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2022 Idaho GOP primary elections: 12 races to watch, voting tips, deadlines and more

Ada County - Voting - 2021
Otto Kitsinger
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An early voting dropbox outside Boise City Hall on May 5, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Mountain Sun)

Crowded Republican primary races will help shape state government for years

In five weeks, Idahoans will head to the polls to cast ballots in the May 17 primary election that will help shape state government and politics for years to come.

This year, all 105 seats in the Idaho Legislature are up for election, as is every statewide office, including governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.

Due to the once-a-decade redistricting process that redrew the state’s political boundaries, retirements, elected officials seeking higher office, some crowded primary races and Idaho’s explosive population growth, this year’s elections may be a little unpredictable.

Statewide, there are no contested Democratic legislative district primary electionsDemocrats are not fielding candidates in most legislative races this year.

To get ready for Idaho’s primary election season, here are 12 races to watch in Republican primaries.

The winners of the May 17 Republican primaries advance to the Nov. 8 general election, where Republicans and Democrats who were unopposed in the primaries and independent and third party candidates will also appear on the ballot.

Race: Republican primary election for governor

Who is running: Incumbent Gov. Brad Little, Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, Bonner County Commissioner Steven R. Bradshaw, Ben Cannady, Edward R. Humphreys, Ashley Jackson, Lisa Marie and Cody Usabel.

Who can vote: Any voter in Idaho affiliated with the Republican Party, which runs closed primary elections.

Why it matters: It’s the top of the ticket. As the Idaho Constitution states, “The supreme executive power of the state is vested in the governor, who shall see that the laws are faithfully executed.”

Even though Little, the incumbent, is running for re-election, seven challengers are taking him on this primary season, including his political rival, Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin.

“When it’s a two-person race versus adding more active candidates, there is the potential to split votes in more different ways,” Boise State University Associate Professor of Political Science Jaclyn Kettler said. “Little and McGeachin are treated as the front runners, but Humprheys is running an active campaign as well, it’s not just the two of them in the race. As it develops, it will be interesting to see if any other candidates have active campaigns.”

Race: Republican primary election for lieutenant governor

Who is running: Speaker of the House Scott Bedke, state Rep. Priscilla Giddings and Daniel J. Gasiorowski.

Who can vote: Any voter in Idaho affiliated with the Republican Party.

Why it matters: Idaho’s lieutenant governor position is a part-time job that basically entails presiding over the Idaho Senate for about 90 days each year and being prepared to cast a rare tie-breaking vote if the Senate has an even number of members on the floor and gridlocks. But more than that, the position is a springboard for higher office. Little and former Govs. Butch Otter, Jim Risch (who went on to become a U.S. senator), Phil Batt and John Evans all served as lieutenant governor before ascending to higher office.

“It’s an important race to (Bedke) given the fact the lieutenant governor is seen as a traditional stepping stone to becoming governor,” said David Adler, president of the Idaho Falls-based nonprofit Alturas Institute, which promotes the Constitution. “Enough people are repulsed by Giddings’ extreme positions, that she likely won’t win much support from so-called moderate Republicans.”

In 2021, the Idaho House voted 49-19 to censure and remove Giddings from one committee assignment for conduct unbecoming of a legislator after Giddings published and promoted a blog that identified the name and included the photo of an alleged teenage rape victim.

Race: Republican primary election for secretary of state

Who is running: Sen. Mary Souza, Rep. Dorothy Moon and Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane

Who can vote: Any voter in Idaho affiliated with the Republican Party.

Why it matters: The secretary of state is responsible for overseeing elections on a statewide basis in Idaho. All three GOP candidates are currently elected officials, with Souza and Moon serving in the Legislature and McGrane serving as clerk and overseeing elections in Ada County.

“Given how elections have been such a hot topic issue over the last couple of years, the Secretary of State’s race may get a lot more attention this year,” Kettler said.

Race: Republican primary election for attorney general

Who is running: Incumbent Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, former U.S. Rep. Raul R. Labrador and Arthur “Art” Macomber.

Who can vote: Any voter in Idaho affiliated with the Republican Party.

Why it matters: Of all the races this year, Adler says the attorney general’s race fascinates him the most because he thinks the stakes are high and it features the clearest distinctions between candidates of any race on the ballot.

“On the one hand, Lawrence Wasden is a strong incumbent, veteran who is widely viewed as a moderate to conservative Republican and his view on how the office should be run is very different than the view offered by Raul Labrador,” Adler said. “If Labrador were to win and he converted the attorney general’s office into an attorneyship for the Legislature, much in the way an organization would hire a private attorney to represent their interests, then the question arises, where is the check on the Legislature, which the Constitution of Idaho clearly expected by make the attorney general a separate constitutional entity?”

Race: Republican primary election for superintendent of public instruction

Who is running: Incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra, former State Board of Education president Debbie Critchfield and former state Sen. Branden J. Durst.

Who can vote: Any voter in Idaho affiliated with the Republican Party.

