Republicans maintain control in deeply conservative Idaho

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho Republicans maintained their hold in the deeply conservative state on Tuesday by retaining all statewide offices, a U.S. Senate seat, both seats in the U.S. House and supermajorities in both chambers of the Statehouse.

Republican Gov. Brad Little easily won a second term by defeating Democratic candidate Stephen Heidt and independent candidate and antigovernment activist Ammon Bundy.

“I want to congratulate all those who earned a vote of confidence from Idahoans in Tuesday’s election,” Little said in a statement on Wednesday. “I stand ready to work with them to meet the people’s expectations.”

Former U.S. Rep. Raúl Labrador will be the new attorney general after defeating the five-term incumbent in the Republican primary and then winning Tuesday against Democrat Tom Arkoosh, who drew some Republican support. Labrador ran for governor in 2018 but lost in the Republican primary to Little.

“The people of Idaho deserve an attorney general who understands that his job is to represent the people and not the bureaucracy of Idaho,” Labrador said Tuesday evening at an Idaho Republican Party gathering. “I think the people of Idaho will be proud of the work that we will do.”

Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane, who won the Republican primary in May by defeating two candidates who denied former President Donald Trump lost the 2020 election, will become the new secretary of state. He said he traveled across the state meeting with voters leading up to the election.

“It’s a blessing to be able to have exchanged words and to build confidence in our elections across the state,” he said.

Powerful House Speaker Scott Bedke will become the new lieutenant governor, a part-time position whose role is limited to filling in for the governor and breaking ties in the Senate. But Bedke, an expert on water issues, could be tapped by Little to play a role in various areas in a state that is among the fastest-growing in the nation.

“We can’t let all this new growth change who we are,” Bedke said in a statement on Wednesday. “That’s why I ran for Lt. Governor, and I am committed to defending our Idaho values.”

Republican State Controller Brandon Woolf won a third term while State Treasurer Julie Ellsworth won a second term.

Idaho Board of Education President Debbie Critchfield, who defeated the two-term incumbent in the Republican primary for superintendent of public instruction, won nearly 70% of the vote on Tuesday against her Democratic rival for that post.

Heading into Tuesday’s election, Republicans held 58 of the House’s 70 seats and 28 of the Senate’s 35 seats. Many Republicans faced no opposition in the general election, and most that did won easily. A few races were too early to call, and there will be many new faces in the House and Senate following retirements, redistricting and last May’s primary, but the number of Republican and Democratic seats in the House and Senate looked likely to remain the same on Wednesday.

“In a year when political pundits predicted a red wave, and at a time when Idaho is facing mass conservative migration, I’m proud that Idaho Democrats were able to hold the line,” said Idaho Democratic Party Chairwoman Lauren Necochea, who easily won a third term in Idaho’s House of Representatives representing a district in the Boise area.

Democratic House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel, an attorney, also easily won a sixth term representing an area in Boise. She said her caucus would look to work across the aisle where possible. House Democrats in the past have been key in passing some budget bills that drew a majority of opposition from Republicans.

“Our caucus is small but mighty,” Rubel said. “We’ll be the people in the room who ask the hard questions.”

Voters also overwhelmingly approved a nonbinding resolution asking if they agreed with a massive tax cut and education spending bill lawmakers passed in a one-day special session in September that Little signed into law the same day.

A constitutional amendment that for the first time would allow the part-time Legislature to call itself back into session remained too early to call on Wednesday. Currently, only the governor can call a special session.