Like you, all of us here at Conservation Voters for Idaho share a deep passion for protecting Idaho’s environment and, like you, we know that the best chance we have in that endeavor is to elect strong conservation champions to office.
This year’s primary election was our chance to advance conservation candidates to the general and bring back common sense decision making.
Despite record out-of-state spending, Conservation Voters for Idaho worked within a large coalition to secure a victory for candidates who want to represent Idaho values and advance conservation policy, not engage in cheap political theater. Read our complete take below.
With a significant number of Republican candidates in races across the state, all eyes were on this year’s primary election. Many viewed the Republican primary as a litmus test for the future of the party that holds the supermajority in our state. Overwhelmingly, voters chose to bring back common sense policymaking and elect candidates who want to represent all Idahoans, not just a select few.
Despite record out-of-state spending, Conservation Voters for Idaho worked within a large coalition to secure a victory for candidates who want to represent Idaho values and advance conservation policy, not engage in cheap political theater.
We were able to fight, shift the narrative, and win. On behalf of our endorsed candidates, our team contacted well over 125,000 voters – including knocking on more than 11,000 doors and calling and texting 55,000 Idahoans across the state. In addition, we ran comprehensive digital advertising, sent mailers, and ran text campaigns. In total, our Action Fund spent over $85,000 in the primary election to elect common sense pro-conservation candidates.
Notable victories include securing Phil McGrane as the Republican nominee for Secretary of State. Our team knocked over 10,000 doors in support of McGrane, which proved critical to his success since he won by a little over 4,000 votes. Other successes include Republican nominee victories for Representative Matt Bundy, who has been a strong partner on our issues in the statehouse; Rep. Lickley over notorious anti-public lands advocate Eric Parker; James Petzke, who ran on a pro-public lands platform; and Britt Raybould who beat out Ron Nate in District 34.
Read more about our election highlights by clicking on the headings below:
As a member of the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, incumbent Representative Mike Simpson has been a strong advocate for continued access to recreation on public lands. Simpson formed the first ever House Outdoor Recreation Caucus to help grow Idaho’s outdoor recreation industry, and played a key role in protecting the Boulder-White Clouds Wilderness. Simpson was also the lead Republican sponsor of the Great American Outdoors Act in the House, which will help preserve public lands and visitor access for generations to come, while also creating jobs and positive economic impacts for local, often rural, communities.
Most recently, Simpson has led federal efforts to come up with a comprehensive solution to work with diverse economic stakeholders like water users, dairymen, farmers and utilities to restore Idaho’s declining salmon runs. We congratulate Representative Simpson on his win in securing the Republican nominee!
The governor’s race dominated state and national headlines – for good reason. Incumbent Governor Brad Little faced challenger Lieutenant Governor Janice McGeachin after several years of public feuding between the two. Little has been a proven supporter of Idaho’s public lands and conservation policy over the years, including declaring an Idaho “Public Lands Day,” investing $6 million in state park expansion and maintenance projects, and making public lands and outdoor recreation a key part of his platform as current chair of the Western Governors’ Association. Most recently, Little worked with legislators to pass the “Leading Idaho Water Infrastructure,” which added record investments in water infrastructure.
As Lieutenant Governor, McGeachin has provided Idahoans a stark glimpse of her leadership style, choosing to advance her own political agenda ahead of working to better the lives of Idahoans. She has also been vocal in her opposition to Idaho’s public lands. More alarmingly, McGeachin spoke at a political conference hosted by a white nationalist earlier this year. Hate has no place in Idaho, and voters overwhelmingly proved that yesterday at the polls.
Efforts to protect our public lands and clean air and water hinge upon the ability of Idahoans to vote their values through a fair and transparent election process. Idaho’s next secretary of state will oversee our elections, along with enforcing our elections laws and holding a seat on the Idaho Land Board. We are thrilled that our endorsed candidate, current Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane, will advance to the general election for the secretary of state race. McGrane is a strong supporter of public lands, and as secretary of state, wants to make voting easier for all. McGrane’s opponents, Rep. Dorothy Moon and Senator Mary Souza, made their intentions to shut out Idahoans from the voting process crystal clear this past legislative session with several failed bills aimed at overhauling our elections. Rep. Moon is one of Idaho’s strongest anti-public lands advocates, and her failed bid for secretary of state also means she won’t be in the legislature to oppose conservation policy.
