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Watch list: The Idaho Legislature

Not much of up for grabs, really, in the Idaho Legislature this year – certainly nothing resembling control of either chamber. The Democrats nearly ceded that by keeping blank their line for most of the 105 seats, all up for election, if little else, this year.

Of those contested with major party candidates, not a lot show serious signs of competitiveness. This cuts both ways: Republicans aren’t seriously contesting a number of Democratic seats that could, logically, be at serious risk.

Here’s a quick run-through of contests that have caught our attention, not many but a few looking closely competitive.

bullet District 6 Senate. This ought to be, by a long shot, the Democrats’ best chance for a legislative pickup, anywhere in the state. And they may get it. That happened because in the Republican primary Tea Party-oriented Gresham Bouma beat long-time moderate Senator Gary Schroeder, one of the last few moderates in the Senate and the kind of Republican this university district likes to elect. (House member Tom Trail, also a veteran in this district, is another.) Democrats were fortunate in having fielded a solid candidate, Dan Schmidt, a physician, a former county coroner and long active in civic affairs; he would have lost to Schroeder, but against Bouma his chances are good. According to the last finance reports on file, neither has a lot of money on hand. But then, money isn’t likely to be decisive here.

bullet District 14 House B. This is the House seat Republican congressional candidate Raul Labrador is leaving behind, and it shouldn’t be competitive: This territory around Eagle has been a Republican lock for a long time. Still may be worth watching. Democrats are bullish about Steve Berch, who is running hard, is apparently well organized and has raised substantial enough money ($16,455, with $11,191 on hand as of June) to indicate serious effort. We’ve made the point repeatedly that if Idaho Democrats are to break through, they probably will have to do it first in the Boise suburbs, in places like this one. The Republican, Reed DeMordaunt, had to run through a tough primary and spend most of his funds. A longshot for a Democrat here, but the results will be worth revisiting.

bullet District 15 House A. Somewhat like the last one, except with an incumbent, Republican Lynn Luker, in place and pretty well established. He is a highly probable re-elect. Still, keep watch. The Democrat, Brenda Lovell, is decently financed and said to be working efficiently. And if one of the suburban districts ringing Boise starts to develop some cracks in the Republican walls, 15 is most likely to be first.

bullet District 17 Senate. This one stays on the radar though it doesn’t seem, at this point, to be gaining much interest – at least not yet. The incumbent Democrat in this Boise bench district, Elliot Werk, was the first Democrat ever to become well established in this district, and he seems solidly positioned. He has an interesting Republican opponent, Lucas Baumbach, who ran for Boise City Council last year and has been involved with Tea Party-oriented groups and intense rhetoric. (Those in Idaho will get the point when you note that Rod Beck is his campaign treasurer.) Still, Werk has heavily outraised him and seems to be taking nothing for granted.

bullet District 18 Senate. The seat being vacated by Democrat Kate Kelly will be a useful test case. Democratic Representative Branden Durst has been working it hard, but this is a marginal district, and Republican Mitch Toryanski is campaigning as well; this may be the Republicans’ best shot at recapturing a Democratic-held Boise seat. At last report, the two candidates were closely matched financially.

bullet District 33 House. And keep a look at the two House seats in District 33, where election before last Democrat Jerry Shively broke decades of Republican shutouts to win a House seat, before losing it last cycle. Now he’s back again, as is hard-working Democrat John McGimpsey, who has come close before. One of the Republicans here is Linden Bateman, who was in the legislature a quarter-century ago. Contests to watch, however the numbers evolve.

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