Seismic Shift In Eastern Idaho Politics Following Primary

May 16, 2018

Voters decided several long-serving politicians in eastern Idaho had spent enough time in the statehouse.
Credit Derek Dukes / Flickr

While many focused on the races for governor and Congress in yesterday’s primary, a big shakeup happened in eastern Idaho.

The biggest jolt to the political establishment in the east is the loss of seven-term Representative Tom Loertscher, chair of the House State Affairs Committee. The head of the House Education Committee, three-term Representative Julie VanOrden, also lost her primary.

“The legislative chairs in the Idaho State Legislature have a tremendous amount of power, so who’s in those positions can make a big difference,” says College of Idaho political science professor Jasper LiCalzi. “This could be bigger than a lot of the topline races we saw.”

LiCalzi attributes the eastern upheaval – in part – to the GOP’s insular primary.

“Republicans are getting what they wanted from their closed primaries,” LiCalzi says. “You have a closed primary so only people who are registered as Republican are going to show up. It’s the more motivated, more fervent voters. Who do they tend to be? They’re going to be more extreme, and when you’re talking Idaho extreme that’s being much more to the right, and that’s what we see.”

Idaho Freedom Caucus member Jeff Thompson, who leads the House Environment, Energy and Technology Committee is out. Additionally, Ron Nate, one of the so-called “Liberty Legislators,” was also not renewed by voters.

In North Idaho, conservative lawmakers Heather Scott and Dan Foreman both successfully defeated challengers.

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