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Republicans sweep statewide, federal offices in Idaho’s general election

Election Day 2022
Otto Kitsinger
/
Voters fill out their ballots at OÕConnor Field House in Caldwell, Idaho on November 8, 2022. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

Constitutional amendment to call Legislature back into session remains too close to call as of early Wednesday morning

Idaho Republicans made a clean sweep of races for statewide office in the 2022 midterm election, including federal congressional races, with 72% of counties reporting results as of early Wednesday morning.

In one of the most closely watched Election Day races in Idaho, former Republican U.S. Rep. Raúl Labrador emerged victorious and will be the state’s new attorney general in January, replacing 20-year Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden.

Gov. Brad Little was re-elected to a second term as governor, and U.S. Reps. Mike Simpson and Russ Fulcher and U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo were all re-elected.

“To me, today’s election results translate to one thing — the people of Idaho are ready to continue investing in students, teachers, parents and brighter futures,” Little said in the written statement. “They want us to keep our state on this path of incredible and unprecedented success — and to continue to show Washington, D.C., and the rest of the country how to do things right.”

Idaho Democratic Party Chairwoman Lauren Necochea said she was proud of the party’s grassroots efforts and voter outreach.

“We know we’re playing a long game, and we’re going to get better and stronger with every cycle,” Necochea said. “We’re working so hard because we have the moral duty to fight back against the extremism that’s harming our state.”

Necochea said when she became chairwoman in March, her top priority was getting through Election Day, and now that priority will be candidate recruitment for 2024’s election cycle.

“As the Idaho Republican Party has been taken over by the extremists, we’re capitalizing on the opportunity to build momentum,” Necochea said. “… They put party over people and their own moral convictions.”

Idaho’s statewide election results won’t become official until after they are canvassed and certified by the Idaho State Board of Canvassers. The deadline for the Idaho State Board of Canvassers to meet to certify election results is Nov. 23.

Idaho governor gives short speech after victory announcement

The Associated Press called the race for Little at 9:05 p.m. Mountain time on Tuesday, moments after polls closed in North Idaho, before statewide results were available.

Little addressed a crowd of more than 100 supporters at the Idaho Republican Party’s election night rally at the Grove Hotel in downtown Boise after his victory was announced. He told the crowd his projected victory represents “a mandate” to continue the policies and leadership style from his first four years in office.

Partial, unofficial election results showed Little had amassed 425,650 votes, or 60% of the votes cast in the race as of 12:30 a.m. Wednesday. Democrat Stephen Heidt was in second place with 87,621 votes, or 21%, and independent Ammon Bundy was in third with 63,796 votes, or almost 16% of the votes.

The field of gubernatorial hopefuls also included Libertarian Paul Sand, who had 4,886 votes, or 1.2% of the vote, and Constitution Party nominee Chantyrose Davison had 3,546 votes, for less than 1% of the vote. Write-in candidate Lisa Marie also ran in the race, but her vote totals were not immediately available early Wednesday morning.

Little is a rancher from Emmett who was first elected governor in 2018 after previously serving as lieutenant governor and a member of the Idaho Senate.

Little has told the Sun his priorities for his second term in office will mirror his first — improving public school education, expanding the state’s literacy program (particularly at the kindergarten through third grade level) and increasing education funding and funding for educators’ salaries.

Labrador says there is ‘no place’ in Idaho party for Republicans who endorsed opponent

Former U.S. Rep. Raúl Labrador defeated Democratic challenger Tom Arkoosh, a Boise attorney, despite endorsements from at least 50 longtime Idaho Republicans and law enforcement officers. As of early Wednesday morning, Labrador had garnered nearly 60% of the vote with 268,938 total votes, while Arkoosh stood at 40.1% with 179,619 votes.

After his victory was announced at the Idaho Republican Party’s election night gathering at the Grove Hotel in downtown Boise, Labrador said he had a message for those who endorsed his opponent — that they have no relevance in the future of Idaho or in the Idaho Republican Party.

Labrador told the Capital Sun his first priority when he takes office in January will be to make sure the right staff are in place who understand what their mission is, and said he had legislators approach him at the election night party who were already excited to work with him in the upcoming session, which starts Jan. 9.

Under Idaho law, the attorney general’s office is part of the executive branch and is responsible for providing legal representation for the state of Idaho, including its state agencies, offices and boards to protect the state’s legal interests. The office also issues written legal opinions for the Idaho Legislature or statewide elected officials and has a seat on the Idaho Board of Land Commissioners, which advises the Idaho Department of Lands on how to manage about 2.5 million acres of state endowment trust lands.

