Incumbent trustees fare well in high-profile races — mostly

As a smattering of school board races took on partisan and ideological overtones, incumbents appeared to fare well Tuesday night.

A slate of three incumbents won with relative ease in Caldwell.

Three sitting incumbents were re-elected in West Ada — with one incumbent trouncing a challenger who put more than $50,000 in his race for a volunteer post.

Incumbents also swept to victory in Moscow. And in Blaine County, an incumbent easily won re-election in a spendy race.

But there were exceptions. Kuna voters picked two newcomers and ousted a pair of sitting trustees. An Idaho Falls incumbent lost Tuesday night — but by the narrowest of margins.

Here’s the breakdown from nine key districts.

West Ada

Incumbent René Ozuna easily won the spendiest school board race in Idaho. Ozuna captured 57% of the vote to defeat Tom Moore, a newcomer who moved to Meridian in 2014, and Jeremy Cutler, a candidate who suspended his campaign and threw his support behind Ozuna.

Money was a big factor in this Zone 5 race. Moore loaned his campaign $50,000 to self-fund his campaign. Ozuna reported more than $9,000 in donations, including large donations from Meridian Mayor Robert Simison and several builders and developers.

Zone 4 incumbent David Binetti — appointed in 2022, after leading the criticism of West Ada’s pandemic-era mask mandates — won his race with 46% of the vote, defeating Miguel Deluna, a Moore running mate, and Mari Gates.

Binetti self-funded his first run for a full term; Moore was Deluna’s biggest donor.

A relatively low-key Zone 2 campaign ended Tuesday night with a seesaw election. Incumbent Lucas Baclayon, another 2022 appointee running for his first full term, pulled ahead and won with 51% of the vote, edging challenger Susie Schuetz.

Coeur d’Alene 

In a pair of high-profile Coeur d’Alene school board trustee races, voters rejected a pair of candidates backed by the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee.

Newcomer Jimmy McAndrew received nearly 50% of the vote in an open, three-person race, while incumbent Heather Tenbrink held 55% of the vote.

Tenbrink, whose four children have attended district schools, has raised $5,295 in her reelection bid against challenger Richard “Matt” Blatt. A U.S. Army veteran, backed by the Kootenai County GOP, Blatt raised $6,820, according to updated financial reports posted Wednesday. That included $300 from Brent Regan, Kootenai County GOP Central Committee chairman and an Idaho Freedom Foundation board member. 

McAndrew, Yasmin Harris and Mike Stavish vied for an open seat held by Casey Morrisroe, who is not seeking reelection.

McAndrew has raised $17,523, including $200 from former Idaho Lt. Gov. Jack Riggs and $50 from former North Idaho College trustee and state Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene.

Harris, also supported by the Kootenai GOP central committee, has raised $15,884, including $100 from Regan.

Coeur d’Alene trustees serve four-year terms. 


The Nampa School District board of trustees will have two new members, after newcomers Stephanie Binns and David Jennings won their bids to fill two vacant seats, according to Tuesday’s unofficial election results. 

Current trustees Mandy Simpson and Marco Valle aren’t seeking reelection to the board, which has made some controversial decisions over the last year, including to ban teaching about gender identity and sexual orientation. 

Jennings, a real estate broker and district parent, narrowly defeated educator Adam Schasel. Unofficial results showed Jennings collected 51% of votes. 

The race attracted significant donations. Schasel raised $5,122, including $100 from Reclaim Idaho co-founder Luke Mayville. Jennings was backed by current board chairwoman Brook Taylor, who is not up for reelection this year. Taylor donated $492 to Jennings, the majority of his $814 in total donations. 

In the other Nampa contest, Binns secured 60% of the vote, over Jay Duffy. 

Binns, an educator, and Duffy, a general contractor, appear to have opposing views on debates around gender identity in schools. 

This year, Binns advocated for classroom discussions about gender identity. Duffy told the Idaho Press that he opposes transgender students participating in sports or using restrooms that don’t align with their birth and that he’s “tired of certain views being pushed upon our children.”

Nampa trustees serve four-year terms.


In three races with an ideological flavor, voters stuck with a slate of three incumbents.

