Idaho Democrats Suffer Legislative Losses

Nov 9, 2016

Credit State of Idaho

Idaho Democrats suffered some stinging losses in Tuesday’s legislative races. Moscow Rep. Dan Schmidt failed in his bid for reelection, as did Lewiston Democrat John Rusche. Rusche was House minority leader for eight years before losing to Republican Mike Kingsley.

Assistant House Minority Leader, Matt Erpelding, a Boise Democrat, says the loss means a change in the dynamic of the leadership team in the statehouse.

“And it takes away somebody who has 12 years of really rich experience in a non-partisan fashion, helping to get things done in the legislature,” Erpelding says. “And that will be a great disappointment to all of us on the Democratic side.”

Rusche spoke of his loss to reporter Betsy Russell of the blog Eye on Boise:

Rusche, who served as House minority leader for the past eight years, said he’s long been saying that it’s getting more difficult for Democrats to win in northern Idaho. “The typical Democratic constituency, which has been the woodworkers, the natural resource industry, the unions, etc., they’re either not there or they’re not as potent and powerful,” he said. “And the Democrats that are here get caught in the urban-rural divide. The national Democratic Party and the state party coming out of Boise just is not something that appeals to most of the electorate up here.”

He added, “The districts in the Boise area are different than the districts out here in the hinterlands.” - Eye on Boise

Rusche and Schmidt both have backgrounds as doctors and had been staunch supporters of a Medicaid expansion that would benefit nearly 80-thousand Idahoans who don’t have health insurance. Republican Fred Wood is now the legislature’s remaining physician.

Russell reports the legislative losses leave Democrats with just 17 elected members of the 2017 legislature, compared to 88 Republicans. 

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