- Associated Press - Sunday, October 30, 2016

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - A handful of Idaho legislative races are heating up as Democratic candidates hope to gain several seats in the state’s overwhelmingly Republican-dominant Statehouse.

More than 90 of the state’s 105 legislative seats have incumbents trying to retain their spots in the Nov. 8 election.

But 37 of those incumbents are Republicans without opponents because they survived the May primary election - generally considered the most competitive hurdle for Idaho’s GOP candidates.

All but one Democrat holding leadership positions in the Legislature are being challenged by a Republicans. Three of the eight Republican legislative leaders face opponents, but they are not seen at risk of losing their seats.

Here’s a look at some key races:


The top of Idaho’s panhandle region is not home to many Democratic voters. But the Idaho Democratic Party still made headlines when officials announced earlier this month that they had pulled a 21-year-old campaign volunteer from District 1 because he was allegedly harassed and stalked by supporters of GOP Rep. Heather Scott. The Attorney General’s office has been asked to review the case.

Scott, who is not expected to lose her seat, has declined to comment on the allegations. Her opponent, Democratic challenger Kate McAlister, has received support from business groups and other more moderate-leaning organizations because of her experience working for the Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce.


Minority Leader John Rusche once again is in the middle of one of the toughest legislative races in the state. The six-term incumbent defeated GOP opponent Mike Kingsley by 48 votes in 2014. This year, Kingsley has returned with more money and more outside supporters - including GOP House legislative leaders and the Idaho Republican Party.

Rusche raised eyebrows recently when he sent out mailers that touted his conservative rating by the Idaho Freedom Foundation. Rusche has been highly criticized of the conservative think tank in the past, but the incumbent defended his decision by arguing that a Democrat in Idaho can’t describe himself as liberal if he wants to win.


Democratic candidate Steve Berch has been vying for a seat in District 15 for eight years. He spent nearly $150,000 losing three prior elections, coming closer each time to ousting a Republican incumbent. Berch’s only other political experience includes being elected to the board of the Greater Boise Auditorium District in 2014.

Berch, a marketing and business planning consultant, faces five-term Rep. Lynn Luker, a well-known lawmaker who received heavy criticism in 2014 after submitting several contentious religious freedom bills. Berch lost to Luker by 416 votes two years ago.

The district is the lone Republican stronghold within the left-leaning city of Boise - making it an enviable region for Democrats to conquer. But the Idaho Republican Party is not giving up easily and has set up a field office in the district. Money from legislative leaders has been pouring in to support Luker, as well as the other two Republican incumbents hoping to hold onto their seats.


This south-central Idaho legislative district is one of the rare swing districts in the state. After House Minority Caucus Chair Donna Pence, D-Gooding, announced her retirement following 12-year tenure, both parties poured resources into the district to claim her seat.

Democratic candidate Sally Toone, a retired teacher, faces GOP opponent Alex Sutter, who serves on the Richfield planning and zoning board and unsuccessfully ran against Pence six years ago.

Two Democrats and a Republican currently hold seats in the district - home to a Republican-leaning rural community and the resort town of Sun Valley, a Democratic stronghold.

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