In a state as deeply Republican as Idaho, the GOP primary often serves as the real electoral battleground. Last night’s results were mostly unsurprising, though winners were more moderate than many expect from Idaho. Unless we’re talking about Kootenai County.
Here are the unofficial results, as of 8 am this morning.
"Take air superiority, and then roll in with our tanks on the ground... Blitzkrieg!"
— Idaho gubernatorial candidate Harley Brown
"Mr. Brown? The question was about taxes."
— Betsy Russell, Spokesman-Review
By now, the question wasn’t if you saw the Idaho GOP gubernatorial debate. It was what your favorite part was. Was it the formal tie Harley Brown wore with his biker gear? Was it the giant Cranky Kong beard on anti-abortion candidate Walt Bayes? Was it Brown’s line about how he’s as politically correct as a “turd in a punchbowl?” The moment where Bayes put his glasses up on his forehead and started reading scripture?
Brown’s still-slightly-offensive rhetoric about how much gay people love each other? His rant about spiritual warfare? The mention of his ex-wife’s restraining order and Fat Jack’s cellar?
It’s unlikely, of course, that it was anything about the statements of incumbent Butch Otter or his more conservative challenger Russ Fulcher. Probably nothing about the nuances of Fulcher’s opposition to Common Core (though Fulcher himself initially supported it) or his arguments over the governor’s support for a state-run health exchange.
Fulcher was fuming, complaining that by allowing the fringe candidates to debate, he’d subjected Idaho to public humiliation. Otter can point to a specific promise he made Harley Brown years ago as to the reason for demanding that Brown and any other fringe candidates be included in the race.
But there was also a clear political upside for the sitting Governor. Not only did Brown and Bayes take up time that Fulcher may have spent attacking Otter’s policies, but it clearly changed the conversation. Before the debate, local and national coverage focused on the surprise endorsement of Fulcher by 1st District Rep. Raul Labrador. After the debate, it was all memes, gifs, and highlight videos.
It became a “Moment of Zen” on The Daily Show. Conan O’Brien ran some clips from the video on his talk show, but edited the video to show a few more ridiculous debaters, like a Slim Jim with googly eyes.
Political drama had turned into political comedy, and a broad one at that.
And all that may have actually mattered. Where the Simpson/Smith race got all the big money, and much of the initial attention, this was a tougher fight for Otter. (And Harley Brown got a higher percentage than presidential candidate Ralph Nader did in 2002.) Kootenai County appeared to prefer Fulcher, voting for him by 52.5 percent.
As of 8 am this morning, here are the results, ordered by Brown’s nicknames for each of the candidates:
The Cowboy (Butch Otter): 79,383 (51. 3 percent)
The Curmudgeon: (Walt Bayes): 2,751 (1.8 percent)
The Biker (Harley Brown): 5,052 (3.3 percent)
The Normal Guy (Russ Fulcher): 67,514 (43 percent)
Idaho U.S. Rep. 2nd District
If there was any surprise in Idaho’s first district it wasn’t that Labrador handily defeated his four other opponents (and got six times as many votes as the top Democrat in the primary.) It was that Labrador was running for reelection at all. Many thought he might run against Butch Otter for Governor this year.
Last year, Labrador told the Inlander, and others, that he has considered running for Governor himself. Conservative blogger David Freddosso speculates that Labrador’s endorsement of Fulcher was a way for Labrador to shore up Tea Party support for the 2018 race.
Check out our profile of Raul Labrador here.
Raul Labrador: 56,214 (78.6 percent)
Sean Blackwell: 3,304 (4.6 percent)
Michael Greenway: 3,494 (4.9 percent)
Lisa Marie: 5,155 (7.2 percent)
Reed McCandless: 3,373 (4.7 percent)
Shirley Ringo: (81.8 percent)
Ryan Barone: 2,003 (18.2 percent)
Idaho US Rep. 2nd District
Before all the excitement of the Governor’s race all the attention turned to Idaho’s eastern district, where Mormon-Dentist-Congressman Rep. Mike Simpson faced off against Mormon-Lawyer-Beekeeper Bryan Smith.
At times, Simpson has been a more moderate Republican, one who voted for the bank bailout, supports the farm bill and predicted very early on that the government shutdown would backfire on Republicans. That moderation drew the ire of the anti-tax group Club for Growth, the patrons that helped Texas’s Ted Cruz cruise to victory. They threw about a half million into the race to defeat Simpson.
But that just attracted about an equal amount of money from the Republican Main Street Partnership, which has pledged to counter the Club for Growth group when ever it challenges moderate Republicans. Simpson has other supporters, too, mostly from business groups like the sugar industry and the Chamber of Commerce.
Outside groups ran wildly dishonest ads on both sides.