In Zone 3, eight-year incumbent Travis Manning rolled to re-election with 63% of the vote. The former Democratic legislative candidate defeated Nicole Trakel, the wife of hardline conservative state Sen. Chris Trakel, R-Caldwell.

Zone 4 incumbent Andrew Butler captured 57% of the vote to win over Nicole Hyland, a political ally of the Trakels.

Zone 2 incumbent Manuel Godina won 55% of the vote, defeating challenger Ray Horrell.

The politics of this election actually began to take shape earlier in the year, when Caldwell trustees considered a policy to allow students to use restrooms and facilities aligned with their gender identity. At a January board meeting, Chris Trakel argued vociferously against the policy — which was tabled a month later. The 2023 Legislature later passed a law overriding Caldwell’s proposed policy; the law, still mired in court, requires students to use facilities aligned to their gender assigned at birth.


Two incumbents lost big Tuesday night.

Hillary Lowe — the owner of Lowe Family Farmstead, a popular corn maze and pumpkin patch — captured 64% of the vote in Zone 1. Lowe ousted two-term incumbent Joy Thomas, a Democratic legislative staffer.

In Zone 5, a rural district taking in pieces of Ada and Canyon counties, challenger Michael Thornton won with 60% of the overall vote, ousting incumbent Russell Johnson.

In an open Zone 2 race, James Grant won 68% of the vote, easily defeating Kristi Hardy.

Out-of-state money factored into these suburban races. Lowe and Hardy each raised around $15,000 for their campaigns — including large donations from two Arizona developers with ties to a Kuna-area project, and large donations from two residents that reported a San Ysidro, Calif., home address, according to the secretary of state’s office.

In the spendiest of the three races, Thomas sought to counter Lowe’s support by tapping into a base of prominent Boise Democrats.

Idaho Falls 

With all votes tallied in the Idaho Falls School District 91 trustee race, unofficial election results Tuesday showed two incumbents easily retaining their seats. A third race was decided by a single vote.

In the Zone 4 race, newcomer Shay Ricks edged incumbent board treasurer Elizabeth Cogliati by a 359-358 tally, according to unofficial results. Ricks, a real estate agent, told the Post Register that he hopes to hold school leaders accountable to“abysmal” test scores. 

Incumbent Hillary Radcliffe collected 55% of votes in Zone 5, according to unofficial results. Challenger Melissa LaPray finished second at 38% and Kari Vogel notched 7%. 

A local business owner and consultant, Radcliffe is completing her first full term after winning election in 2019 following an appointment to the board earlier that year. 

With 62% of votes, incumbent Jeremy Westwood handily defeated challengers Patrick Jackson and Jordan Oseen in the contest for Zone 3. Oseen was second with 21% of votes, while Jackson tallied 16%. 

Westwood, a housing developer, was appointed to the school board this year following a resignation. 

The Idaho Falls Education Association endorsed all three incumbents, while the Bonneville County Republican Party endorsed challengers Johnson, Ricks and LaPray in the nonpartisan races. 

Idaho Falls trustees serve four-year terms, starting Jan. 1 following their election. Terms on the five-member board are staggered, and trustees for zones 1 and 2 will be up for reelection next year. 


Incumbent Jim Facer secured re-election, earning 56% of the vote and defeating challenger Martin Simmons.

In an open race, Raymond Knoff also received 56% of the vote to defeat Marty Vizcarra.

Blaine County

One of the state’s spendiest trustee races turned out to be a romp.

Incumbent Lara Stone easily beat back a challenge from Bailey Brooks, commanding 76% of the vote. The candidates combined to raise at least $20,000 for their race.

In an open trustee race, Nora Roebuck captured 75% of the vote, easily defeating Phillip Rainey.


Three incumbents swept to easy wins.

In Zone 2, Jim Frenzel won 71% of the vote to defeat Cody Barr. Zone 3 incumbent Dulce Kersting-Lark captured a 66% majority, defeating Gay Lynn Clyde. In Zone 4, Dawna Fazio picked up 72% of the vote, trouncing Jim Gray.

Kevin Richert and Ryan Suppe

Kevin Richert and Ryan Suppe

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. Senior reporter Ryan Suppe covers education policy, focusing on K-12 schools. He previously reported on state politics, local government and business.

Get EdNews in your inbox

Weekly round up every Friday