When it comes to Idaho's general election roulette, almost always bet on red

Bad news. You overslept and missed the real election in Idaho — the Republican primary — and all you're left with is the ho-hum general election where most of the outcome has already been spoiled. (Hint: Republicans have a good shot.)

So don't expect controversy over whether CONGRESSMAN RUSS FULCHER Heismaned his way through metal detectors in the U.S. Capitol in the days after the Jan. 6 riot. It probably won't matter much in his race against KAYLEE PETERSON, whose Twitter profile emphasizes that she's a "Democrat in a red state," a "sophomore in College" and is "not an election denier."

It is notable that the wife of former Republican Gov. Butch Otter and nearly 50 other prominent Republicans have endorsed Democratic attorney general candidate TOM ARKOOSH over RAUL LABRADOR in the race for attorney general. But considering his name recognition, Labrador — a Tea Party-era Republican who promised to fiercely defend Idaho's abortion laws — remains the heavy favorite.

But that doesn't mean the left can't have considerable influence. Take note of RECLAIM IDAHO, the group that spearheaded a citizen's initiative in 2017 to expand Medicaid. This year, the group's "QUALITY EDUCATION ACT" initiative would've raised $323 million a year for education by hiking taxes for the rich. But the Idaho Legislature got to it first, blocking the initiative while increasing the education budget by even more money.

That got GOV. BRAD LITTLE — yes, a Republican — accused of surrendering to "socialist activists" by the Idaho Freedom Foundation, an influential right-wing lobbying group. Little may not face a huge challenge from little-known Democrat STEPHEN HEIDT. But to gauge the strength of Idaho's far right, keep an eye on independent candidate AMMON BUNDY, a truck-repair company owner who nevertheless wears a cowboy hat. Bundy's role in kicking off a 41-day armed standoff at a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon made him probably the fifth-most famous Bundy (behind Ted, Cliven, and Al and Peggy).

There are, however, whispers of a strange and surreal land where the Democrats do have a chance, and where general elections truly do matter. It's called Latah County. There, the sheer college-student-ness of Moscow's University of Idaho is enough to balance out the North Idaho-ness of the Panhandle. It's so insanely in the center that it was called a "cesspool of liberalism" by DAN FOREMAN, who is — wait for it — a Republican. Now Foreman is trying once again to represent that cesspool in the state Senate.

He'll be facing off in a rematch against incumbent DAVID NELSON, a Democrat — gasp! — who risked the ire of the Idaho Freedom Foundation by voting in favor of taking federal grant money for early education.

The stakes here are more than the size of the loyal blue opposition in the legislature. Foreman's election could tip the balance of the (comparatively) moderate Idaho Senate into the hands of the hard right. Red can always get redder. ♦

Braiding Basics @ Shadle Library

Sun., Feb. 5, 2-3:30 p.m.
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About The Author

Daniel Walters

A lifelong Spokane native, Daniel Walters is the Inlander's senior investigative reporter. But he also reports on a wide swath of other topics, including business, education, real estate development, land use, and other stories throughout North Idaho and Spokane County.He's reported on deep flaws in the Washington...