Legislative races to watch Tuesday

In addition to the closely watched state superintendent and gubernatorial races, all 105 legislative terms expire this year.

Statehouse sunlightDuring Tuesday’s primary election, 31 incumbent legislators will face challenges from within their own party.

On the line Tuesday is nothing less than control of the Republican and Democratic parties heading into the final push before November’s Election Day.

Here’s a closer look at contested legislative primary races with K-12 ties.

Senate Education Committee

In District 4, Chairman John Goedde, R- Coeur d’Alene, has drawn a primary challenge from Mary Souza, a nursing instructor and small business owner who ran for Coeur d’Alene mayor in 2013. So far, Goedde has won the fundraising game; from Jan. 1 through May 4, he hauled in $22,975 to Souza’s $2,414.

Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, who sits on Senate Education, is vacating his legislative seat and leadership position in an attempt to oust Gov. Butch Otter in Tuesday’s gubernatorial primary.

Sen. Bob Nonini, R- Coeur d’Alene, squares off against Patrick Whalen of Post Falls, the president of a computer software firm. Whalen has raised more money during the most recent filing period – collecting $30,068 to Nonini’s $25,550.

Sen. Monty Pearce, R-New Plymouth, faces a primary challenge from Abby Lee, a Fruitland communications professional and former newspaper editor. Pearce has served eight terms in the Legislature, including the last six in the Senate. But Lee secured an endorsement from Otter and raised $36,136.03 to Pearce’s $12,703.91.

House Education Committee

Chairman Pete Nielsen, R-Mountain Home, faces a primary challenge from Steven Millington of Buhl, a retired accountant and business owner. In 2012, Nielsen and Millington squared off for the same seat, with Nielsen winning and Millington capturing 23 percent of the vote and finishing third in a three-way primary.

Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, will battle Jeri Soulier, a Weiser real estate broker, for the District 9 Seat B post.

Rep. Terry Gestrin, a first-term Republican from Donnelly, faces a Tea Party challenge from Ernest Walker of Emmett.

First-term Rep. Ron Mendive, R- Coeur d’Alene, is being challenged by Terry C. Werner, who is retiring as Post Falls’ public services director.

Boise Republican Rep. Patrick McDonald, appointed to the Legislature during the 2014 session, faces a challenge from fellow Boisean Jason Joel Robinson, a software engineer. Interestingly, both men have law enforcement backgrounds. McDonald is a former U.S. marshal who had a lengthy career with the Idaho State Police. Robinson’s online bio indicates he was an officer with the Meridian Police Department for a year and worked with the Idaho State Police Criminal Justice Systems.

Other contested races with K-12 ties

In District 9, New Plymouth School District Superintendent Ryan Kerby is running in the GOP primary against Howard Rynearson of Payette. So far this year, Kerby raised $28,278.75 to Rynearson’s $9,033.18. The seat is being vacated by Rep. Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, who is running for secretary of state.

Veteran teacher John McCrostie, D-Garden City, is in the middle of a three-person primary in District 16’s House Seat A. Also running are former congressional candidate and NFL player Jimmy Farris and Jeff Stephenson of Garden City. The Idaho Education Association has endorsed McCrostie, a former IEA president.

Boise School District trustee Troy Rohn is running against Melissa Wintrow, the first director of Boise State University’s Women’s Center, for the Democratic nomination for District 19 House Seat B.  Rohn holds a slight fundraising edge, taking in $17,975 to Wintrow’s $15,353. The position is being vacated by Rep. Holli Woodings, who is running for secretary of state.

Members of leadership facing primary challenges

The Senate’s No. 1 ranking member, President Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, is being challenged by  Scott O. Smith of Rexburg, who is making Hill’s support of the state-run insurance exchange a central issue to his campaign. Hill holds a huge fundraising edge, raking in $30,082.32 to Smith’s $497.99.

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