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Stories about Idaho

McGrane wins May 17 Republican Party primary for Idaho Secretary of State

Phil McGrane defeated Dorothy Moon and Mary Souza in the May 17 Republican Party primary for Idaho Secretary of State. Incumbent Lawerence Denney(R), who was first elected in 2014, did not file for re-election.

McGrane is the Ada County Clerk, a position to which he was first elected in 2018. On his campaign website, McGrane said, “It is now more important than ever to protect Idaho’s elections from the influence of D.C. and beyond. Since 2005, I have been involved with almost every aspect of Idaho elections; from counting ballots to training counties. I know our election system from the inside out and will bring my experience as your next Republican Secretary of State.”

Moon has represented District 8B in the Idaho House of Representatives since 2016. In an interview with Idaho Dispatch, Moon said she was running for secretary of state because “I knew that if we do not have fair elections in this state, we’re done—the entire country is done. We’ll lose our republic. To me this is the biggest issue we’re dealing with as Idaho, and as the country. On her campaign website, Moon said: “I believe my legislative work, education career, business acumen and life experiences have uniquely qualified me to serve Idaho as your next Secretary of State. And no one can question my commitment to conservative principles.” She listed her top issues as election integrity, business services, and endowment lands.

Souza is a member of the Idaho State Senate since 2014, representing District 4. She said: “In the wake of last year’s tumultuous election, it’s clear that to preserve voters’ faith and trust in our democratic process, we must safeguard election integrity. That goal will be my lodestar as Idaho’s Secretary of State.” On her campaign website, she listed three issues: Securing our Elections, Serving Future Generations, and Supporting our Economy.

The Idaho Secretary of State is responsible for running the state’s elections, licensing businesses, trademarks, notaries and other professions and various other duties involving the maintenance and publication of official documents. Republicans have held Idaho’s secretary of state office since 1967.

Idaho is one of 27 states holding secretary of state elections in 2022.



Little wins Republican primary for governor of Idaho

Incumbent Gov. Brad Little defeated seven other candidates in the Republican primary for governor of Idaho on May 17, 2022. With over 95% of precincts reporting, Little had received 53% of the vote to Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin’s 32%.

According to the Idaho Press‘s Betsy Russell, an incumbent Idaho governor had not been challenged in a primary by the lieutenant governor since 1938. Idaho is one of 17 states where the lieutenant governor is nominated in a separate primary and elected in a separate general election from the governor.

Steven Bradshaw, Ben Cannady, Ed Humphreys, Ashley Jackson, Lisa Marie, and Cody Usabel also ran in the primary.

Little ran on his record, saying that his first term was “marked by historic tax relief, unparalleled red tape reduction, extraordinary economic growth, and unprecedented investments in education.” He said, “During my first term, together, we achieved billions in historic tax relief, record investments in transportation, and continued our strong support for education in Idaho.”

McGeachin said she ran for governor “to restore the principles that have Made Idaho Great — individual liberty, state sovereignty, and traditional conservative values.” Former President Donald Trump (R) endorsed McGeachin in November 2021. McGeachin said, “My campaign has been endorsed by President Trump because I stand for America First policies including individual liberty, election integrity, a strong and secure border, school choice, energy independence, reducing taxes and regulations, and supporting American businesses.”

Major independent observers rate the general election as Solid or Safe Republican. Republicans have had trifecta control of Idaho state government since 1995.



Idaho Republican gubernatorial primary includes sitting governor and lieutenant governor for first time since 1938

Eight candidates are running in the Republican primary for governor of Idaho on May 17. Incumbent Gov. Brad Little and Janice McGeachin, the state’s current lieutenant governor, lead in fundraising and media attention.

Idaho is one of 17 states where the lieutenant governor is nominated in a separate primary and elected in a separate general election from the governor. According to the Idaho Press‘s Betsy Russell, an incumbent Idaho governor has not been challenged in a primary by the lieutenant governor since 1938. 

The Idaho Statesman’s Ryan Suppe said of Little and McGeachin, “The two former allies … have had a tense relationship in recent years.” Much of that tension has revolved around responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. In two instances in 2021, McGeachin issued executive orders related to COVID-19 measures—the first, while Little was at a Republican Governors Association meeting, banning mask mandates, and the second, while Little was at the U.S.-Mexico border, expanding a prohibition against state entities requiring vaccination or testing. Little rescinded both orders the following day.

The Idaho Constitution says that if the governor is absent from the state, the duties of the office transfer to the lieutenant governor. McGeachin and Little disagreed on whether the Idaho Constitution transfers the duties of the governor’s office to the lieutenant governor in the event of the governor’s physical absence or effective absence.