Labrador, an attorney and registered lobbyist, served four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives representing Idaho’s 1st Congressional District. He gave up the seat in Congress to run for governor of Idaho in 2018 and lost in the Republican primary to Gov. Brad Little. In May 2022, he defeated Wasden for the Republican nomination for attorney general in the primary election.

Labrador has frequently pledged to be a more aggressive attorney general who won’t be afraid to take on the federal government in court and has maintained he won’t put politics above the law.

Ada County clerk sails to easy victory for secretary of state

Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane will be Idaho’s new secretary of state after garnering 71.4% of the vote, for 316,693 votes, to North Idaho Democratic challenger Shawn Keenan’s 28.5%, or 126,580 votes, as of early Wednesday morning. He will replace Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney, who did not run for re-election after two terms in office.

The Idaho Secretary of State is an executive office responsible for administering state elections, keeping records on businesses, trademarks, tax liens, notaries and other professions, and has various other duties related to official documentation. The secretary of state also serves on the Land Board.

“I’m really excited for the opportunity,” McGrane told the Capital Sun. “No one has looked at this and wanted to do something in this role as much as I have. I think that’s well known, I love this stuff.”

McGrane became Ada County’s chief deputy clerk in 2011 and served in that role until he was elected clerk in 2018. He directed the largest absentee election in state history in 2020, and his office received recognition as one of the state’s Top 10 Best Places to Work in 2019, 2020 and 2021.

During the campaign, McGrane said election-related bills may be among the first to be introduced in the legislative session beginning Jan. 9, and he plans to help craft a few election integrity bills himself, including voter identification laws. He also plans to develop a statewide, nonpartisan voter guide and wants to revive training classes for candidates and their treasurers on best practices around campaign finance reporting.

Idaho senator wins fifth term in Congress

After campaigning against President Joe Biden’s policies and Democrats in Congress, U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, won his fifth term to represent Idaho in Washington, D.C.

Crapo won the race with 59% of the vote and 268,140 votes cast as of Tuesday evening, with Democrat David Roth trailing with 137,729 votes at 30.3% and independent Scott Cleveland sitting at 8.5% or 38,676 votes. Cleveland is the owner of an investment and brokerage firm in Eagle, and Roth is the executive director of the Bonneville Youth Development Council in Idaho Falls.

At the Idaho Republican Party’s election night event at the Grove Hotel in Boise, Crapo said he looked forward to continuing to stop federal spending in Washington, D.C. During the campaign, Crapo also said he would vote against any further efforts to increase federal involvement in the health care system. He has pushed for the passage of his own piece of legislation that he says would reduce the cost of prescription drugs without government involvement by enhancing opportunities for alternative medications that would increase market competition.

Fulcher wins third term representing Idaho’s 1st Congressional District

U.S. Rep. Russ Fulcher, R-Idaho, won his third term in Congress with 69% of the vote, or 145,669 votes, as of early Wednesday morning, defeating Democratic opponent Kaylee Peterson, who took 28.4% of the vote total of 60,012 votes and Libertarian candidate Darian Drake, who garnered 2.4%, or 5,173 votes.

Fulcher was first elected to the seat representing Idaho’s First Congressional District in 2018. He was one of 139 House Republicans who voted against certifying the election results in 2020, lending credence to the false claims that there was widespread voter fraud in the presidential election and that former President Donald Trump was the rightful victor.

He is a ranking member of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, as well as the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services in the House of Representatives.

His priorities for the next two years in Congress include securing more federal funding for Idaho through the Payment in Lieu of Taxes and Secure Rural Schools programs, focusing on border control and providing constituent services.

Peterson told the Capital Sun in October that she intends to run for the congressional seat until 2026.

Simpson wins 13th term representing Idaho’s 2nd Congressional District

Representing Idaho’s 2nd Congressional District, U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, will begin his 13th term in January after defeating Democratic opponent Wendy Norman with 63.5%, or 156,934 votes, to Norman’s 36.4%, or 90,082 total votes, as of early Wednesday morning.

Simpson was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1998 and serves on the House Appropriations Committee. He is also the ranking member of the House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee.

Simpson told the Idaho Statesman on Tuesday night from his home in Idaho Falls that he was honored to receive support from Idaho voters once again.

