By Cameron Rasmusson
After a political career of more than two decades, District 1 Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, this week announced plans to retire from the Legislature in 2018.
According to Keough, she decided to make the announcement years in advance to provide District 1 voters enough time to consider new candidates for the Senate seat. She also endorsed small business owner Jim Woodward, who announced his candidacy for the seat this week, as her potential replacement.
“I consider myself very blessed and privileged to have had the confidence and support of the majority of voters in our district these many years and hope that I’ve made some positive differences for our community along the way,” Keough said.
According to Keough, she’s bowing out of another Republican primary election campaign after her experiences in the past three. She said the tone of those campaigns became increasingly uncivil and degraded into nasty, personal attacks.
“… Facing another one is not something I wish to do, nor do I wish to drag my husband, family and supporters through another one,” she said. “My husband is retired, and we are ‘empty nesters,’ plus we have two grandchildren, and I’d like to spend some more time with them.”
Serving as a Republican member of the Idaho Senate since 1996, Keough rose over the course of her career to become one of the Legislature’s most influential and senior members. Among her many responsibilities, she is the co-chair of the Legislature’s powerful Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, which analyzes state agency funding requests in the interest of setting a balanced budget.
However, Keough isn’t ready to reflect on her career or her most significant accomplishments just yet. She still has 18 months in her term and is choosing to focus on them first.
“… It seems premature to answer the question of what I think I might have done best,” she said. “Perhaps my best is yet to come in the next legislative session!”
Keough tied her retirement announcement to an endorsement of Woodward for the Idaho Senate. She emphasized his long Idaho residency, his knowledge of local communities and his experience in local business, schools and governing boards among his qualifications.
“Jim’s deep roots in our area and his commitment to our north Idaho values coupled with his background and service to our Country give him the experience needed to represent us in the Idaho State Senate,” Keough wrote in a statement. “I support Jim 100% and hope you will join me in voting to send him to represent us in Boise.”
Woodward said he intends to focus on education and infrastructure if he is elected to the Legislature. The owner and operator of APEX Construction Services, Woodward is also a board member at Northern Lights electric cooperative. He is a second-generation resident, graduate of Bonners Ferry High School and the University of Idaho and his wife, Brenda, is a public school teacher.
“I look forward to meeting or hearing from as many people as possible in District 1 to learn their ideas and concerns regarding the work of the legislature and how it affects us,” Woodward wrote in a statement. “I believe my background as a small business owner, combined with government experience earned through twenty-one years of combined active and reserve naval service, as well as an engineering degree, qualifies me to represent the constituents of District 1.”