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Idaho Primary: The Far-Right Wing of the Idaho GOP Has a Rough Night

Hardline conservatives failed to unseat three IFF-targeted incumbents and lost four friendly lawmakers

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TOM ARTHUR, CC BY 2.0


A good many sitting Idaho Republican legislators were challenged by the far-right wing of their party in Tuesday's primary election. But when the dust was settled, many of those challenges failed and it was several incumbents from the Republican far-right who ended up going down to defeat.

Republican Rep. Pete Nielsen (R-Mountain Home) made national headlines earlier this year, when during a legislative hearing he made the comment that he believed a woman couldn't get pregnant after she was a victim of rape or incest. Nielsen walked back the comment later, saying he had been misinformed. Nonetheless, Nielsen was defeated Tuesday by Republican challenger Megan Blanksma of Emmett. Blanksma will be unchallenged in the November general election, making her the de facto winner.

In north-central Idaho, Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll (R-Cottonwood), whose controversial comments have included debasing Hinduism as a faith of "false gods" and comparing the Affordable Care Act to the Holocaust, lost to Republican challenger Carl Crabtree.

Rep. Shannon McMillan (R-Silverton), who notably voted "no" on every education bill in the most recent legislative session but refused to say why, was taken down by Priscilla Giddings, a former fighter pilot and daughter of Idaho County Sheriff Doug Giddings.

In another upset, Paul Amador beat incumbent Rep. Kathleen Sims (R-Coeur d'Alene) in northern Idaho. Sims was among the bloc of lawmakers including McMillan who rejected education appropriations bills in the 2016 legislative session.

Meanwhile, three Republican incumbents overcame both far-right challengers and targeted attacks from the Idaho Freedom Foundation's election arm (including some of the lowest marks from IFF's so-called "Freedom Index"). Sen. Shawn Keough (R-Sandpoint), Rep. Luke Malek (R-Coeur d'Alene) and Rep. Kelley Packer (R-McCammon) were all winners despite major opposition from IFF and its president, Wayne Hoffman.