- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 18, 2016

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Idaho’s establishment Republicans won key battles Tuesday night by fighting off far-right challengers across the state, but the conflict wasn’t without a few losses.

Seven Republican incumbents lost their seats to challengers in Tuesday’s primary election, three of whom were known as more moderate Republicans. However, four ultra-conservative legislators also lost their seats.

House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Chairman Rich Wills - who hadn’t faced a primary challenger in his south-central Idaho district since 2002 - was ousted by Christy Zito, favored heavily by far-right groups.

Meanwhile, Republican Reps. Merrill Beyeler, from Leadore, and Paul Romrell, of St. Anthony, lost to challengers after facing a heated campaign from outside opponents blasting them for expanding government and increasing taxes.

On the flip side, ultra-conservatives Rep. Shannon McMillan and Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll narrowly lost to their opponents.

McMillan has never successfully introduced legislation during her three terms in office, but she’s well-known for repeatedly voting against almost all appropriation bills - specifically the public school budget.

She raised eyebrows in 2014 when she voted against a bill that would have ended special protections from debt collectors for elected officials without disclosing that she personally benefited from that law. McMillan has several court judgments against her, but she has been exempt so far from having her wages garnished.

Nuxoll was the backer of this year’s contentious religious bill, which explicitly allowed the use of the Bible in public schools even though such use is already permitted. The bill passed both chambers, but Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter vetoed the legislation after citing that the bill was likely unconstitutional.

She lost by just 121 votes to Carl Crabtree of Grangeville.

In an overwhelmingly red state, Republican candidates are at the center of the fiercest and most expensive political battles. But last-minute rumbles for party control can take place in the GOP state convention while selecting party leaders. This year’s GOP convention will take place June 2-4 in Nampa.

The only top statewide race in Tuesday’s primary resulted in a future runoff election. Idaho Supreme Court hopefuls will face off this fall with vote counting early Wednesday showing none of the top candidates having won more than 50 percent in Tuesday’s primary.

Robyn Brody, an attorney from Rupert, and Curt McKenzie, a seven-term Republican state senator, were the top vote-getters. The last time Idaho had a supreme court runoff election was in 1998.

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