Though Republicans made major gains around the nation on Election Day, the Idaho Legislature will actually look very much the same when the new session convenes in January. The partisan makeup of the Idaho Senate remains the same (28 Republicans and seven Democrats) while the House will see a net shift of just one seat to the Democrats. Republicans will still hold 56 of the 70 seats in that chamber.
In other words, the Idaho Legislature will go from being 81 percent Republican to 80 percent Republican.
Of the 105 current legislators, 11 chose not to run for re-election to their current seat (one House member successfully ran for state Senate, however), and six lost their primary election bids. Of the 88 incumbents who were on the ballot Nov. 4, 86 won their races. That means that in January, 82 percent of Idaho legislators will be back in their current seats. Of those incumbents who sought re-election, 91.5 percent were successful.
Some of the legislative races were extremely close. Two of the closest were in District 6 where incumbent Rep. Thyra Stevenson, R-Lewiston, lost her re-election bid by just 24 votes in a race with more than 12,000 votes cast and incumbent Rep. John Rusche, D-Lewiston, won his race by just 48 votes. Their margins were -.21 percent and +.39 percent respectively.
Although there were some close races, the majority were not. Of the 105 legislative races on the ballot, 42 were uncontested. Only eight races were decided by a margin of 10 percentage points or less. Thirty percent of incumbents who sought re-election faced no opposition—in either the primary or general elections.
There will be 18 new faces at the Legislature come January (not counting the one shifting from House to Senate.) Of those 18, there are 13 Republicans and five Democrats. How will these new arrivals impact the discussion on important policy issues such as Medicaid expansion and establishing state control over federal public lands? Only time will tell.