Critchfield celebrates victory in the superintendent’s GOP primary


Debbie Critchfield addresses Idaho Republicans during a unity rally on the Statehouse steps Wednesday. She is surrounded by other GOP primary winners from Tuesday’s election.

Debbie Critchfield spoke to a crowd of family members, friends and supporters Wednesday afternoon as Republicans gathered at a unity rally on the Statehouse steps to congratulate their primary election victors.

Critchfield won the Republican primary for state superintendent over challenger Branden Durst and incumbent Sherri Ybarra.

Debbie Critchfield greets a well-wisher at the Idaho Republican Party’s Tuesday night celebration at the Hilton Garden Inn in Downtown Boise.

Critchfield had over 104,500 votes compared to Durst’s nearly 90,000. Ybarra trailed, with just under 70,000 votes. The results are based on unofficial, but complete, reports from all of Idaho’s 44 counties.

“I’m relieved and excited,” Critchfield told EdNews. Wednesday morning. “I’m happy, but we’d be foolish not to think of November.”

On the Statehouse steps Wednesday, Critchfield briefly thanked those who helped her win the election, most importantly her husband Dave, who stood by her side through the months of campaigning. She also took a moment to recognize Ybarra, Idaho’s schools chief for the past seven years, for her service.

“It takes a lot of personal strength to run as a candidate whether it’s your first time or your third,” Critchfield said, acknowledging the competitive race where all three candidates participated in debates and fulfilled most media and public appearance requests.

Critchfield now goes on to face Democrat Terry Gilbert in the November general election. Ybarra narrowly defeated Democratic challenger Cindy Wilson in the 2018 general election.

Critchfield said she’s focused on the prospect of stepping into her new role as state superintendent, but acknowledged that the office “can be more vulnerable to Democratic defeats” in general elections.

Still, she named a few priorities stemming from feedback she’s received after a year of heavy campaigning across the state. Two issues on her mind: addressing teachers’ concerns about dealing with “severe classroom behaviors” and representing all Idahoans if she wins in November.

“I’m the GOP candidate, but I want to represent all voters,” she said.

Durst acknowledged his loss early Wednesday morning but railed on the primary process in Idaho.

“In spite of my defeat, I am thankful to have earned the vote of more Republicans than both of my opponents,” he claimed on Twitter.

Ybarra’s camp has not responded to a request for comments. She remains Idaho’s schools chief through the end of the year, overseeing a department with more than 130 employees.

Critchfield said in a Tuesday morning press release: “Idahoans from every corner of our state believe it’s time for a change and responded to our message of putting kids first. And that includes supporting our teachers and listening to our parents.”

Ybarra has held office for seven years, Critchfield has served as president of the State Board of Education and Durst is a former Idaho senator.

Critchfield, who by far outraised — and outspent — Durst and Ybarra in recent months, has positioned herself as a change agent with years of experience in K-12. Durst, a Democratic legislator turned conservative hardliner, courted right-wing Republicans and Ybarra touted her experience on the job and in the classroom to try and sway voters.

Check our homepage for results on other statewide offices, including governor and lieutenant governor, and legislative seats.

Debbie Critchfield is all smiles on the Statehouse steps with her husband Dave by her side, along with other family members and supporters, following her Tuesday victory in the GOP primary.
Devin Bodkin

Devin Bodkin

EdNews assistant editor and reporter Devin Bodkin is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. He lives and works in East Idaho. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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