“I think people are basically tired of such partisan politics, and want us to get down and work together and solve problems, whether it’s inflation, gas prices or the border,” Simpson told the Statesman.

Simpson’s campaign website says his top priorities include supporting Idaho farmers, promoting Idaho agriculture products and supporting nuclear energy and the Idaho National Laboratory. He also opposes bans on firearms ownership and opposes abortion with exceptions for rape, incest or the life of the mother.

Norman, a teacher in Rigby, made affordable health care a centerpiece in her campaign and advocated for limiting high-capacity magazine guns.

Idaho treasurer and controller coast to re-election

Idaho State Treasurer Julie Ellsworth and Controller Brandon Woolf won their races Tuesday night for another four years in office. Ellsworth will begin her second term in January, while Woolf will be serving his second full term after he was appointed to the office in 2012.

Woolf describes the controller’s office as the checking account for the state that pays the salaries of state employees, the bills of state agencies and any successful claims against the state. He has described the treasurer’s office as the savings account for the state where money is held, making the two offices closely linked.

Ellsworth told the Capital Sun in October that one of her key priorities in the next four years is pushing back against environmental, social and governance standards — better known as ESG — in the credit rating and investment space. She plans to work with the Idaho Legislature on laws that she thinks could protect Idaho from what she views as the political nature of ESG.

Woolf said he plans to continue his efforts at increasing transparency throughout Idaho’s government to build public trust.

Critchfield easily wins superintendent of public instruction post

Former Idaho State Board of Education president Debbie Critchfield easily secured victory as the state’s next superintendent of public instruction with 68% of the vote, or 314,743 total votes, to Democrat and teacher Terry Gilbert’s 146,577 votes, or 31.7% of the vote.

The superintendent oversees the Idaho State Department of Education and its 130 employees, playing an influential role in education policy and funding. Critchfield will replace Republican Superintendent Sherri Ybarra, who lost her bid for a third term in the Republican primary.

Critchfield has said she supports school choice and efforts to expand choice, but told Idaho Education News she won’t “voucherize” Idaho’s education system or divert funds from rural schools.

Constitutional amendment question too close to call

The question of whether the Idaho Legislature will have the ability to call itself back into session through a constitutional amendment proposed in Senate Joint Resolution 102 remained too close to call as of early Wednesday morning, with a thin margin of less than 500 votes. The amendment needs a simple majority to pass.

The constitutional amendment would allow the Legislature to call itself back into session within 15 days of a written request if 60% of the Idaho House of Representatives and 60% of the Senate approved, according to previous reporting by the Idaho Capital Sun.

Prior to the amendment, the Idaho Constitution allowed only the governor to call the Legislature back into session for a specific purpose. Over the past 22 years, special sessions have only occurred five times.

Republican legislators pushed for the proposed amendment during the 2021 legislative session, but Senate President Pro Tem Chuck Winder, R-Boise, told the Capital Sun the discussion began during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic when Gov. Brad Little and the Idaho Legislature were at odds over how federal stimulus funds would be allocated.

Voters overwhelmingly approve of action taken by Legislature

A nonbinding question asking voters whether they approve or disapprove of an action the Idaho Legislature took during a September special session at Gov. Brad Little’s direction received 80.3% approval with 366,047 votes as of early Wednesday morning and 19.6% disapproval, with 89,711 votes.

Voters were asked whether they “approve” or “disapprove” of Little and the Idaho Legislature using the state’s $2 billion budget surplus to pay for $500 million in tax rebates, while approving ongoing income tax cuts and directing more than $410 million annually to public education and career training. Madison Hardy, Little’s press secretary, said the question was meant to provide guidance to the Idaho Legislature about support for the action.

Idaho Capital Sun reporter Clark Corbin contributed to this report.

The Idaho Capital Sun is a nonprofit news organization delivering accountability reporting on state government, politics and policy in the Gem state. As longtime Idahoans ourselves, we understand the challenges and opportunities facing Idaho. We provide in-depth reporting on legislative and state policy, health care, tax policy, the environment, Idaho’s explosive population growth and more. Our mission is relentless investigative journalism that sheds light on how decisions in Boise and beyond are made and how they affect everyday Idahoans. We aim to tell untold stories and provide data, context and analysis on the issues that matter most throughout the state. The Capital Sun is part of States Newsroom, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit supported by grants and a coalition of donors and readers. We retain full editorial independence.