The Road To Red: How One Political Party Came To Dominate Idaho

The Republican Party has dominated Idaho politics for most of its history. In fact, it's one of the reddest states in the country. But it hasn't always been that way.

Twenty years ago, Idaho had a Democratic governor. More recently, Idaho had a Democrat in Congress. Today, Republicans hold each of Idaho's top statewide elected offices, and a wide majority in the Legislature.

So, how did Republicans get to be so firmly in control of Idaho politics today? We examine the events and issues that led to one-party control of Idaho.

Castle Peak, Baker Ranch
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

If Hollywood needed a setting for one of its westerns, this spot along the East Fork of the Salmon River just might be it. In fact, one of Clint Eastwood’s famous westerns, Pale Rider, was shot not too far from here.

For the dwindling number of ranchers who still earn their livings on this land, this valley is nothing like a romanticized western – it’s gritty, year-round work.

The Baker family has lived, and ranched here for more than 125 years.

Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

In a 2010 public policy survey by Boise State University, people were asked which level of government they most trust. The federal government lagged far behind state and local entities.

Betty Richardson, Jim Weatherby, Ben Ysursa
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

The Republican Party has dominated Idaho politics for most of its history. In fact, it's one of the reddest states in the country. But it hasn't always been that way. Twenty years ago, Idaho had a Democratic governor.

Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Whenever people talk about Idaho politics, chances are someone will say something like “Idaho is one of the reddest, if not the reddest state in the country.” Republicans have been the majority party for most of the state’s history, but until relatively recently, Democrats were also very competitive.

To find out how Idaho became a one party state, take this stroll down the historic road to red.

Idaho’s First 100 Years of Party Politics

Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Everyone knows Idaho is a red state.  In fact, it's one of the reddest in the country. But it hasn't always been that way. Twenty years ago, Idaho had a Democratic governor. More recently, Idaho had a Democrat in Congress.