UPDATED: Governor, superintendent endorse legislative candidates

This story was originally published May 2. EdNews will add timely updates as new endorsements are announced. 

May 15 update: 

Attorney General Raúl Labrador endorsed Sen. Tammy Nichols, R-Middleton, in her reelection bid against Lori Bishop.

Rep. Julie Yamamoto, R-Caldwell, who is seeking a third term in the House, won an endorsement from Gov. Brad Little. Yamamoto faces Kent Marmon in the GOP primary election.

May 7 update: 

Two high-ranking state leaders weighed in on a competitive legislative primary contest in Nampa.

Labrador has endorsed incumbent Sen. Brian Lenney in his GOP primary rematch against former Sen. Jeff Agenbroad.

Agenbroad, meanwhile, notched an endorsement from State Superintendent of Public Instruction Debbie Critchfield.

Both Labrador and Critchfield are Republicans.

Original story: 

Idaho’s statewide leaders are throwing their weight behind allies in competitive races ahead of this month’s primary election. 

Gov. Brad Little, Lt. Gov. Scott Bedke, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Debbie Critchfield and Attorney General Raúl Labrador in recent weeks have endorsed candidates in legislative and local contests. 

It’s not unusual for the governor to endorse primary election candidates, although Little has done it sparingly. In recent years, his legislative priorities — such as Idaho Launch, the budding workforce training scholarship program — have faced opposition from members of his own party. 

In a May 2 conversation with reporters where he touted this year’s legislative accomplishments, the second-term Republican said he needs strong relationships with lawmakers to help advance common goals.  He’s endorsing “people that put their shoulder to the wheel … to get things done.”

“They’ve got to know that I’ve got their back,” Little said. “And they’ve got my back.”

It’s noteworthy, however, that other constitutional officers are backstopping candidates as well, said Jaclyn Kettler, a political science professor at Boise State University.

State superintendent Debbie Critchfield (Photo: Darren Svan/EdNews)

Critchfield, a Republican in her first term, has endorsed at least two GOP candidates for reelection to the Legislature. Rep. Julie Yamamoto of Caldwell chairs the House Education Committee and Rep. Rod Furniss of Rigby has pushed for reforms to election law and state budgeting that would help school districts get more money for facilities. 

Critchfield also faced headwinds getting her bills through the Legislature, accomplishing just one of her three top priorities.

In a statement for Idaho Education News, Critchfield said the following about her endorsements: 

“I had some legislators visit with me about statements of support that reflected my experiences with them and their votes and, in some cases, sponsorship on educational issues that are priorities for me on student achievement, investing in outcomes and representing the interests of their local schools and communities.” 

Both Yamamoto and Furniss have competitive primary races with challengers running to their right. Furniss has also touted an endorsement from Bedke, the longtime speaker of the House and first-term lieutenant governor.

Christopher Boyd, a GOP candidate for Canyon County prosecutor, announced this week that Labrador has endorsed his campaign against former Rep. Greg Chaney, a Republican from Caldwell.

There’s not a lot of research on whether endorsements from sitting office holders help candidates win races, Kettler said. But it signals to voters that a candidate is serious and worth investing in, which can help with fundraising. 

Jaclyn Kettler, political science professor, Boise State University

Endorsements also can help voters evaluate ideology and policy goals, particularly in a primary election, when a candidate’s party affiliation doesn’t set them apart from competitors. A voter might think “I support the governor, so perhaps I also want to support this legislative candidate,” Kettler said. Those alignments can be impactful in the deeply divided Idaho Republican Party, she said. 

Former Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter more frequently endorsed primary election candidates than Little has. Toward the end of his last term, Otter even created a political action committee, OtterPAC, that funneled money to his allies’ primary campaigns. 

And other governors do regularly endorse legislative candidates in primaries. Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte last week released a list of 58 Republican endorsements for that state’s June election, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported

Here are the candidates who have publicized their endorsements from Little:

  • Rep. Rod Furniss, R-Rigby
  • Rep. Stephanie Mickelsen, R-Idaho Falls
  • Rep. James Petzke, R-Meridian
  • Rep. Jack Nelsen, R-Jerome
  • Rep. Josh Wheeler, R-Ammon
  • Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls
  • Sen. Treg Bernt, R-Meridian
  • Sen. Mark Harris, R-Soda Springs

Little has endorsed at least seven incumbents for the May 21 election. His campaign manager didn’t respond to a request from EdNews seeking a full list of the campaigns he’s supporting. 

Little said he has previously endorsed primary candidates as governor. (A Google search shows that, if he did, the endorsements weren’t widely publicized.) And it’s up to candidates to decide whether to tout them. Little quipped that some candidates who are offered his endorsement “run the other way and I never see them again.”

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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