Little is running on his record, saying that his first term was “marked by historic tax relief, unparalleled red tape reduction, extraordinary economic growth, and unprecedented investments in education.” He said, “During my first term, together, we achieved billions in historic tax relief, record investments in transportation, and continued our strong support for education in Idaho.” Little said, “I am committed to continuing to lead Idaho with my goal for Idaho in mind to make Idaho the place where we all can have the opportunity to thrive, where our children and grandchildren choose to stay, and for the ones who have left to choose to return.” The National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund and the Idaho Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Little.

McGeachin said she is “running for Governor to restore the principles that have Made Idaho Great — individual liberty, state sovereignty, and traditional conservative values.” She said she is a “proven conservative leader with an established track record of working with others to promote fiscal responsibility.” McGeachin said, “My campaign has been endorsed by President Trump because I stand for America First policies including individual liberty, election integrity, a strong and secure border, school choice, energy independence, reducing taxes and regulations, and supporting American businesses.” Former President Donald Trump (R) endorsed McGeachin in Nov. 2021.

Also running in the primary are Steven Bradshaw, Ben Cannady, Ed Humphreys, Ashley Jackson, Lisa Marie, and Cody Usabel. 

Major independent observers rate the general election as Solid/Safe Republican. Republicans have had trifecta control of Idaho state government since 1995. The last time a Democrat was elected to statewide office in Idaho was for superintendent of public instruction in 2002.



Campaign to place an income tax for education funding on Idaho ballot submits signatures

On May 2, Reclaim Idaho, the campaign behind an initiative to increase the income tax rate for individuals with incomes above $250,000 and increase the corporate income tax rate, submitted over 95,269 signatures for verification. The required number of signatures is 64,945, which is equal to 6% of the registered voters at the state’s last general election. Idaho also has a distribution requirement that requires signatures equal to at least 6% of registered voters in 18 of the state’s 35 legislative districts to be included in petitions. Reclaim Idaho said it had met the distribution requirement in 20 legislative districts.

The initiative, referred to as the “The Quality Education Act” by the campaign, would increase the state income tax for individuals, trusts, and estates with incomes above $250,000 to $16,097 plus 10.925%. This is up from the existing rate of 6.5%. The initiative would require that the new tax income bracket be changed annually by an adjustment factor equal to the consumer price index for the calendar year of 2024 divided by the consumer price index for the calendar year preceding. The new tax brackets and tax rates would take effect on Jan. 1, 2023. The tax bracket would not be adjusted for inflation until 2025.

The initiative would also increase the corporate income tax from 6.5% to 8%. According to the Tax Foundation, 44 states levy a corporate income tax ranging from 2.5% in North Carolina to 11.5% in New Jersey.

The initiative would also establish the Quality Education Fund. Revenues from the increased income tax would be deposited into the fund. The initiative states that the funds should be appropriated by the state board of education. It would prohibit funds from being appropriated to pay the salaries of superintendents, principals, or other administrators. It would also give the state board of education the power to promulgate rules to implement the initiative.

Reclaim Idaho attempted to place the initiative on the ballot in 2020 but announced it was suspending its campaign due to the coronavirus pandemic. The campaign filed a lawsuit against the state, which refused to allow the campaign to use DocuSign to electronically collect signatures. In July 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the state ordering an emergency stay on a lower court’s order that authorized the campaign to collect signatures electronically.

The initiative has won the endorsement of the Idaho Education Association, which unanimously endorsed it at its meeting last month. Luke Mayville, a co-founder of Reclaim Idaho, said, “Most people do not view education as political. They understand that quality education relies on government, and therefore relies on politicians to do their jobs and fund public schools, but they don’t view funding for education as a controversial political topic. They view it as a no-brainer.” As of March 2022, the campaign has raised over $579,000 in contributions.

State Sen. Steven Thayn (R), who is the chair of the Senate Education Committee, said, “I am not supportive. First of all, I think it’s based on a false assumption that money will improve education, and that is not necessarily the case. The No. 1 need in education is not more money.”

The statutory deadline to submit signatures was May 1, 2022, but the secretary of state allowed campaigns to submit signatures on May 2, since the official day fell on a Sunday.

Five other initiative campaigns were cleared for signature gathering, but Reclaim Idaho is the only campaign that has collected more than the required number of signatures. The other initiatives included medical marijuana legalization, recreational marijuana legalization, an increased minimum wage, changes to initiative signature requirements, and a referendum on signature distribution requirements.

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Three Idaho secretary of state candidates competing in May 17 Republican primary

Phil McGrane, Dorothy Moon, and Mary Souza are running in the May 17 Republican Party primary for Idaho Secretary of State. Incumbent Lawerence Denney (R), first elected in 2014, did not file for re-election.

