TWIN FALLS • Magic Valley voters have a lot of choices to make on May 17.
The primary covers county, state and federal elections to determine final races for the November election. In a region dominated by the GOP, some of the May races will settle the eventual winner because there are no Democratic opponents in the fall.
And there’s a lot at stake.
In Twin Falls, Republican incumbent Rep. Stephen Hartgen is facing a challenge from Mary Bello. In District 25, which covers Jerome County and much of rural Twin Falls County, longtime incumbent Republican Rep. Maxine Bell is facing a primary challenge from Reggy Sternes. Both Bell and Hartgen’s votes generally align them with the “establishment” wing of the party, and Bello and Sternes both are running to the right of the incumbents.
A full slate of Republicans are running in District 23, which includes western Twin Falls County. There, incumbent Republican Rep. Rich Wills is facing a challenge from Christy Zito, and incumbent Republican Rep. Pete Nielsen is facing challenges from Justin Freeman and Megan Blanksma.
Some of these legislative seats will see competitive races with Democratic candidates in November, and those Democrats are also unopposed for their party’s line on the primary, but some won’t even see that — in Mini-Cassia, for example, all three incumbent legislators are unopposed both for the primary and the general.
Farther down the ballot, though, there are plenty of choices to make that will have a direct impact on the future of your local government. Twin Falls County Republicans will vote on challengers to both of the county commissioners on the ballot, the sheriff and the county prosecuting attorney.
In Jerome County, Prosecutor Mike Seib is running unopposed, but the sheriff and two county commissioners are facing opponents in the Republican primary. Republicans in Gooding County have three prosecutor candidates to choose from, while five Republicans are vying for the party’s nod for Lincoln County sheriff. Incumbent Gooding County Commissioner Wayne Chandler is facing a challenge from Terrell Williams, who once served on the board.
Mini-Cassia Republicans have a glut of candidates to choose from on May 17 as well, with three Republicans vying for Cassia County sheriff and four for the District 3 county commissioner seat, while in Minidoka there are two-way primaries for sheriff and District 3 commissioner, respectively.
In Blaine County, the only county in the Magic Valley that regularly votes Democratic, the action is on the left side of the primary ballot, where incumbent commissioner Jacob Greenberg is facing challenges from Kaz Thea and Gary Whitworth Brower. And Camas County Republicans will choose between Monte Cangiamilla and Marshall Ralph for the District 2 county commissioner spot.
While Democratic candidates for party precinct committeeman are generally unopposed throughout the Magic Valley, there are a few competitive races on the Republican side in Gooding County and 17 out of the 44 GOP precinct committeeman posts in Twin Falls County have two candidates.
In some of these Twin Falls races, people who are aligned with the local GOP’s more conservative wing are looking to gain seats. In Castleford, for example, Rick Martin, who led the local movement to shut down the College of Southern Idaho Refugee Center, is taking on county commissioner Terry Kramer for the GOP committeeman spot, and Adrian Arp, who was also active in the movement to shut down the refugee center, is running against Tara Wiggins for one of the committeeman spots in Filer.
Steve Millington, the chairman of the county party and a precinct committeeman from Buhl, is facing a challenge from Theresa Strolberg.
Even if you’re an independent or have no interest in the primaries and the precinct committee races, you may have some choices to make. Ketchum voters will decide whether to borrow up to $23.1 million to build new City Hall, police and fire department buildings, and in Hailey voters will decide whether to levy an additional $400,000 in property taxes over the next two years to build sidewalks, bike paths and trails. In Sun Valley, voters will have to approve or reject a local-option sales tax, and Ketchum Cemetery District voters will decide whether to annex more land into the district.
Rock Creek Rural Fire Protection District residents will vote on an additional $512,000 levy to fund the district’s operations, and Kimberly school district voters will decide whether to borrow $14 million to build a new elementary school and upgrade the existing one and on whether to levy another $300,000 a year in property taxes for the next 10 years for a reserve fund to fix and maintain the district’s buildings.
And, all Idaho voters can weigh in on the state Supreme Court race to replace Jim Jones. Sergio Gutierrez, Curt McKenzie, Clive Strong and Robyn Brody are all running for this spot. Brody is from Rupert. Strong, a longtime deputy attorney general, lives in Boise and was raised in Wendell.
There will be two federal races on the ballot as well — Republicans will decide between incumbent U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson and challenger Lisa Marie, and Constitution Party voters will choose between Ray Writz and Pro-Life as their party’s candidate to take on U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo.