We are less than a week away from the much anticipated 2016 general election. Despite most attention being focused on the Presidential election, Idaho voters have much at stake in state and local elections on November 8. In addition to voting for a new President, Idahoans will be voting for a U.S. Senator, two Congressmen, and all 105 seats in the Idaho Legislature. Additionally, Idahoans will elect a new member to the Idaho Supreme Court and vote on a proposed amendment to the Idaho State Constitution.
Here is a more in-depth look at some of the high-profile elections facing Idahoans as they head to the polls next Tuesday:
Federal Elections in Idaho: Three races heavily favor Republicans this election cycle: Idaho’s U.S. Senate seat that is currently held by Senator Mike Crapo and Idaho’s two incumbent congressmen, Republicans Mike Simpson and Raul Labrador. Senator Crapo is being challenged by Boise attorney Jerry Sturgill. Despite his fairly low profile in Washington, Senator Crapo is expected to win this race handily, as he has a significant fundraising and polling advantage at this time. The same goes for Idaho’s two Congressional seats, in which First District Congressman Raul Labrador is being challenged by attorney James Piotrowski, a Democrat from Boise, and Second District Congressman Mike Simpson is facing a little known Democrat in Jennifer Martinez. Piotrowski actually outraised Congressman Labrador during the last reporting period ($112,672 to $101,677), but his lack of name recognition and running in a strong Republican district pose some challenging hurdles to unseating an incumbent. Everyone expects another resounding victory for Congressman Simpson, who is actively campaigning and raising money despite having a little-known challenger.
Idaho Supreme Court Election: The campaign that seems to be receiving the most attention in the media and in Idaho’s political community is the race to succeed retiring Supreme Court Justice Jim Jones. The two attorneys facing off in the election are Robyn Brody, an attorney in private practice from Rupert, and Curt McKenzie, a long-time state senator from Nampa, who served as Chairman of the Senate State Affairs Committee. The candidates were the top two vote-getters in the primary election, with Brody receiving 30.3 percent of the vote and McKenzie at 27.7 percent. Despite being the lesser known of the two candidates, Brody surprised many pundits with her primary election results, as well as her fundraising advantage. Additionally, Brody has received backing from attorneys throughout the state and was most recently rated nearly twice as high in her qualifications for the Supreme Court by the Idaho State Bar Survey. Curt McKenzie, on the other hand, has drawn most of his political support from many of Idaho’s legislators as well as some prominent lobbying groups, including the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry. This race will definitely be interesting to watch on election night and is probably too close to call at this point.
Constitutional Amendment - HJR 5: Despite being rejected two years ago, Idaho lawmakers are once again asking voters to approve a constitutional amendment granting the Legislature the power to review and reject agency rules without the Governor vetoing their action or the Supreme Court taking that power away. Supporters of the proposed amendment believe the process will allow for more accountability over Idaho’s state agencies. Opponents argue that it is a violation of the separation of powers between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government. The campaign to support HJR 5 is being promoted and financed primarily by Idaho Legislators, and the opposition is mostly coming from members of the executive branch, including Idaho Governor Butch Otter and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden. This will be another fascinating issue to follow on election day, and my guess is that it will be a pretty close vote.
Idaho House and Senate Elections: Republicans have a stronghold in the Idaho Legislature, where they currently hold almost 80 percent of the legislative seats. Democrats hope to change this domination in Idaho this election cycle, but despite fielding some high quality candidates, not many in Idaho’s political community expect much of a change in the makeup of the Idaho Legislature.
My next Idaho Legislative Update will focus primarily on the issues that are likely to dominate the upcoming 2017 Idaho Legislative session. Please let me know if there is an issue that you have an interest in that you would like to see covered, and I will be happy to respond.