Several primary election losses by Republicans in the Idaho Senate could lead to a shift toward the right for the Senate that could align it more closely with the Idaho House of Representatives. Victorious Republican challengers in north and east Idaho say their views are more conservative than those of some now-ousted senators. Republican House leaders say the change could lead to a better working relationship.
“The more philosophically we’re aligned, then certainly the easier it is,” said House Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale.
However, he said it remains to be seen whether the Senate will shift to the right. “Until they actually get here, you don’t really know how conservative they’re going to be," Denney told IdahoReporter.com. "I suspect that if they are as conservative as they claim to be that there will be some change.”
Republican senators Mike Jorgenson of Hayden, Gary Schroeder of Moscow, Lee Heinrich of Cascade, and Charles Coiner of Twin Falls all fell to challengers in Tuesday’s Republican primary. All those challengers offer specific legislation where they would vote more conservatively.
Steve Vick of Dalton Gardens, who beat Jorgenson, said he takes a different approach on tax issues. “He had voted to raise the gas tax and the drivers’ license fee and supported putting a tax on Internet sales,” Vick said about Jorgenson. “I would oppose all of those things. I feel like we’re taxed enough, so we didn’t need more taxes.” Vick is a former Montana lawmaker who served on that state’s appropriations committee.
Gresham Bouma of Troy, who beat Schroder, said several policy issues separate him from the more moderate Schroeder, including wolves. “He wants to manage them,” Bouma said. “I think they need to be eliminated. I see them as an alien invasive species.” Schroeder chaired the Senate Environment and Resources Committee, which dealt with hunting and wolf issues, and favored expanding Idaho’s wolf hunt. Many of Bouma’s other campaign issues dealt with Idaho’s response to federal policy. “Between the wolves, cap and trade, and Obamacare, we could be out of business in north Idaho.” Bouma faces a Democratic challenger in the November election in a district that has elected a Democratic state representative, Shirley Ringo of Moscow.
Twin Falls City Councilman Lee Heider criticized some of Coiner’s votes in the Senate. “I think a lot of people were unhappy with his voting record, and I represented conservative values,” he said. “I think that’s what the Republican Party was looking for, was someone that had been more conservative than Mr. Coiner had been.” Coiner was one of three senators to oppose legislation requiring the state to file a lawsuit against federal health care reforms, and also opposed a plan creating conscience rights for health care workers on certain issues including abortion and end-of-life care.
Heinrich lost to rancher and part-time school teacher Sheryl Nuxoll of Cottonwood. On her website, Nuxoll criticized Heinrich for opposing a plan that would create a tax break for an airplane repair company in Boise. “I would have voted for the rebate to attract business, but the incumbent voted to kill the bill in committee,” she said on her website.
House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, who backed the rebate for plane repairs, said the decisions by voters in some districts could validate House Republicans. “It sounds like maybe the House was right,” he said. “Maybe the people realize that we need to help business grow and not hamstring it.”
The potential shift in Senate Republicans could trigger a change in Senate leadership next year. Most of the winning challengers in Tuesday’s primary wouldn't say whether they would vote to keep Senate President Pro Tem Bob Geddes, R-Soda Springs, in charge, though Nuxoll said she wants to see a change at the top of the Senate. "I'm hoping for a more conservative leadership," she told IdahoReporter.com.
Two House incumbents also lost re-election bids. Rep. Steve Kren, R-Nampa, was defeated by Christy Perry of Nampa. Denney said he was surprised by Perry’s margin of victory—she won with 56 percent of the vote—while Rep. Joe Palmer, R-Meridian said he was surprised Kren lost. Rep. Rich Jarvis, R-Meridian, was beaten by former seat holder John Vander Woude of Nampa.