democratic write-in candidate.

The race

Republican primary: District 1 Senate


Shawn Keough (www.shawnkeough.com)

Glenn Rohrer (www.rohrer4idahosenate.com)

How long have you lived in your legislative district?

Keough: Moved to Sandpoint in 1979.

Rohrer: Lived in Bonner County for 23 years.


Keough: Attended North Idaho College and Lewis-Clark State College, studying business management.

Rohrer: Associate’s degree from Chaffey College, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. Studied engineering at California State Polytechnic University.

Political background:

Keough: Longest currently serving Idaho senator, serving 20 years.

Rohrer: Political newcomer.

Who can vote: Registered voters within District 1, which includes Boundary County and part of Bonner County. Check this map for details.

Election date: May 17.

Education connection: Keough co-chairs the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, which writes the school budgets. She is also a former member of the Senate Education Committee.

Before you vote: Doublecheck whether you are registered to vote and the location of your polling place.

Do you support the 2016-17 public school budget passed by the Legislature this year? Why or why not?

Keough: “I’m obviously very supportive of the budget we set, because it helps us continue to grow from the economic downturn. We have also started to shore up that basic structure of K-12 funding. Plus I’m very pleased we were able to do a substantial investment in our career-technical education system, which has a huge impact for those programs because those graduates are finding immediate work in Idaho. I’m really excited about being able to sure those programs up and reduce that backlog. I was pleased what we were able to do with the higher ed budget as well, and to increase opportunities for a four-year computer science degree in North Idaho.”

Rohrer: “One of the biggest things, of all the things, is the interdependence that is happening in the state. If I had to pick a very important one (issue), to me it is helping the state of Idaho become more fiscally sound. Right now, we balance the budget with about 30 percent federal funds. That’s the wrong way to go. In other words, we have a deficit budget.”

Explain why you support or oppose implementing all of Gov. Butch Otter’s Task Force for Improving Education recommendations over the next three years.

Keough: “I am very supportive of the governor’s task force. I wish it had happened before the so-called Luna Laws were brought out and promoted and defeated by voters. It felt like that whole process was backwards in that they didn’t bring a diverse group of stakeholders together first. Then we moved forward based on input from everybody. I applauded the governor at the time, and continue to, for his leadership to bring that task force together. I don’t have the recommendations in front of me, but for the most part I’m supportive of the outcomes from that and hope that task force will be a continuing effort. It does bring a diverse group of stakeholders together to advise the executive branch and the legislative branch on the direction we should go for K-12.”

Editor’s note: On Tuesday Rohrer ended a telephone interview with Idaho EdNews early. Instead of answering all the questions during the interview, he asked for several questions to be emailed to him. He has not responded.

State leaders are promoting a goal of having 60 percent of the Idaho’s young adults hold a postsecondary degree or certificate by the year 2020. What is your position on this goal?

Keough: “I’m supportive of it and of its multi-pronged approach. Like the lieutenant governor outlined, not every student is destined for college. It is important that the whole system not be geared toward college, because that leaves a lot of students out. So I’m encouraged with the 60 percent goal that we’re including not only college, but the career-technical piece or some type of certificate program for those blue-collar skills that are desperately needed. I continue to encourage development and expansion of advanced programs, like 8 in 6 and dual enrollment. Those programs show what I have kind of thought all along. We have to provide those opportunities for kids in high school, particularly those who may not be going on for whatever reason. They provide the reason to stay focused on your educational achievements at a time when you might otherwise drop out.”

Rohrer did not answer this question.

This year the Legislature passed two bills into law and set aside $9.1 million in new funding in an attempt to improve literacy rates of young readers in kindergarten through third grade. What is your position on this initiative?

Keough: “I’m extremely supportive of it. When I first entered the Legislature and was on the Senate Education Committee, the literacy program we revamped this year was put in place to try to meet those very goals. I was encouraged we’re taking another look at it and providing significant funding for intervention to try to make a big difference.”

Rohrer: “There are so many things we need to do in education in this state. If there is a big problem in third-grade reading, that’s a big reason we need to investigate why, and not just throw money at it.”

Further reading:


Clark Corbin

Get EdNews in your inbox

Weekly round up every Friday