Democracies are unhealthy without a balance of power between the parties and accountability at the ballot box. Sadly, Idaho’s ruling party is steadily moving deeper into extremism, fueled by low-turnout closed primaries that attract extreme conservative voters far outside the mainstream and millions in out-of-state spending from far-right extremists.

The results of the Idaho Primary Election illustrate this deepening shift in the GOP. Fifteen Republican incumbents, including long-term GOP leaders, were defeated. Senate President Pro Tem Chuck Winder was once at the conservative edge of his Republican caucus. Just a decade ago, his colleagues determined his bill mandating transvaginal ultrasounds for patients seeking abortion care went too far. Winder just lost his primary to a far-right politician who parachuted into Idaho from California.

Megan Blanksma, the once House Republican Majority Leader, sponsored the draconian abortion ban with no exception for the health of the woman, causing patients to be airlifted out of state in medical emergencies. Blanksma also supported the book bounty bill that led a rural library in her district to close its doors to children. Still, she wasn’t conservative enough for the far-right, and her extremist opponent won.

The Idaho Senate, historically a backstop for extreme legislation, slipped further into the hands of the far-right two years ago, and this trend continued with this year’s primary. While far-right figures like Scott Herndon and Chris Trakel lost, more far-right senate candidates will be on the November ballot than ever before. One of those is Brandon Shipp of New Plymouth, who believes rape victims should be forced to carry the pregnancy and that women traditionally submit to being “under” their husbands when they marry them.

These values starkly contrast with those of most Idahoans, including Republican voters, highlighting the dangers of today’s insular Idaho GOP.

Idaho deserves leaders who solve problems, not create them. Idaho’s small but critical Democratic Caucus has reliably blocked some of the extreme Republican policies. If Democrats don’t gain seats, the surge of far-right Republicans coming out of the primary threatens Idaho’s ability to reject costly school voucher schemes, keep Medicaid expansion in place, halt general Medicaid cuts, fund the Launch scholarships that propel students to build career skills employers need, and much more.

November is our last chance to shape Idaho’s future for decades to come, and the far-right primary election wins have heightened the stakes. It’s no wonder that so many traditional Republican voters no longer recognize their party. The only way to curb runaway extremism is to hold the Idaho GOP accountable by electing Democrats this November.


Lauren Necochea
Idaho Democratic Party Chair