Idaho’s Tuesday night primary elections will determine the candidates for the state’s governor’s race this November. Polls close at 8 pm local time (which includes both Mountain and Pacific time).
Election watchers will tell you there’s only one primary you really have to watch: the Republicans. In a deep-red, essentially one-party state, the winner of this heated, expensive three-way Republican race will likely be the next governor of Idaho. But there’s also an interesting Democratic primary underway — one that could define the future of the party in a quickly growing state.
Republican Gov. Butch Otter, who was first elected in 2006, has decided not to seek a fourth term, leaving the governor’s seat up for grabs. Vox will have live results below.
A heated three-way Republican race
In a seven-way primary, three candidates are in a dead heat in a race that will likely pick Idaho’s next governor: Rep. Raul Labrador, Lt. Gov. Brad Little, and businessman Tommy Ahlquist.
The three represent the range of the Republican Party, from the furthest-right social conservatism of Labrador, a founding member of the House’s Freedom Caucus, to the establishment business-centric Republicanism of Little and the outsider firebrand of Ahlquist.
Whoever wins will have the chance to be a rising star in the party as the governor of a rapidly growing state. A majority of residents think Idaho is heading in the right direction with Republican leadership. But they will have to address the growing pains that come with that. This race will likely also have huge implications for the state’s health care system, as Idaho is one of several states that will likely have an initiative to expand Medicaid on the ballot this November. The state’s next governor could be tasked with implementing a Medicaid expansion.
Although the majority of the attention has been on the right, there are two Democrats also running in a somewhat contentious primary for governor in Idaho. The race has become a classic tale of a Democratic Party in a red state. The two candidates are Paulette Jordan, a 38-year-old two-term Idaho state legislator and a member of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, who represents a young, fresh progressive face in the party; and A.J. Balukoff, a 72-year-old who runs a string of athletic clubs and was the Democratic nominee against Otter in 2014.
The race is an interesting test of the state’s Democratic Party, and a now-common fight between the old Democratic establishment and a new young progressive base. Bernie Sanders won over Hillary Clinton by almost 70 percent in the 2016 primary. But much like the Virginia gubernatorial primary, the split isn’t Bernie versus Hillary; it’s national establishment versus state establishment. Jordan has won the endorsements of progressive national groups like Planned Parenthood, People for the American Way, Democracy for America, Indivisible, and People for Bernie Sanders. But state lawmakers and local Democrats are jumping on the establishment train with Balukoff.
Either way, Democrats’ chances in the general are not great.