Horman wins, Marmon upsets Yamamoto in key legislative races


Correction: This story has been updated to correct a reference to the Democratic primary in Caldwell’s House Seat A race. There is a Democratic candidate in the race, who ran unopposed in the primary.

All 105 seats in the Idaho Legislature are on offer this year, and a handful of tight Republican primary contests have centered on education.

School choice, Idaho Launch, “harmful” material in libraries and other education policies have divided candidates in spendy primary races. And powerful incumbents who have played key roles in education policymaking — including chairs of the budget and education committees — are up for reelection.

Unofficial results from Tuesday’s election show that Rep. Wendy Horman, co-chair of the Legislature’s budget committee, won the GOP nomination in her bid for a seventh term.

Senate Education Committee Chairman Dave Lent, also from Idaho Falls, handily won his primary contest. One incumbent conservative hardliner on Senate Education, Sen. Scott Herndon, lost his seat, but two others, Sens. Brian Lenney and Tammy Nichols, will move on to the general election.

The House Education Committee, meanwhile, will have a new chair. Rep. Julie Yamamoto lost her primary bid to a challenger from the right, Kent Marmon. Vice chair of the committee, Rep. Lori McCann, also appeared to be in danger well into early Wednesday morning, but she ultimately won her three-way race by 200 votes.

All results are unofficial until elections are certified.

Horman vs. Smith vs. Coletti — Idaho Falls, House Seat B

Final unofficial results:

Wendy Horman — 3,236 votes, 45.5%

Sean Coletti — 2,522 votes, 35.5%

Bryan Smith — 1,352 votes, 19%

In one of the more intriguing primary contests, Rep. Wendy Horman, co-chair of the powerful Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, won the Republican ticket against two high-profile challengers.

Bryan Smith is a GOP national committeeman who sits on the board of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, a right-wing think tank. Sean Coletti is the mayor of Ammon, an upstart suburban town near Idaho Falls.

Horman has been the House’s go-to education budget writer in her previous six terms. She’s also an advocate for school choice, which was a point of contention with Coletti, a staunch opponent of directing public funds to private education. Smith, who twice lost to Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson in primary bids for Congress, also favored spending tax dollars on private and home-schooling.

Horman will face Idaho Falls Democrat Patricia Dustin Stanger in the November general election.

Click here to read EdNews Reporter Kevin Richert’s coverage of the three-way Republican race.

Herndon vs. Woodward — Sandpoint/Sagle, Senate

Final unofficial results:

Jim Woodward — 8,219 votes, 51.9%

Scott Herndon — 7,606 votes, 48.1%

One of the costliest primary contests was a rematch, and the series between Sen. Scott Herndon and former Sen. Jim Woodward is now split. 

Woodward collected nearly 52% of the vote in Tuesday’s contest, avenging his big 2022 loss to Herndon.

Herndon, a home-builder, is a member of the hardline conservative Idaho Freedom Caucus. Through his two committee assignments — Education and Joint Finance-Appropriations — he has supported school choice legislation and has opposed state agency budgets he deemed exorbitant.

Woodward, a business owner, is a step closer to returning to the Statehouse after two previous terms. As a senator, he helped craft education spending and policy bills that gave teachers raises and allowed school districts to move onto the state’s insurance plan.

The candidates diverged on Idaho Launch, the fledgling workforce training scholarship program, which Woodward supports and Herndon opposes, as well as hot-button social issues. Herndon blasted Woodward for voting against a law banning transgender students from playing in girls’ sports, while Woodward criticized Herndon for his hardline stance on abortion. 

Woodward will face two independent candidates — Steve Johnson and Dan Rose — in the general election.

Click here to read Richert’s coverage of the Republican contest.

Lenney vs. Agenbroad — Nampa, Senate

Final unofficial results:

Brian Lenney — 2,695 votes, 55.6%

Jeff Agenbroad — 2,154 votes, 44.4%

A Senate contest in Nampa also presented a rematch, but results this go around were much the same. Sen. Brian Lenney again handily defeated rival and former Sen. Jeff Agenbroad. 

Lenney won by 541 votes, collecting 55.6% to Agenbroad’s 44.4%

The repeat primary contest focused on state spending. Lenney called his opponent a “big spender” who neglected to scrutinize budgets during his Statehouse tenure. Agenbroad countered that the incumbent’s hardline stance on spending risks defunding valuable services, including public education.