McGrane is the Ada County Clerk, a position to which he was first elected in 2018. On his campaign website, McGrane said, “It is now more important than ever to protect Idaho’s elections from the influence of D.C. and beyond. Since 2005, I have been involved with almost every aspect of Idaho elections; from counting ballots to training counties. I know our election system from the inside out and will bring my experience as your next Republican Secretary of State.”

Moon has represented District 8B in the Idaho House of Representatives since 2016. In an interview, Moody said she was running for secretary of state because “I knew that if we do not have fair elections in this state, we’re done—the entire country is done. We’ll lose our republic. To me this is the biggest issue we’re dealing with as Idaho, and as the country. On her campaign website, Moon said: “I believe my legislative work, education career, business acumen and life experiences have uniquely qualified me to serve Idaho as your next Secretary of State. And no one can question my commitment to conservative principles.” She listed what she calls election integrity, business services, and endowment lands as key issues.

Souza has been a member of the Idaho State Senate since 2014, representing District 4. She said: “In the wake of last year’s tumultuous election, it’s clear that to preserve voters’ faith and trust in our democratic process, we must safeguard election integrity. That goal will be my lodestar as Idaho’s Secretary of State.” On her campaign website, she listed three issues: Securing our Elections, Serving Future Generations, and Supporting our Economy.

The Idaho Secretary of State is responsible for running the state’s elections, licensing businesses, trademarks, notaries and other professions and various other duties involving the maintenance and publication of official documents. Republicans have held Idaho’s secretary of state office since 1967.



Rate of state legislative incumbents facing primary challengers doubles in Idaho compared to recent years

More state legislative incumbents are facing primary challenges in Idaho this year than at any point since at least 2014. Seventy-five incumbents are seeking re-election this year, 61.3% of whom (46) are running in contested primaries. From 2014 to 2020, the percentage of incumbents in contested primaries hovered at around half that rate ranging from 32 to 34%.

Of those 46 incumbents in contested primaries, 45 are Republicans, and one—Rep. James Ruchti—is a Democrat.

Redistricting is a partial cause of this increase. When states redraw district lines, they can change so that incumbents who previously represented one district now live within the district lines of another. This can result in incumbents challenging other incumbents in contested primaries or general elections if they choose to seek re-election. 

There are four such incumbent vs. incumbent primaries this year:

  • House District 9B: Rep. Scott Syme (R), first elected to District 11A in 2016, will face Rep. Judy Boyle (R), first elected in 2008.
  • House District 22A: Rep. Greg Ferch (R), first elected to District 21B in 2020, will face Rep. John Vander Woude (R), first elected in 2010.
  • Senate District 9: Sen. Jim Rice (R), first elected to District 8 in 2012, will face Sen. Abby Lee (R), first elected in 2014. Two other candidates are running in this primary.
  • Senate District 14: Sen. Steven Thayn (R), first elected to District 8 in 2012, will face Sen. C. Scott Grow (R), first appointed in 2018. One other candidate is running in this primary.

For the purposes of our analysis, all eight of these incumbents are considered incumbents in contested primaries.

Looking beyond incumbents in contested primaries, the total number of primaries also increased this year to its highest level compared to previous cycles, driven entirely by an increase in Republican contests.

These figures come from Ballotpedia’s analysis of post-filing deadline competitiveness statistics. The filing deadline for candidates running for state or federal office in Idaho this year was March 11. Candidates filed to run for the state’s 35 Senate and 70 House seats.

Here are some other highlights from this year’s filings:

  • Of the 105 seats up for election, 32.3% are open, meaning no incumbent is in the running. This is the largest percentage of open seats since at least 2014. Newcomers are guaranteed to win these open seats, meaning at least one-third of the Idaho Legislature will be new to their seats in the 2023 legislative session.
  • Of the 105 seats up for election, 32.3% are open, meaning no incumbent is in the running. This is the largest percentage of open seats since at least 2014. Newcomers are guaranteed to win these open seats, meaning at least one-third of the Idaho Legislature will be new to their seats in the 2023 legislative session.
  • Of the 105 seats up for election, 32.3% are open, meaning no incumbent is in the running. This is the largest percentage of open seats since at least 2014. Newcomers are guaranteed to win these open seats, meaning at least one-third of the Idaho Legislature will be new to their seats in the 2023 legislative session.

Republicans currently hold a 28-7 majority in the state Senate and a 58-12 majority in the state House. With a Republican governor, Idaho is one of 23 Republican trifectas.

Idaho’s state legislative primaries are scheduled for May 17, making them the sixth in the nation.

