- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 9, 2016

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Idaho’s minority Democratic party has lost even more of its limited influence inside the Republican-dominant Statehouse after key Democratic candidates lost their re-election bids in Tuesday’s election.

While Democrats were never at the cusp of taking control of the Idaho Legislature this year, Tuesday’s loss is a blow to left-leaning supporters who had spent the past year looking forward to fighting for health care access, removing certain religious exemption laws and advocating more school funding over looming tax cuts.

Starting in January, there will be just 11 House Democrats and six Senate Democrats inside the 105-member Statehouse - down from 21. That leaves less room for the party to try to influence policy during the upcoming legislative session.

“Today we are saddened but we are not disheartened. We will continue to work to elect reasonable, responsible Idaho Democrats who put families, workers, businesses and communities first,” Idaho Democratic Party Chairman Bert Marley said in a statement.

During the 2016, Idaho House Democrats made headlines when half of the minority caucus voted against the state arts budget, which helped kill that bill.

Democrats said then that they were sending a message that House moderate Republicans needed to work with the minority party to pass simple legislation because the extreme far right lawmakers always voted against most legislative proposals.

Now Democrats will be forced to have even more of an incentive to find ways to work with Republican leaders, said House Assistant Minority Leader Mat Erpelding

“We need to take a step back and figure out how we can work with the majority with as many policies as possible in order to help govern the state of Idaho,” Erpelding said. “We have to collaborate if we want to be voices in the room.”

House Minority Leader John Rusche and Sen. Dan Schmidt, two of Idaho’s three doctors currently serving inside the Legislature, lost their bids for re-election. This has left only one Democratic lawmaker in northern Idaho after Rep. Paulette Jordan, D-Plummer, won a second term.

Meanwhile, Democrats lost a seat in District 29 - transforming the typically left-leaning eastern Idaho region as a legislative swing district for the first time in years. On the outskirts of Boise, Republican Rep. Lynn Luker held off Democratic challenger Steve Berch by 293 votes. Democrats had hoped to conquer Boise’s only Republican-dominant legislative district.

Idaho GOP Chariman Steve Yates characterized the state’s voting result as an all-out victory for Republicans.

“We kept the majority in the House and the Senate, and expanded our Republican base in the State Legislature. We won Republican seats from County Commissioner to Commander in Chief,” he said in a statement.

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