BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Six GOP legislators lost to their opponents in Tuesday’s primary election, creating a surprising shakeup in key leadership seats in Idaho’s Republican-dominated Statehouse.
Most notably, House Education Committee Chairwoman Julie VanOrden, a Republican from Pingree, and House State Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Loertscher, who has served nearly 30 years in the Legislature, were ousted by political newcomers.
VanOrden lost to Julianne Young, a stay-at-home mother who decided to challenge the Republican incumbent after the Iona Republican attempted to update the state’s 40-year-old sex education law. Young became a leading critic of the proposal, arguing that the bill would threaten families, an allegation VanOrden denied but ultimately pulled the bill from advancing after increased criticism.
“Yesterday’s victory was truly a miracle,” Young said in a Facebook statement posted soon after the election results were finalized. “I would especially like to thank Rep. VanOrden for her courageous six years of dedicated service on behalf of the citizens of Bingham County. She is a capable and committed woman and I honor her for the service she has given.”
Loertscher lost his seat to Chad Christensen, a first-time candidate from Ammon. Christensen ran against Loertscher after growing tired of the incumbent’s tendency to deny hearings for certain bills over the years.
No Democratic lawmakers lost their primary in Tuesday’s election.
Legislative leaders won’t decide who will fill the now empty committee seats until after the November general election.
Due to either retirements or incumbents losing their elected positions, the current chair vacancies are: Idaho’s powerful joint-budget setting committee; House education panel; House local government panel; House environmental and energy panel; and both the Senate and House state affairs committees.
With Republicans currently controlling a supermajority in the Idaho Legislature, these leadership races are significant, because just who is in charge helps decide which issues become priorities and which legislative proposals can get consideration.
With six incumbents losing their seats in Tuesday’s primary that means nearly 20 lawmakers out of Idaho’s 105-member Statehouse will not be returning to the Capitol in 2019.