These legislative primaries could swing the balance of power in the Statehouse

In mid-March, we published an analysis piece highlighting this year’s legislative races to watch — Republican primaries and general elections that could swing the balance of power in the Statehouse.

With the May 17 primaries looming, let’s recap, and link to some coverage of these elections.

The Top 12 races

Senate, District 1. Sen. Jim Woodward, R-Sagle; Scott Herndon, Republican, Sagle. At a recent candidates’ forum, the two candidates sparred over the $6 million-a-year federal early education grant, rejected by the House in 2021. (Details from Zach Hagadone of the Sandpoint Reader.)

House Seat B, District 4. Rep. Paul Amador, R-Coeur d’Alene; Roger Garlock, Republican, Coeur d’Alene; Elaine Price, Republican, Coeur d’Alene. The Kootenai County Republican Central Committee is endorsing Price, the group’s secretary. Amador did not submit a questionnaire to the group, Laurel Demkovich of the Spokane Spokesman-Review reported.

Senate, District 6. Sen. Robert Blair, R-Kendrick; Dan Foreman, Republican, Viola; Jen Seegmiller, Republican, Moscow. Blair filled in during the 2022 session and worked on a law addressing dyslexia interventions in schools. A former senator, Foreman says one of his top priorities is outlawing abortion, according to William Spence of the Lewiston Tribune. Seegmiller, a family nurse practitioner, has filled in at the Legislature in past sessions. Two-term Sen. David Nelson, D-Moscow, is running unopposed in his party’s primary.

Senate, District 7. Sen. Carl Crabtree, R-Grangeville; Cindy Carlson, Republican, Riggins; Heather Rogers, Republican, Lewiston; Keith Stuffle, Republican, Lewiston. Crabtree is a Senate Education Committee and Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee member, who was in the heart of this session’s debates over all-day kindergarten and dyslexia interventions. An ally of lieutenant governor’s candidate and state Rep. Priscilla Giddings, Carlson has secured endorsements from conservative groups. (More about this race from Spence.)

Senate, District 9. Senate Assistant Majority Leader Abby Lee of Fruitland and Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee Chairman Jim Rice of Caldwell are in this primary, along with Kayla Dunn and Jordan Marques. (More from Betsy Russell of the Idaho Press.)

House Seat B, District 9. Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, a House Education Committee member; Rep. Scott Syme, R-Wilder, a JFAC member. Boyle pushed a bill to require drug testing for substitute teachers, which died in the House. Boyle told Russell that the proposal was “an effort to protect our precious children.” (More about this primary from Sadie Dittenber of Idaho EdNews.)

Senate, District 10. Rep. Tammy Nichols, R-Middleton, is one of several House conservatives looking for a Senate seat. In the primary, she faces Scott Brock, a fellow Middleton Republican. In interviews with Erin Banks Rusby of the Idaho Press, Nichols touted her support of school choice, while Brock downplayed the extent of critical race theory in schools. “I think folks are making a really big issue out of critical race theory and other things simply to raise money,” he told Rusby.

Senate, District 14. Senate Education Chairman Steven Thayn, R-Emmett; Sen. C. Scott Grow, R-Eagle, a JFAC member; Katie Donahue, Republican, Emmett.

“I’ve carved out a niche that no one else has,” Thayn told Russell. “I’m the leader in school choice within the public school system. … My opponent is very good on taxes and budgets, but what I say about that is that’s what Republicans do. Republicans don’t do education.”

Grow told Russell he wants to ensure the state adequately funds education, “while assuring that public education teaches patriotism and basic Idaho values.”

Donahue is a medical cannabis legalization advocate, Russell reported.

Senate, District 15. Sen. Fred Martin, R-Boise, chair of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee; Rep. Codi Galloway, R-Boise, a House Education Committee member; Dorothy Greenzang, Republican, Boise. In one of Idaho’s few real swing districts, Galloway is running a conservative challenge to Martin. (More from Carolyn Komatsoulis of the Idaho Press.)

Boise Democrat Rick Just and Constitution Party candidate Sarah Clendenon will appear on the November ballot.

Senate, District 20. Senate President Pro Tem Chuck Winder, R-Boise; Rosa Martinez, Republican, Meridian. This field has narrowed considerably since March, resulting in a head-to-head matchup between the Senate’s highest-ranking Republican and a conservative challenger. (Komatsoulis has a closer look at the race.)

Senate, District 26. Rep. Laurie Lickley, R-Jerome; Eric Parker, Republican, Hailey. At a recent candidate forum, covered by Rachel Cohen of Boise State Public Radio, Lickley touted her agriculture and ranching roots. Parker is founder of The Real 3% of Idaho, a militia group — although Parker disputes this label. At the forum, Parker criticized politicians who deny the existence of CRT in schools. “I believe that we need somebody who not only knows that it’s there, is worried about their own children, but is a proven fighter,” said Parker, according to Cohen’s report.

District 26 shapes up as another rare swing district. The GOP nominee will face Hailey Democrat Ron Taylor is November — and retiring state Sen. Michelle Stennett is serving as Taylor’s campaign treasurer. Sun Valley independent candidate Donald Lappin is also in the race.

House Seat B, District 34. Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg; Britt Raybould, Republican, Rexburg. Nate unseated Raybould in the May 2020 to return to the Legislature. In the past two sessions, Nate has pushed unsuccessfully for grocery tax repeal, and aligned with the Idaho Freedom Foundation in efforts to cut higher education funding. Raybould, a moderate, served one term in the House in 2019 and 2020. (More about this race from Idaho EdNews’ Blake Jones.)

Seven more primaries to watch

Senate, District 4. Tara Malek, Republican, Coeur d’Alene; Ben Toews, Republican, Coeur d’Alene.

Senate, District 11. Rep. Greg Chaney, R-Caldwell; Chris Trakel, Republican, Caldwell.

House Seat B, District 14. Rep. Gayann DeMordaunt, R-Eagle; Josh Tanner, Republican, Eagle.

House Seat A, District 22. Rep. Greg Ferch, R-Boise; Rep. John Vander Woude, R-Meridian. (More from Russell.)

House Seat A, District 31: Rep. Karey Hanks, R-St. Anthony; Jerald Raymond, a Menan Republican and former legislator. (More from Rett Nelson of East Idaho News.)

House Seat A, District 33: Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls; Jeff Thompson, an Idaho Falls Republican and another former legislator. (More from Idaho EdNews’ Devin Bodkin, and from Brittni Johnson of East Idaho News.)

 House Seat B, District 35: Rep. Chad Christensen, R-Ammon; Josh Wheeler, Republican,  Ammon. (More from Nelson.)


Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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