Never too early? Dueling endorsements in 2024 legislative races

(UPDATED, 2:58 p.m., to clarify Idaho Freedom PAC’s role.)

The Republican primary is months away — really, several months away — but two competing lobbying groups are already rolling out 2024 legislative endorsements.

The early selections break some news on several GOP primary contests between current and former legislators. And not surprisingly, there is zero agreement between the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry endorsements and the Idaho Freedom PAC picks, foreshadowing another bitter Republican primary next spring.

IACI, a powerful Statehouse business lobby, unveiled 34 Republican endorsements over social media last week. Idaho Freedom PAC, the campaign arm of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, announced its first six GOP endorsements on Monday, with more to come in November.

A few highlights:

The head-to-head races. IACI is endorsing two former senators looking to return to the Statehouse against a pair of Freedom PAC-backed incumbents: Jeff Agenbroad of Nampa, looking to unseat Sen. Brian Lenney of Nampa; and Jim Woodward of Sagle, seeking to avenge a 2022 loss to Sen. Scott Herndon, also of Sagle. (Woodward had announced his candidacy in September.) Lenney and Herndon both sit on the Senate Education Committee.

Freedom PAC is endorsing former House and Senate member Christy Zito of Hammett, who has already announced her run against IACI-endorsed Sen. Geoff Schroeder of Mountain Home. Freedom PAC is also backing former Rep. Karey Hanks of St. Anthony, who is running against Rep. Rod Furniss of Rigby.

Other targeted incumbents. IACI is looking to unseat two other Senate hardliners, endorsing Lori Bishop over Senate Education member Tammy Nichols of Middleton and Alex Caval, who is challenging Glenneda Zuiderveld of Twin Falls. Freedom PAC is endorsing Brandon Shippy, who is opposing Sen. Abby Lee of Fruitland; and Rob Beiswenger, who is challenging Rep. Matt Bundy of Mountain Home, one of two teachers serving in the Legislature.

Other education connections. IACI is endorsing several moderates on the education committees, who figure to face opposition from the right in the primary. That list includes Senate Education Chair Dave Lent of Idaho Falls; House Education Chair Julie Yamamoto of Caldwell; vice chair Lori McCann of Lewiston; and House Education members Mark Sauter of Sandpoint; Greg Lanting of Twin Falls; Jack Nelsen of Jerome.

What’s next? Really, a lot of waiting.

The IACI and Freedom PAC endorsements are noteworthy, in part, because they are so early.

Legislative candidates can’t begin filing for office until March 4.

The primary elections are slated for May 21.

And before that happens, voters will go to the polls next month for school trustee and city elections.

IACI endorsements

District 1: Senate, Woodward; House Seat A, Sauter.

District 6: House Seat B, McCann.

District 8: Senate, Schroeder; House Seat A, Bundy; House Seat B, Megan Blanksma.

District 9: Senate, Lee.

District 10: Senate, Bishop.

District 11: House Seat A, Yamamoto; House Seat B, Sarah Chaney.

District 13: Senate, Agenbroad; House Seat B, Kenny Wroten.

District 14: Senate, C. Scott Grow.

District 20: Senate, Chuck Winder.

District 21: Senate, Treg Bernt; House Seat A, James Petzke.

District 23: House Seat A, Melissa Durrant.

District 24: Senate, Caval; House Seat A, Chenele Dixon.

District 25: Senate, Linda Wright Hartgen; House Seat B, Lanting.

District 26: House Seat B, Nelsen.

District 27: Senate, Kelly Anthon.

District 28: Senate, Jim Guthrie; House Seat A, Rick Cheatum.

District 29: House Seat A, Dustin Manwaring.

District 30: Senate, Julie VanOrden.

District 31: Senate, Van Burtenshaw; House Seat A, Jerald Raymond.

District 32: Senate, Kevin Cook.

District 33: Senate, Lent; House Seat B, Marco Erickson.

District 34: House Seat A, John Weber; House Seat B, Britt Raybould.

District 35: Senate, Mark Harris.

Idaho Freedom PAC endorsements

District 1: Senate, Herndon.

District 8: Senate, Zito; House Seat A, Beiswenger.

District 9: Senate, Shippy.

District 13: Senate, Lenney.

District 31: House Seat B, Hanks.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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