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Candidate filing data show this election cycle setting up to be more competitive, costly

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For the first time since at least 1990, a Democratic candidate will be on the ballot in at least one race in each of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts.

The filing deadline to run in the upcoming election cycle was March 15. Data from the Idaho Secretary of State show 82 of 105 legislative races will have candidates from both major parties in November’s general election.

That’s a dramatic increase in democratic participation compared to the 2020 and 2022 election cycles, when more than half of general election races for the Idaho Statehouse had no Democratic candidate.

In a statement, Idaho Democrats said they began a “concerted effort” a year ago to aggressively pursue recruiting people to run this election cycle.

Boise State University Political Scientist Dr. Jacyln Kettler said it appears that effort has paid off.

“Perhaps it's an indication that there's some frustration or unhappiness with the direction the state is going or current activities or priorities in the legislature,” she said, noting that same unhappiness can influence participation regardless of party.

The number of unopposed GOP primary races declined sharply from 59 in 2020 to 33 two years ago. Kettler said some of that was due to redistricting done following the 2020 census.

This year, 40 legislative Republicans have no primary opponent. Thirty-two of those are incumbent lawmakers; the others are all running for seats currently held by democrats.

Kettler expects the divisions evident in the state Republican party the last several years to produce some interesting races again this May.

Fourteen GOP races are rematches of the 2022 primary - most in districts in north and southeast Idaho. A few other former GOP officials are returning to the ballot in a new district or in a race for a different chamber than before.

The increased overall competition means this will likely be a very expensive election cycle, Kettler said, but also helpful for democracy in general.

“When we have contested elections, it gives voters a choice, and more opportunities to try to hold leaders accountable as well,” she said.

Idaho’s primary election day is May 21, 2024. Registration and other voter information is available at voteidaho.gov

Troy Oppie is a reporter and local host of 'All Things Considered' for Boise State Public Radio News.

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