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Idaho’s score card

Filing time is over, and it’s time for a quick overview of where parties and candidates stand as campaign season formally kicks in.

You can check the full and final candidate list as well – it’s just been posted – and various points will be worth dwelling upon. For now, consider these . . .

Vacancies. Before reviewing the Idaho vacancy rate, let’s place it in context. Ten days ago candidate filing ended in Oregon; there, with 75 legislative seats up for election, Republicans failed to fill nine ballot spots (a miss rate of 12%) and Democrats failed to fill four (5.3%). Now, in Idaho? Of 105 legislative seats up for election, Republicans filed to fill 11 (10.5%) while Democrats failed to fill 36 (34.3%). (Three of the seats unchallenged by Democrats are actually open seats, including those of retiring Speaker Bruce Newcomb and congressional candidate Bill Sali). The blank rate is much higher in Idaho, and we can easily see to whose advantage.

Having said that, the surprise here isn’t the number of vacancies allowed by the Democrats – 36 isn’t especially unusual, and better than in some years – but rather those allowed by the Republicans. After all, there are only 20 Democrats in the whole legislature, and more than half of them have been given a pass.

At least for now. Slots can still be filled at the primary election through write-in. But ordinarily, only a few slots per cycle are filled that way. Mostly, what we see now is what we get.

Among major and statewide offices, just one – secretary of state – lacks a major-party contest. Even if some others are placeholders, that’s a better record than usual.

Late surprises. There are always a few; this time most are on the Democratic side. Foremost among these this time has to be the filing in the lieutenant governor’s race of Democrat Larry La Rocco, a former two-term congressman (1990-94), who has been threatening to run for something for a few years now. The filing places him in a primary contest with Canyon County activist Dan Romero, who has been in the race since early in the year at least. But if La Rocco wins the primary, the result would be a fascinating setup: He and the Republican nominee and incumbent, Jim Risch (who almost certainly actually will be governor by the time the general election gets here), faced off exactly 20 years ago in a state Senate race. (We remember; we were there and covered part of it.)

Also of interest on the legislative level is the run of Chuck Oxley, till recently an Associated Press newsman and now communications director for the state Democratic Party; and Jim Ruchti, a young Pocatello Democratic leader who could easily become one of the major political figures in that part of the state in years to come.

The standout late surprise on the Republican side: Dennis Mansfield, former (2000) congressional candidate and activist, running in the Republican primary for the state Senate against John Andreason, who has been a figure of frustration for some years to more socially conservative people. That should be a race to watch.

Judges. Just two district judges are challenged – John Mitchell of the 1st district in the north, and James Herndon of the 7th, over in the east. Neither Supreme Court Justice Dan Eismann nor Court of Appeals Judge Darrel Perry is challenged. Sounds as if the riot against “activist judges” isn’t running high in Idaho.

Question mark. Are we reading this wrong, or is Andy Hedden-Niceley – co-founder of the liberal Boise Weekly, former Democratic candidate – running for 1st District U.S. House under the very conservative Natural Law Party banner?

APPENDIX. Legislative seats left unopposed (incumbent noted):

By Republicans: 2 House A (Shepherd); 7 House Bil (Rusche); 16 Senate (Langhorst); 16 House a (Henbest); 19 House A (Pasley-Stuart); 19 House B (LaFavour); 25 Senate (Stennett); 25 House A (Jaquet); 25 House B (Pence); 30 Senate (Malepiei); 30 House A (Boe)

By Democrats: 3 House B (Hart); 4 Senate (Goedde; Lee listed as filing but has announced withdrawal); 6 Senate (Schroeder); 6 House A (Trail); 9 House A (Denney); 9 House B (Edmunson); 10 Senate (McGee); 10 House A (Ring); 11 Senate (Little); 11 House A (Skippen); 11 House B (Bauer); 13 House Bil (Deal); 14 House A (Moyle); 15 House Bil (Black); 20 House A (Snodgrass); 21 Senate (Fulcher); 21 House A (Sali, departing to run for U.S. House); 21 House B (Bayer); 23 House B (Brackett); 24 Senate (Coiner); 24 House B (Block); 26 Senate (Cameron); 26 House B (Bell); 27 Senate (Darrington); 27 House A (Bedke); 27 House B (Newcomb, retiring from House); 28 House A (Lake), 28 House B (Cannon, retiring from House); 31 Senate (Geddes); 31 House A (Bradford); 31 House B (Loertscher); 32 House B (Rydalch); 34 Senate (Hill); 34 House A (Shirley); 34 House B (Raybould); 35 House A (Wood).

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