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In Idaho’s two congressional districts, there is one contested primary this year

The filing deadline for candidates running for state or federal office in Idaho was March 11, 2022. This year, nine candidates—two Democrats, six Republicans, and one Libertarian—are running for Idaho’s two U.S. House districts. That’s 4.5 candidates per district, less than the 5.0 candidates per district in 2020 and 9.0 in 2018.

Here are some other highlights from this year’s filings:

  • Both incumbents are running for re-election: Russ Fulcher in District 1 and Michael Simpson in District 2.
  • The only contested primary is the Republican primary in District 2, where Simpson faces four other candidates. One of those candidates is Bryan Smith, who Simpson defeated 62-38 in the 2014 Republican primary.
  • According to Roll Call, Republicans have won 27 of the 28 U.S. House elections in Idaho since 1994. Walt Minnick won in District 1 in 2008 before losing his re-election bid in 2010.

Idaho’s U.S. House primaries will take place on May 17, 2022. Also on the ballot will be a U.S. Senate seat, governor, lt. governor, attorney general, secretary of state, and all 105 seats in the state legislature.

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Idaho governor signs bill locking a lower unemployment tax rate for two years

Idaho Governor Brad Little (R) signed House Bill 450 into law on Feb. 18, lowering Idaho’s unemployment insurance tax rate for the next two years. The state estimated the lower unemployment tax range would save Idaho employers $64 million for the duration of the tax cut.

Employers pay state unemployment taxes to fund the unemployment insurance program. Each state sets its own tax rate range, wage base (the amount of pay an employer needs to pay taxes on for each employee), and experience rating system.

Employers also pay federal unemployment taxes under the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA).

Unemployment insurance refers to a joint federal and state program that provides temporary monetary benefits to eligible laid-off workers who are actively seeking new employment. Qualifying individuals receive unemployment compensation as a percentage of their lost wages in the form of weekly cash benefits while they search for new employment.

The federal government oversees the general administration of state unemployment insurance programs. The states control the specific features of their unemployment insurance programs, such as eligibility requirements and length of benefits.

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Idaho enacts new congressional and state legislative maps

On Nov. 12, 2021, the Idaho Independent Redistricting Commission formally submitted its final congressional and state legislative maps to the secretary of state, enacting new maps for the state’s two U.S. House districts and 35 legislative districts.

The commission voted in favor of the final versions of both the congressional and state legislative maps on Nov. 5 but chose to recast their votes on Nov. 10 due to concerns regarding Idaho’s open meetings laws.

The six commissioners—three appointed by Democrats and three by Republicans—voted 4-2 in favor of the final congressional map. Nels Mitchell and Dan Schmidt, both Democratic appointees, voted against the map, saying they opposed its division of Ada County, the state’s most populous, into two districts. Ada County was split between two districts following the 2010 census.

Mitchell said, “there is a statute on the books that says we’re not supposed to split counties if we don’t have to, and I don’t believe we had to.” Commissioner Bart Davis, who supported the map, said, “there were honest disagreements on the congressional plan … and that’s the reason we have a commission of six, is to allow us to think about it and challenge each other’s thinking.”

The commission voted 6-0 in favor of the new state legislative district maps. Idaho has 35 legislative districts, which each elects one senator and two representatives.

House Speaker Scott Bedke (R) said, “The Idaho House Republican Caucus is not entirely thrilled with the new reapportionment of Idaho’s legislative map,” adding that, “highly qualified and established legislators may be forced to campaign against equally skilled former colleagues.”

Idaho Ed News’ Kevin Richert estimated that the new legislative maps could result in six House races and five Senate races where incumbents would face re-election against one another.

Commissioner Schmidt said, “We’ve tried to do our best to balance the interests and the needs of the communities we are working with and the law that is before us,” adding, “We went into this process knowing that our task could not make everybody happy, and we don’t expect it will.”

As of Nov. 12, 2021, 12 states had enacted congressional maps following the 2020 census and 17 had completed state legislative redistricting. At that time in 2011, following the 2010 census, 26 states had finished congressional redistricting and 29 had finished state legislative redistricting.



Lori McCann appointed to the Idaho House of Representatives

Governor Brad Little (R) appointed Lori McCann (R) on May 17 to represent District 6A in the Idaho House of Representatives. The seat has been vacant since April 29, when former state Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger (R) resigned.

McCann’s professional experience includes working as a professor at Lewis-Clark State College, where she was also the director of the paralegal and legal assistant programs. McCann also worked as a paralegal at her family’s law firm and helped manage her family’s property and livestock business.

As of May 20, there have been 48 state legislative vacancies in 28 states so far this year. Thirty-one (31) of those vacancies have been filled. McCann is one of 15 Republicans to fill state legislative vacancies in 2021.

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