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Politics & Government

Far-right loses statewide, but makes big gains in Idaho Senate

A "vote here" sign staked in the grass in front of some red picnic tables.
James Dawson
/
Boise State Public Radio
Voters gather outside of Adams Elementary School May 17, 2022. All statewide elected offices are up for election, with the closed Republican Party primary deciding the winner of most races.

While the far-right’s slate of statewide candidates suffered significant losses for the most part, its legislative picks managed far more success according to unofficial election results.

Based on 35 endorsements from Idaho Freedom PAC, a group run by Dustin Hurst, vice president of the far-right Idaho Freedom Foundation, those candidates won 54% of their races.

They also ousted eight incumbents, though four races were so close they’re eligible for a free recount.

Nowhere was the group’s influence felt more than in the panhandle, one of its traditional strongholds.

Candidates there made a clean sweep of District 4, unseating Reps. Jim Addis and Paul Amador. Businessman Ben Toews also comfortably beat Tara Malek, a local attorney, for the open state senate seat.

Homebuilder Scott Herndon easily took out second-term Sen. Jim Woodward (R-Sagel) in District 1 next to the Canadian border. Woodward had faced significant pressure from far-right groups, labeling him as a liberal.

Idaho Freedom PAC’s influence fell short in District 20, which includes parts of West Boise and Meridian. An attempt to unseat Senate Pro Tem Chuck Winder failed, as did their efforts to beat current Reps. James Holtzclaw and Joe Palmer.

Other notable victories for the far-right include business owner Cindy Carlson, a self-described “HARDCORE CONSERVATIVE” from Riggins. She ousted Sen. Carl Crabtree (R-Grangeville), vice chair of the budget-setting Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee.

Crabtree drew strong criticism from conservative groups in recent years over failing to cut millions of dollars from Idaho’s colleges and universities based on claims they’re “indoctrination factories” for leftist ideologies.

The state Senate, which has recently had a more moderate makeup compared to the House, will see massive turnover due to retirements and head-to-head matchups between incumbents set up by redistricting.

In all, eight incumbent senators lost Tuesday night, while 13 current senators didn’t run.

“I do think we’re going to see the Senate move to be … more conservative, which will be interesting to see how that dynamic plays out,” Boise State Political Science Professor Jaclyn Kettler told Boise State Public Radio Wednesday morning.

But some of the Idaho Freedom Foundation’s most vocal supporters lost their re-election campaigns.

Rep. Chad Christensen (R-Iona), who lists his membership with the Oathkeepers militia in his legislative biography, and Rep. Karey Hanks (R-St. Anthony) fell to challengers backed by anti-extremist groups.

Rep. Ron Nate (R-Rexburg) lost to Britt Raybould, who he unseated two years ago, by 36 votes.

Rep. Judy Boyle (R-Midvale) currently leads Rep. Scott Syme (R-Nampa) by six votes, meaning Syme could ask for a free recount under state law. Their respective districts were combined due to the redistricting process.

Other notable changes include a complete overhaul of leadership on the Senate Health and Welfare Committee.

Its chairman, Sen. Fred Martin (R-Boise) lost to current Rep. Codi Galloway (R-Boise), while vice-chair Sen. Peter Riggs lost handily to retired California firefighter Carl Bjerke.

Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee co-chair, Sen. Jeff Agenbroad (R-Nampa) fell to marketer Brian Lenney, who moved his family from California to Nampa in 2010.

Correction: This article mistakenly listed Carl Bjerke as a candidate in two races. Brian Lenney won the District 13 Republican Senate Race, while Bjerke won the same nomination in District 5. It also mistakenly reported four legislative races could qualify for a free recount, but just one does according to state law.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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