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The Republican Party has dominated Idaho politics for most of its history. In fact, it's one of the reddest states in the country. But it hasn't always been that way.Twenty years ago, Idaho had a Democratic governor. More recently, Idaho had a Democrat in Congress. Today, Republicans hold each of Idaho's top statewide elected offices, and a wide majority in the Legislature.So, how did Republicans get to be so firmly in control of Idaho politics today? We examine the events and issues that led to one-party control of Idaho.

New Poll Finds Some Idaho Republicans Have Surprisingly Narrow Leads Over Democrats

Molly Messick
Boise State Public Radio

A new poll from Public Policy Polling suggests Idaho Democrats could have a shot at winning a couple of statewide races on Nov. 4.

The North Carolina-based polling firm is known as a Democratic-leaning pollster. The firm says the poll wasn't commissioned by a candidate, but was conducted independently by Public Policy Polling.

Its Idaho poll asked a variety of candidate and issue-specific questions of 522 likely voters between Oct. 9-12. The firm says its margin of error is plus/minus 4.3 percent.

In contrast to the CBS/NYT poll we reported on last week, Public Policy Polling finds two-term incumbent Republican Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter has a narrow lead over Democrat challenger A.J. Balukoff . Of those polled, Otter is favored at 39 percent, Balukoff at 35 percent. The third-party candidates polled a combined 12 percent and 14 percent of voters polled were undecided.

Another close race, according to PPP is for Secretary of State. Longtime legislator Lawerence Denney, a Republican, polled at 38 percent. Holli Woodings, a freshman lawmaker, polled at 35 percent. In this race, a whopping 27 percent of those polled say they're undecided.

The women running to lead Idaho's schools are also in a close race, according to the poll. Republican Sherri Ybarra polled at 41 percent, Democrat Jana Jones received 38 percent.

Public Policy Polling also touched on one big social issue: same-sex marriage. The poll's timing is of note since it began calling likely voters two days after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued its initial ruling striking down Idaho's gay marriage ban.

A majority of poll respondents, 57 percent, say same-sex couples should not be able to marry in Idaho. Thirty-eight percent say same-sex marriage should be allowed. Still, when asked if same-sex Idahoans should be allowed to legally marry, form civil unions, or not be legally recognized as a couple, 39 percent say gay couples should be allowed to marry, 29 percent say the relationship shouldn't be recognized.

One of the most surprising things about the poll is that a majority of respondents favor increasing Idaho's $7.25 minimum wage to $10 an hour.

"Idaho is arguably the most conservative state in the country, so the fact that voters there by a 51/39 margin still support increasing the minimum wage to $10 an hour is a pretty strong data point showing how popular that is basically everywhere in the country." - Public Policy Polling

The poll also included questions about Idaho's congressional races, potential 2016 presidential races, and a handful of pop-culture questions.

In case you were wondering, most Idahoans prefer the Seattle Mariners over other Major League Baseball teams, and 89 percent of Idahoans have a favorable view of potatoes.

Find Emilie Ritter Saunders on Twitter @EmilieRSaunders

Copyright 2014 Boise State Public Radio