BOISE — Rep. Stephen Hartgen will not seek reelection in 2018, he announced Monday, ending a five-term career in the Idaho Legislature.
Instead, Hartgen is endorsing his wife, Linda Wright Hartgen, who will make a bid for his District 24B seat.
In announcing his retirement, Hartgen, a Twin Falls Republican cited ongoing health issues stemming from a viral infection in 2013.
“Things just have kind of changed a little bit, and I just felt that it was the right time,” Hartgen said in a Times-News interview. “I haven’t accomplished everything I want, but I’ve done a lot of good things.”
His last session could provide an opportunity to cross at least one more item off the legislative bucket list: in the coming weeks, Hartgen plans to introduce a redistricting bill to address gerrymandering in the state.
And after that? Hartgen says he plans to remain involved in some form of public service in retirement. He also hopes to finish a book on the history of southern Idaho that he’s been working on.
“This was really the best part of my public service, and I intend to continue in some way,” he said. “I’m looking at sort of a transition, but not an ending.”
Wright Hartgen, the former 5th Judicial District Court administrator and Twin Falls county clerk, has not yet filed for the House seat, but plans to.
“It’s been something that I’ve thought about for many years,” she told the Times-News. “And when Stephen started talking about retirement, I said you know, I’d really like to do it.”
Wright Hartgen has previously substituted for her husband in the Legislature. She spent five weeks in his seat in 2016, an experience that gave her a “flavor” of the job.
But “just because I’ve been married to a legislator doesn’t mean that I’m going to be that legislator,” she said. “He’s of one mindset, and while we agree on many, many things, I am my own person.”
Wright Hartgen hasn’t established an official platform yet, but she describes herself as a “second amendment person” who is “pro-life,” “pro-education,” and “conservative.” As former president of the CSI Foundation, Wright Hartgen says she would be “very supportive” of the college.
Hartgen has endorsed his wife and said his advice to his successor in the legislature, no matter who that may be, is to “learn to be a team player” and to engage with community members of differing opinions, he said.
“I would tell anybody we nominated and elected that they should listen,” he said. “We’re elected individually, but representing our whole communities.”