Our field team knocked on over 10,000 doors in support of McGrane and mobilized grassroots neighbor to neighbor letters.
CVI worked to re-elect Representative Matthew Bundy who has been a strong champion on our issues, especially clean energy. Bundy served in the U.S. Air Force and is a teacher in Mountain Home. CVI endorsed and successfully elected Bundy in the 2020 Republican primary for District 23, and recently worked with Bundy this past legislative session to introduce and pass a bill that will allow Idaho school districts to transition their school bus fleets to low-emission and electric buses. We are excited to continue to have Rep. Bundy as a close partner in the statehouse.
CVI-endorsed candidate James Petzke won the Republican nominee for District 21, House Seat A in this crowded race against three other opponents. Petzke, owner and operator of Upland Optics, is a lifetime sportsman and ran on a pro-public lands platform. Petzke recognizes the impacts of climate change, and wants to see Idaho make big investments in clean energy. As a lifetime member of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and the Mule Deer Foundation, Petzke strongly supports keeping public lands in public hands. We believe Petzke will be a strong partner in the statehouse, especially in advancing pro-public lands policy.
Representative Laurie Lickley holds many accolades – a rancher in the Jerome area, former president of the Idaho Cattle Association, and current Vice Chair of the House Resources and Conservation Committee. We are pleased Rep. Lickley has been chosen by Republican voters in District 26 over notorious anti-public lands opponent, Eric Parker. Parker, more known as the “Bundy Ranch sniper” for his participation in the 2014 armed standoff against federal officers in Nevada, wants to see Idaho’s public lands taken over by the state and sold off to the highest bidder. He is also the founder of the “Real 3%ers of Idaho,” an armed militia group. Rep. Lickley on the other hand understands the dangers of transferring control of public lands to the state, and believes in the collaborative process between stakeholders.
We are heartened to see District 34 voters elect Britt Raybould back to the legislature. As a former legislator, Raybould started the Clean Energy Caucus and has been a regular voice of common sense in committee and on the floor. We are excited to work with Raybould to advance conservation policy in the statehouse. Her defeat over Representative Ron Nate is a referendum on common sense policymaking. Nate was one of the House’s most staunch anti-public education voices. This past session, Nate tried to cut more than $1.3 million from the higher education budget, and he has made it clear he is no friend to Idaho’s public lands.
Ammon City Councilperson Josh Wheeler will advance to the general election for District 35, House Seat B, beating out incumbent Chad Christensen. Like CVI, Wheeler believes that “Idaho’s voting process is strong, transparent, and fair. By providing proper funding, training, and support to local elections officials throughout the state Idaho will continue to have successful, free and fair elections.” And unlike Rep. Christensen, Wheeler wants to advance commonsense solutions to better the lives of Idahoans, not play in cheap political theater and affiliate with known paramilitary organizations. Christensen’s bad behavior has given the statehouse a bad reputation. We look forward to another representative replacing his seat to focus on governance.
Although we were able to fight, shift the narrative, and win in many races, we are disappointed to see some key losses. Politics is a mixed bag, and we are always prepared for less-than-ideal scenarios. Yesterday’s results are certainly an example of that as we now face an increased number of anti-conservation legislators in the Senate.
We are saddened to see the loss of our partners, Senator Jim Woodward in District 1, Senator Carl Crabtree in District 7, and Tara Malek in District 4. All of these candidates would have strongly represented our conservation values in the statehouse.
Despite these losses, we picked up 30 legislative seats over all and 5 top-of-ticket races. Overwhelmingly, Idahoans delivered a resounding message yesterday at the polls – extremism and political theater are not welcome here.
And we aren’t done yet….
We will continue to make strong investments in political organizing and accountability to ensure our newly elected officials in the statehouse, especially in the Senate, focus on policies that advance Idaho values like protecting our land, air and water for future generations.
We know that Idahoans support conservation – no matter what party – and together, we can make sure we defend bedrock conservation policy, protect our public lands, and advance pro-climate initiatives.