The 2020 Idaho primary election is over.
A debate will now ensue about what the future legislature will look like. In particular, what will the Republican party split look like? Did the more conservative wing of the party grow or shrink?
Overall, it appears as though the Idaho House will be more conservative in 2021.
Some people believe the new legislature will be the most conservative the state has ever seen.
There were a total of four incumbents who lost their bids for re-election. Rep. Bryan Zollinger of Idaho Falls, Rep. Britt Raybould of Rexburg, Rep. Jerald Raymond of Menan, and Rep. Jarom Wagoner of Caldwell.
Of those four, Rep. Zollinger is the biggest loss for Idaho’s more conservative wing of the Republican Party. The other candidates would be considered part of the moderate wing of the party. Based on the results of incumbent defeats, the more conservative wing of the party only lost one race while the more establishment wing of the party lost three races.
Who are the individuals replacing these incumbents?
Marco Erickson, who defeated Rep. Zollinger, is a relatively unknown in the party and a recently registered Republican. Erickson ran a much more moderate campaign compared to Rep. Zollinger. Erickson had the backing of Congressman Mike Simpson and billionaire Frank VanderSloot.
Julie Yamamoto is well-known in the Caldwell community as a former principal and is the sister of Canyon County Clerk Chris Yamamoto. Yamamoto ran her campaign as a more conservative option to Rep. Jarom Wagoner who was considered one of the most moderate Republicans in the Idaho House.
Ron Nate and Karey Hanks are both former representatives who had conservative voting records in comparison to the more moderate candidates they defeated. It is anticipated that they will vote in a similar fashion once again.
Ron Nate was considered one of the most conservative legislators when he served in Idaho’s House. His victory over Rep. Raybould is considered one of the biggest upsets in the 2020 primary. When asked about his victory over Raybould and returning to the capitol next year, Nate told Idaho Dispatch, “It was a big win Tuesday night. A big win for freedom and liberty and I’m excited to return to Boise with increasing numbers of liberty legislators who understand the importance of constitutional principles and protecting rights. I’m excited to get back to work for Idaho.”
The conservative wing of the party does lose Rep. Christy Zito from the House after she won her State Senate bid by defeating Brenda Richards.
Rep. Zito has served in the Idaho House for two terms. With state Senator Bert Brackett retiring, Zito decided to run for his open Senate seat and won.
When asked about her victory, Rep. Zito told Idaho Dispatch, “I could not be more thrilled than to once again be chosen to represent the voice of the people in our wonderful state. I look forward to using the strong relationships I built while serving in the Idaho House to serve in our Idaho Senate. Together we will move great legislation through the capitol. As a state Senator or Representative, we must focus on upholding our oath of office, preserving and protecting liberty, and prohibiting unconstitutional laws.”
Rep. Zito will join state Sen. Regina Bayer and Sen. Steve Vick as the most conservative members of Idaho’s Senate.
A number of other races could also potentially shore up the more conservative wing of the party in the House.
Bruce Skaug, Aaron Von Ehlinger, Gerg Ferch, and Ben Adams are also newcomers who many anticipate having strong conservative voting records. Of course, none of this can be known until the individuals cast their votes. However, many of them campaigned as though they intend to vote with the “liberty” side of the party.
While some of these candidates do have general election challengers, none are expected to lose their races.
Another reason this may be the most conservative Idaho House in history is that most incumbent “liberty legislators” kept their seats.
Representatives Chad Christensen, Tammy Nichols, Pricislla Giddings, and Dorothy Moon also faced tough primary opponents, but all came out on top in the end. In fact, Christensen, Nichols, and Moon defeated their opponents by large margins in Idaho’s mail-in election.
Additionally, Rep. Sage Dixon, who votes conservative as well, faced a challenger supported by Democrats and a progressive group called Reclaim Idaho. Democrats and Reclaim Idaho both encouraged citizens to vote for Gary Suppiger who ran on a very moderate platform.
However, Rep. Sage Dixon scored one of the largest victories of the night for state legislative races.
Dixon defeated Suppiger by winning his race 78% to 22%.
The loss was a big blow to Reclaim Idaho which staked a lot of their election efforts on promoting Suppiger over Dixon. Rep. Dixon had promoted a bill in 2019 to make changes to Idaho’s ballot initiative process, and ballot initiatives are a big part of Reclaim Idaho’s efforts to change Idaho’s laws.
Despite their efforts to defeat Dixon, the Republicans in District 1 handed him a huge victory and his efforts to change the ballot initiative process do not appear to have hurt his standing with most Republican voters.
As for the rest of the state, little appears to have changed in most of the districts where party ideology is concerned.
One major surprise for next year could be a potential change in leadership.
While Rep. Brent Crane and others made an attempt in 2018 to oust Speaker Bedke, the effort came up short.
Now, with an apparently stronger conservative contingent, is a change in leadership more likely? We’ll know for sure later this year but the makeup of the future Republican legislature makes it more possible.
One thing is for certain, the conservative wing of the Republican party appears to be pleased with the outcome of the 2020 election overall.
Wayne Hoffman, President of the Idaho Freedom Foundation posted on Facebook that, “Voters in Idaho have potentially produced the most conservative House of Representatives in the state’s history.”
Tags: Brenda Richards, Britt Raybould, Bruce Skaug, Chad Christensen, Christy Zito, Dorothy Moon, Frank Vandersloot, Gary Suppiger, Greg Ferch, Mike Simpson, Primary, Priscilla Giddings, Reclaim Idaho, Regina Bayer, Ron Nate, Sage Dixon, Tammy Nichols, Wayne Hoffman