Lenney will face Sarah Butler, who ran unopposed in the Democratic primary, in November.

Click here to read more about the Lenney-Agenbroad race.

Yamamoto vs. Marmon — Caldwell, House Seat A

Final unofficial results:

Kent Marmon — 1,912 votes, 56.8%

Julie Yamamoto — 1,455 votes, 43.2%

In one of the most significant upsets of the primary election, Kent Marmon defeated Rep. Julie Yamamoto, chairwoman of the House Education Committee.

And it wasn’t close. Marmon secured nearly 57% of votes among Caldwell voters.

Yamamoto, a retired public school teacher and administrator, sought a third term. Marmon, a businessman, is a former Caldwell School District trustee and Caldwell City Council member, four times lost GOP primary election bids for the Legislature.

The campaign centered on hot-button education issues, including library materials, arming teachers and school choice. Yamamoto has long resisted plans that would direct public funds to private education. Marmon argued that public education funds should follow students to schools that meet their needs, including private institutions.

Marmon is set to face Anthony Porto in November. The Democrat ran unopposed in the primary.

Click here to read more about the candidates.

Lent vs. Scholz — Idaho Falls, Senate

Final unofficial results:

Dave Lent —  2,580 votes, 60.1%

Bryan Scholz — 1,714 votes, 39.9%

Sen. Dave Lent, chairman of the Senate Education Committee and senior member of the budget committee, is one step closer to a fourth term after one of a slew of GOP primary contests that has centered on school choice.

Lent defeated challenger Bryan Scholz, who advocated for state spending on private school, an effort he says will create healthy competition in education. Lent, a school choice skeptic, highlighted his key role in Idaho Launch. And he pushed for changes to the state’s outdated school funding formula to bolster support for special education needs.

For more information on the GOP primary battle, read Richert’s coverage here.

Lent will run unopposed in the general election. There is no candidate from the Democratic Party.

Nichols vs. Bishop — Middleton/Star, Senate

Final unofficial results:

Tammy Nichols — 5,915 votes, 64.1%

Lori Bishop —  3,311 votes, 35.9%

Sen. Tammy Nichols, co-chair of the hardline conservative Idaho Freedom Caucus, sailed to victory Tuesday.

Nichols defeated challenger Lori Bishop by 2,604 votes in the legislative district that represents Middleton and Star.

Nichols. a leading advocate for school choice, is seeking a second term in the Senate — and fourth overall in the Statehouse. 

Bishop, a public school volunteer and homemaker, slammed Nichols’ failed school choice bill from 2023 for lacking taxpayer accountability. Her policy priorities and opposition to state spending have threatened public schools, Bishop argued during her campaign.

In the general election, Nichols will face-off with unopposed Democratic candidate Letishia Silva.

To read more about the race between Nichols and Bishop, click here.

McCann vs. Bennett vs. Dalby — Lewiston/Moscow, House Seat A

Final unofficial results:

Lori McCann —  2,814 votes, 43.6%

Colton Bennett —  2,614 votes, 40.5%

Dave Dalby — 1,022 votes, 15.8%

House Education Committee Vice Chair Lori McCann defeated two opponents from the right in her reelection bid, and one of the challengers was competitive in the district covering Lewiston and Moscow. 

McCann bested former U.S. Army medic Colton Bennett by just 200 votes, a 3.1% difference. Retired U.S. Marine Dave Dalby was far behind, collecting just 15.8% of the vote.

In the campaign, Bennett and Dalby took opposing stances to McCann on Idaho Launch and on school choice. McCann is a staunch supporter of Launch, while both Bennett and Dalby said the program was an overstep of the state’s authority.

McCann has also reliably opposed school choice legislation. Bennett dismissed claims that directing money to private education would harm public schools. Dalby advocated for school choice as a path toward values-based education.

Click here to read Richert’s coverage of the Republican contest.

McCann is set to face Democrat Trish Carter-Goodheart in the general election. Carter-Goodheart ran unopposed in the Democratic primary.

Ryan Suppe

Ryan Suppe

Senior reporter Ryan Suppe covers education policy, focusing on K-12 schools. He previously reported on state politics, local government and business for newspapers in the Treasure Valley and Eastern Idaho. A Nevada native, Ryan enjoys golf, skiing and movies. Follow him on Twitter: @ryansuppe. Contact him at [email protected]

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