A long-held Democratic seat in the Idaho House of Representatives was turned over to the Republican Party on Tuesday when District 26 voters chose organic farmer and small-businessman Steve Miller to fill Rep. Wendy Jaquet’s vacant seat.
Miller is on the Camas Soil Conservation District Board of Supervisors and has served on the Camas County Planning and Zoning Commission, the Camas County Board of County Commissioners, the National Association of Conservation Districts Executive Board, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Organic Advisory Board, the Idaho Association of Conservation Districts and Region IV Economic Development.
Miller, a Fairfield resident, won the district by a margin of less than 2 percent—306 votes—but lost Blaine County itself.
“I knew it was going to be close,” he said of the election. “But as we went along, we had more and more momentum. When you build momentum like that, you get people talking to their friends and neighbors, and that makes a lot of difference.”
Though he is a Republican, Miller said he plans to work with Rep. Donna Pence, D-Gooding, and Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, to represent the district. He said he plans to attend most of the legislative town hall meetings that Pence has scheduled before the start of the legislative session in January.
Miller will likely miss one meeting—the one scheduled for Blaine County next week—due to a previously scheduled speaking engagement in front of the Idaho Association of Conservation Districts at the association’s annual conference. He said he would, however, meet with several groups in Blaine County separately to prepare to represent the area in the Legislature.
“I hope we will have a very clear communications network across the district to see how people feel about the issues,” he said. “That’s the idea behind being a representative, to represent voters, so we need to know what the impacts of [decisions and legislation] would be on them.”
Miller said that as a Republican he feels he may have an advantage when working with others in the Legislature in support of legislation that could help the district.
“Being part of the majority party gives you an advantage that way that this district hasn’t seen for a while,” he said.
Rep. Wendy Jaquet said that even though her seat had been held by a Democrat since 1994, she feels Miller will be a good representative for the district.
“I see him as a more moderate Republican, and he’s going to want to get re-elected,” she said. “To lose a Democratic seat is always unfortunate. But I congratulate Steve. He ran a good campaign—and one of them had to win, right?”
Miller’s challenger, Ketchum resident John Remington, won 63 percent of the Blaine County vote but lost the overall district. He said on Wednesday that he likely won’t run again, and may go back to teaching high school history and government.
Remington said he is proud of his campaign, and suspected that his chances may have been hurt by a large Republican turnout for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I’m satisfied with the effort I gave. I want people to understand that I gave it my all. I’m proud of myself for the effort I put in.”
Miller—who will hold Seat A in the district—said he’s looking forward to starting his term in January. He’ll be working with Stennett and Pence, who won re-election to Seat B Tuesday over Republican challenger Lee Barron of Camas County. Pence received 59 percent of the district vote.
Miller said he and fellow House member Pence will cooperate in pursuing the district’s interests.
“We’ve worked together on a couple of pieces of conservation legislation,” he said.
“The election is over,” he added, “and now is the time to do what we can for the people who voted for us.”
County commissioner re-elected
Blaine County Commissioner Angenie McCleary won re-election over challenger Mickey Garcia on Tuesday, earning 75 percent of Blaine County’s vote. Garcia, a longtime political candidate and outspoken member of the public, won the precinct of Yale, a small community with 10 registered voters, with 66 percent of the vote. While he did not win any other precincts, Garcia garnered support in Carey with 41 percent of the vote and in Gannett-Picabo with 39 percent. He also earned significant percentages in the Woodside precincts of Hailey and the city of Sun Valley. McCleary will be sworn in for her second elected term—her third overall—in January.
Kate Wutz: email@example.com