With a few notable exceptions, Idahoans can breathe a sigh of relief after most traditional Republicans won statewide victories over more extreme far-right challengers in Tuesday’s Republican primary.
Among the statewide races, incumbent Gov. Brad Little handily and expectedly held off a challenge from Trump-endorsed Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, who increasingly courted the far-right fringe and white nationalist crowd. Political newcomer Ed Humphreys, who ran on a platform of conspiracy theories and far-right platitudes, turned in a surprisingly good result with 11% of the votes.
Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane, clearly the most qualified elections expert in the race for secretary of state, held off election conspiracy theorist and “big lie” believer Dorothy Moon in a race that was way closer than it should have been.
In another race that was too close for comfort, for Idaho lieutenant governor, House Speaker Scott Bedke defeated Priscilla Giddings, who has been a darling of the Idaho Freedom Foundation in the House and doxxed a rape victim in defense of a now-convicted rapist.
Idahoans can also breathe a sigh of relief in the race for superintendent of public instruction, as former State Board of Education president Debbie Critchfield garnered more votes than second-place finisher Branden Durst, a combative politician who favors school vouchers. It was surprising, though, that Durst received more votes than incumbent Sherri Ybarra.
Even though some of these races were discouraging because they were so close and far-right candidates received a concerningly high number of votes, as they say in sports, a “W” is a “W.”
The big exception was Raúl Labrador’s victory over longtime incumbent Attorney General Lawrence Wasden. Wasden has been a voice of reason and a by-the-book constitutional officer who calls balls and strikes, sticking to the rule of law and a straightforward reading of the constitution.
Most Republican voters, though, apparently wanted someone who will throw a curveball, as one state legislator put it, and they likely found it in Labrador, who has vowed to be “a voice for conservatives” as attorney general.
While Wasden sought to take politics out of the position, Labrador promises to inject politics into his position.
With the Idaho Senate likely moving sharply to the right, and the House moderating only slightly, that could spell trouble for Idaho’s constitutional defense fund and taxpayers’ wallets.
All of these Republican candidates will face Democratic opponents in November: Stephen Heidt for governor, Terri Pickens Manweiler for lieutenant governor, Shawn Keenan for secretary of state and Terry Gilbert for superintendent of public instruction. For attorney general, Labrador will face Democrat Steven Scanlin, who doesn’t even have a website for his campaign.
Democrats have a poor history in statewide races, leaving many to observe that the real race for these statewide offices is the Republican primary.
There were mixed results in legislative races around the state.
On the one hand, lots of far-right incumbents in the House appear to have been beaten by more moderate challengers, especially in eastern Idaho.
There Rep. Karey Hanks was ousted by former Rep. Jerald Raymond’s effort to reclaim his seat, and the same seems to have happened in former Rep. Britt Raybould’s bid to take back her seat from Rep. Ron Nate (though that outcome is extremely close and likely to be recounted). Moderate Josh Wheeler also appears to have unseated Rep. Chad Christensen, an Oath Keeper and one of the most extreme members of the House.
House moderates even saw some gains in North Idaho, with a victory by Mark Sauter for an open seat.
Before Tuesday’s election, the median House member — the member who might be most likely to cast a deciding vote — was someone like Rep. Mike Moyle. But our best guess is that in the next term that will be someone more like Rep. John Vander Woude, or if Democrats do especially well in the general election, even someone as moderate as Rep. Lance Clow.
The exact opposite happened in the Senate, however, with multiple relatively moderate Republicans being ousted by far-right challengers.
Scott Herndon defeated Sen. Jim Woodward, former Rep. Codi Galloway defeated Sen. Fred Martin and longtime Sen. Jim Patrick was beaten by extremist Glenneda Zuiderveld.
With nearly a third of the Senate retiring, much of the vacuum was also filled by far-right candidates. Tax resister Phil Hart gained an open seat, Chris Trakel defeated former Rep. Greg Chaney and Ben Toews beat Tara Malek.
The swing in the Senate will be dramatic and destabilizing. In the last session, the median senator was someone like Woodward. Unless Democrats pull off big, unexpected wins in the primary, someone more like Sen. Lori Den Hartog is likely to be near the ideological center of the Senate.
The Senate has been a gatekeeper holding back far-right policy. That likely ends with this election.