In debates, Simpson pointed the need to occasionally compromise to get get things done. Smith portrayed compromise as just another word for surrender.
But Smith was still the underdog. Simpson still had a huge financial advantage, defeating an incumbent is always tough, and the 2nd district of Idaho isn’t nearly as conservative as the 1st. And in late April, according to Time reporter Alex Altman, Club for Growth stopped investing in the race.
Ultimately, it wasn’t even a contest. The Associated Press called it early in the night for Simpson, echoing the defeat of most right-wing challengers to Republican incumbents throughout the nation.
Read our story on the Simpson/Smith race here.
Mike Simpson 48,257 (61.6 percent)
Bryan Smith 30,095 (38.4 percent)
This was another blowout, though perhaps not as big of a blowout people were expecting. Slate columnist Dave Weigel pointed to the race — where Jim Risch only got 80 percent against a “fringe primary challenger” as a counter to the National Republican Senatorial Committee gloating over the big victory of Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell. Anderson, a website developer who puts the T in quotes, promised not to use any signs or mailers during his campaign.
Jim Risch: 79.9 percent
Jeremy “T” Anderson: 21 percent
Nels Mitchell 16,801 (69.6 percent)
William Bryk 7,337 (30.4 percent)
Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction
Now, if Tom Luna were in the race, we’d have something to really talk about. But after his major Students Come First proposals (laptops in the classroom, merit pay, and stripping power from teachers unions) were defeated, Luna opted not to run for reelection.
Still, the initial leader of the primary, Sherri Ybarra, the federal programs director and curriculum director at the Mountain Home School District, still managed to pull off one of the night’s big surprises.
She says she didn’t vote during the Nov. 2012 election when the Student Comes First referenda on the ballot. And in her interview with Idaho Education News, she was downright secretive about a lot of things. Ybarra says she’s supportive about the Common Core state standards, but a little more skeptical of the Smarter Balanced state standardized tests designed to fit those standards.
She’ll face Idaho Falls Democrat Jana Jones, and it could be a good fight. In 2006, Jones nearly beat Luna.
Coeur d’Alene may have elected a more moderate school board, but Kootenai County ended up voting for the most fiercely anti-Common-Core candidate, John Eynon.
Sherri Ybarra: 38,425 (28 percent)
Randy Jensen: 32,793 (24 percent)
John Eynon: 32,431 (24 percent)
Andrew Grover: 31,498 (23 percent)
And here’s the other big surprise: Mary Souza, despite being easily trounced in last year’s Mayoral race, appears to have staged a surprise upset against John Goedde.
"The federal government has invaded Idaho through the state Obamacare exchange and the Common Core in our schools," Souza says in an audio ad that autoplays with dramatic music when you visit her website. “My opponent, Sen. John Goedde was a major supporter of both of these measures.”
Incumbent County Commissioner Todd Tondee also received a shellacking, getting beat by cabinet-maker and oil investor Marc Eberlein. (On his website, Eberlein condemns “backroom ‘deals’” and “spending, spending, spending with no accountability.”)
All the Kootenai County challengers backed by the moderate North Idaho Political Action Committee (slogan: “Reasonable Republicans”) didn’t make much of a dent.
Of course, with only 21 percent in Kootenai County, voter turnout wasn’t exactly stellar. Low turnout usually means the most passionate base wins.
KOOTENAI COUNTY COMMISSIONER, District 1
Marc Eberlein: 6,038 (52 percent)
Todd Tondee: 3,813 (32.8 percent)
Tim Herzog: 1,767 (15 percent)
STATE SENATOR, District 2
Mary Souza: 1,853 (53.9 percent)
John Goedde: (46.1 percent)
STATE SENATOR, District 3
Bob Nonini: 2,461 (64.7 percent)
Patrick Whalen: 1,345 (35.3 percent)
STATE REP. LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT 2, Position A:
Vito Barbieri: 3,253 (67.5 percent)
Fritz Wiedenhoff 1,568 (32.5 percent)
STATE REP. LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT 2, Position B:
Eric Redman: 2,897 (61 percent)
Ed Morse: 1,849 (39 percent)
STATE REP. LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT 3, Position A:
Ron Mendive: 2,408 (65.6 percent)
Terry Werner: 1,260 (34.4 percent)
STATE REP. LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT 3, Position B:
Don Cheatham: 1,450 (41.6 percent)
Jeff Ward: 1,037 (29.7 percent)
Greg Gfeller: 1,000 (28.7 percent)
STATE REP. LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT 4, Position A:
Lucas "Luke" Malek: 1,751 (52.7 percent)
Toby Schindelbeck: 1,571 (47.3 percent)
STATE REP. LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT 4, Position B:
Kathleen Sims: 1,318 (61.2 percent)
Elmer "Rick" Currie: 1,318 (38.4 percent)