Why it matters: Education is consistently the top issue for Idahoans, according to annual Boise State University public policy surveys. This year there are three experienced candidates in the race — Ybarra, the incumbent; Critchfield the veteran former Idaho State Board of Education member; and Durst, a former legislator who served in the Idaho House and Senate as a Democrat but is now a Republican.

Critchfield has the fundraising edge, and Kettler points out the race is already active, with candidate forums already taking place. One thing Kettler will watch is whether and how the heavily politicized debate over critical race theory will play a role in the race.

“Education is an issue that is really salient,” Kettler said. “There may not be as much (campaign) money in this race, but I think it will still really be an interesting one.”

Race: Republican primary election for Idaho House of Representatives, District 9, Seat B 

Who is running: Rep. Scott Syme, R-Caldwell, and Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale.

Who can vote: Voters affiliated with the Republican Party who live in District 9, which includes all of Payette and Washington counties and a portion of Canyon County.

Why it matters: Due to redistricting, this race pits two legislative incumbents against each other. Boyle is in her seventh term and has assignments on the Agricultural Affairs, Education and Resource and Conservation committees. Syme, in his third term, is the vice chairman of the House Commerce and Human Resources Committee and serves on the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee.

Race: Republican primary election for Idaho House of Representatives, District 22, Seat A

Who is running: Rep. John Vander Woude, R-Nampa, and Rep. Greg Ferch, R-Boise.

Who can vote: Voters affiliated with the Republican Party in District 22, which starts at the Ada/Canyon county line and includes portions of Ada County.

Why it matters: Thanks to redistricting, this is another race with two incumbents pitted against each other where only one will advance. Vander Woude has served six terms in the Idaho House. He is the vice chairman of the House Health and Welfare Committee, whose chairman Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley, is retiring and not seeking re-election. Ferch, a chiropractor by trade, is in his first term in the Idaho Legislature and also serves on the House Health and Welfare Committee.

Race: Republican primary election for Idaho House of Representatives, District 34, Seat B

Who is running: Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, and former Rep. Britt Raybould, R-Rexburg.

Who can vote: Voters affiliated with the Republican Party in Madison County.

Why it matters: Nate is a member of JFAC and one of the most conservative members of the Idaho House, with a 97% freedom score from the Idaho Freedom Foundation. Raybould is an establishment Republican who served in the Idaho House from 2018-2020 and was the first woman president of the National Potato Council. District 34 was reconfigured during the 2021 redistricting process to remove a slice of Bonneville County, where Nate previously performed well with voters.

Race: Republican primary election for Idaho Senate, District 1

Who is running: Sen. Jim Woodward, R-Sagle, and GOP challenger Scott Herndon, also of Sagle.

Who can vote: Voters affiliated with the Republican Party living in District 1, which includes all of Boundary County and parts of Bonner County.

Why it matters: Woodward is an establishment Republican serving on JFAC who is, once again, being challenged from the right by Herndon. There is a ton of campaign money in the race so far. Herndon has reported hauling in more than $83,000 in total campaign fundraising. Woodward reported having $45,000 cash on hand and raising a little more than $17,000. Four years ago, Woodward won a three-way Republican primary after winning 52% of the votes cast versus Herndon 22.4% and challenger Danielle Ahrens, who won 25.6% of the vote in 2018 but is not in the race this year.

Race: Republican primary election for Idaho Senate, District 9

Who is running: Sen. Abby Lee, R-Fruitland, Sen. Jim Rice, R-Caldwell, and challenger Jordan Marques.

Who can vote: Voters affiliated with the Republican Party who live in District 9, which includes all of Payette and Washington counties and a portion of Canyon County.

Why it matters: Thanks to redistricting, this race includes two prominent senators, with at least one of whom will not be returning to the Idaho Legislature next year. Lee is a member of Republican leadership, serving as assistant majority leader. Rice is the chairman of the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee. Marques has little name recognition compared to the two veteran senators, and he appears to be positioning himself on social media among the so-called liberty legislators that make up the far-right wing of the Idaho Legislature.

Race: Republican primary election for Idaho Senate, District 14

Who is running: Sen. Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, and Sen. C. Scott Grow, R-Eagle.

Who can vote: Voters affiliated with the Republican Party who live in District 14, which includes all of Gem County and a portion of Ada County beginning at the Ada/Gem County line.

Why it matters: Thanks to redistricting, this is another race that pits two Senate incumbents against each other. Thayn serves as chairman of the Senate Education Committee, while Grow serves on JFAC and as the vice chairman of the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee. Only one of them will advance beyond the primary.

Race: Republican primary election for Idaho Senate, District 15

Who is running: Sen. Fred Martin, R-Boise, and Rep. Codi Galloway, R-Boise

Who can vote: Voters affiliated with the Republican Party who live in District 15, which includes a portion of Ada County beginning at the intersection of South Eagle Road and Interstate 84.

Why it matters: This race features a current member of the House in Galloway, who is trying to knock off a Senate incumbent from her own party and her own legislative district. This is another race with lots of campaign money involved. Martin has reported raising more than $88,000, with more than $103,000 cash on hand. Galloway has reported raising almost $28,000 of her own to challenge Martin, who is the chair of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee.