It was big news that Republicans dominated the national political landscape on November 4, but it was business as usual in here in the Gem State. Proving that Idaho is still one of the reddest of the red states, Idaho Republicans maintained their grip on every statewide and Congressional office, and held two open state constitutional offices that many thought might swing blue.
It didn’t happen, despite money flowing freely on both sides of the aisle. At the Statehouse, the status quo prevails, with Republicans in the Legislature maintaining strong majorities of 28 to 7 in the Senate and 56 to 14 in the House, where the GOP lost just one seat. Demographics are still destiny in Idaho, and this red state still rewards candidates with an (R) behind their name when it appears on the ballot.
We are pleased to report considerable success in supporting candidates who prevailed on Election Day. NFIB endorsed 50 candidates who support small and independent business. We can report a 100-percent success rate for statewide candidates who won their elections, and more than 80-percent success in legislative races.
We are happy to see NFIB members Mary Souza (Coeur d’Alene), Dean Mortimer (Idaho Falls) and Judy Boyle (Midvale) elected to the Idaho legislature.
Unlike what happened nationally, results here hued closer to what pollsters had predicted:
- U.S. Senator Jim Risch, U.S. Reps. Raul Labrador and Mike Simpson all won by more than 60 percent
- Gov. Butch Otter was elected to a third term as governor by 53 percent to 38 percent for his opponent, a wider margin than was predicted
- Lt. Governor Brad Little, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, and Treasurer Ron Crane all won by more than 60 percent
- In the race for secretary of state, former Speaker of the House Lawerence Denney won by 56 percent to 43 percent for his opponent, a wider margin than was expected.
The only close statewide race was for Superintendent of Public Instruction, where political newcomer Sherri Ybarra won by fewer than 6,000 votes (50.7 percent to 49.3 percent) in a race that was widely expected to go to Jana Jones, the Democrat.
State legislative election results produced little change in the makeup of either chamber. The Senate stays the same with a 28/7 Republican to Democrat split, while the Democrats picked up one seat in the House to increase their number to 14 to the Republicans’ 56/14.
Several incumbents survived close calls:
- Rep. John Rusche in Lewiston
- Rep. Lynn Luker in Boise
- Rep. Stephen Hartgen in Twin Falls
- and Representative Steven Miller in Fairfield.
Come Wednesday morning, only two incumbents lost their seats: Reps. Lucinda Agidius in Moscow and Thyra Stevenson in Lewiston.
That every vote counts proved true once again in these legislative races:
- House Minority Leader John Rusche won his race by only 48 votes, while Incumbent Republican Rep. Thyra Stevenson lost her race by 26 votes in Lewiston
- In District 5, Incumbent Republican Rep. Agidius lost by 500 votes to Paulette Jordan, while political newcomer Republican Caroline Troy won the open seat by more than 1,400 votes
- In Boise, incumbent Rep. Lyn Luker won re-election by a slim margin (69 votes) over perennial candidate Steve Berch
- Rep. Steve Miller returns to the State House winning his election by less than 200 votes.
The Bottom Line
Republicans dominated statewide Congressional and Constitutional offices, and once again swept the ticket from the top. The Legislature stands pat, solidly in Republican hands, and very likely under the guidance of a familiar and experienced leadership team. The December 4 organizational session will determine chairmen (most will remain the same) and membership (expect changes at the margins), but by and large the Idaho Statehouse will welcome mostly familiar faces when the Legislature convenes on January 12, 2015.
Not only will faces stay the same, but so will the issues they debate. Expect more deliberation and discussion on a few big issues:
- Education Funding – Just because A.J. Balukoff lost to Govenor Otter, doesn’t mean education funding goes away as the hottest issue of the day. To the contrary, expect the Legislature to focus on filling in the funding hole for K-12 education and higher education alike. But where will the money come from? Look for proposals to increase taxes and move General Fund money around to pour more in to education. NFIB members are generally opposed to new taxes, even if it sends the money to education. We will be watching closely for new tax increases that will land on the backs of our members.
- Medicaid Expansion – Call it Obamacare Part 2. Healthcare and insurance advocates want to see Medicaid expanded under the federal Affordable Care Act, but many conservatives are leery of taking that leap, even with federal money on the table. NFIB members strongly oppose expanding yet another government program that leaves them on the hook down the road. NFIB will opposed efforts to expand Medicaid.
- Transportation Funding – Road and bridge advocates were biding their time to get past the November elections, before continuing their public efforts to find new money to build and repair Idaho’s roads and bridges. What will these look like?:
- new fuel taxes and registration fees
- new sales taxes directed to roads
- proposals to require hybrids and electric cars to pay their fair share
- adding sales tax to fuel (in addition to existing fuel tax)
- Balanced Budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution – Isn’t it time we asked Congress to do what Idaho does as required by our Constitution? Let’s balance the budget at the federal level too!
- Growth in Government – Just because there is more money in state coffers and Idaho’s economy is rebounding, let’s not grow government beyond what is truly needed to keep Idaho residents safe and serve their basic needs, or as Governor Otter likes to say: “the proper role of government.”
- Regulatory Red Tape – State agencies sometimes over-reach in implementing laws passed by the Legislature. The Idaho legislature has the authority to review agency rules and reject them if they go beyond what was intended when the bill was passed. We will keep a close eye on state agencies rules as they are reviewed in 2015.