With a few notable exceptions, Idahoans can breathe a sigh of relief after most traditional Republicans won statewide victories over more extreme far-right challengers in Tuesday’s Republican primary.
Among the statewide races, incumbent Gov. Brad Little handily and expectedly held off a challenge from Trump-endorsed Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, who increasingly courted the far-right fringe and white nationalist crowd. Political newcomer Ed Humphreys, who ran on a platform of conspiracy theories and far-right platitudes, turned in a surprisingly good result with 11% of the votes.
Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane, clearly the most qualified elections expert in the race for secretary of state, held off election conspiracy theorist and “big lie” believer Dorothy Moon in a race that was way closer than it should have been.
In another race that was too close for comfort, for Idaho lieutenant governor, House Speaker Scott Bedke defeated Priscilla Giddings, who has been a darling of the Idaho Freedom Foundation in the House and doxxed a rape victim in defense of a now-convicted rapist.
Idahoans can also breathe a sigh of relief in the race for superintendent of public instruction, as former State Board of Education president Debbie Critchfield garnered more votes than second-place finisher Branden Durst, a combative politician who favors school vouchers. It was surprising, though, that Durst received more votes than incumbent Sherri Ybarra.
Even though some of these races were discouraging because they were so close and far-right candidates received a concerningly high number of votes, as they say in sports, a “W” is a “W.”
The big exception was Raúl Labrador’s victory over longtime incumbent Attorney General Lawrence Wasden. Wasden has been a voice of reason and a by-the-book constitutional officer who calls balls and strikes, sticking to the rule of law and a straightforward reading of the constitution.
Most Republican voters, though, apparently wanted someone who will throw a curveball, as one state legislator put it, and they likely found it in Labrador, who has vowed to be “a voice for conservatives” as attorney general.
While Wasden sought to take politics out of the position, Labrador promises to inject politics into his position.
With the Idaho Senate likely moving sharply to the right, and the House moderating only slightly, that could spell trouble for Idaho’s constitutional defense fund and taxpayers’ wallets.
All of these Republican candidates will face Democratic opponents in November: Stephen Heidt for governor, Terri Pickens Manweiler for lieutenant governor, Shawn Keenan for secretary of state and Terry Gilbert for superintendent of public instruction. For attorney general, Labrador will face Democrat Steven Scanlin, who doesn’t even have a website for his campaign.
Democrats have a poor history in statewide races, leaving many to observe that the real race for these statewide offices is the Republican primary.
Scott McIntosh is the Idaho Statesman opinion editor. Bryan Clark is an opinion writer.