Primaries at a glance

County, Statehouse and congressional primary races already drawing challengers

By Lyndsie Kiebert
Reader Staff

Idaho’s presidential primary election is less than a month away, and the local and state primary races are on the horizon. As the latter approaches, challengers from both sides of the aisle are stepping forward, announcing their intent to run for office in Bonner County and the Idaho Statehouse.

Sagle resident Butch Horton announced Feb. 7 his intent to run for the District 1 commissioner seat. Commissioner Steve Bradshaw is currently working on his first term in the position, and confirmed with the Reader Feb. 11 that he plans to run for reelection. 

Butch Horton.

Horton, a Republican, will face Bradshaw in the local primary election May 19. He said that in the face of extreme growth, Bonner County needs “more cooperation and accountability and less conflict.”

“Mitigating conflict is a matter of gathering information and having civil conversation,” he said. “Avoiding conflict isn’t about avoiding topics, but rather it’s about having conversations that lead to better understanding — even if it doesn’t lead to agreement. Social media often is not the best platform to resolve conflict. I will listen to all parties and craft solutions that serve our citizens and [f]ocus on things that matter to Bonner County.”

The former U.S. Navy operations specialist and current business owner listed natural resource management and responsible land use planning — striking a balance between the county’s residential, commercial and agricultural needs — as some of his main policy targets.

Chief among the current issues facing Bonner County is the litigation against the city of Sandpoint regarding The Festival at Sandpoint weapons ban. 

Bradshaw spoke up about the issue at the Jan. 28 BOCC business meeting, saying that while District 3 Commissioner Dan McDonald receives the majority of the blowback from people upset about the lawsuit, Bradshaw “was the one that initiated that lawsuit.”

“I’m not willing to stand by and watch state law be ignored — willfully ignored — and put our police departments and sheriff’s department at risk of personal liability if they tried to enforce that gun ban,” he said, “and I’m not willing to stand by and let any rights of any citizen in Bonner County be stripped of their rights. You want to blame somebody, blame me.”

In regard to the county v. city litigation, Horton told the Reader that he is a “supporter” of the Second Amendment and that “litigation should be employed as a last resort and only utilized after all available alternatives have been thoroughly explored.”

Gary Suppiger.

In response to his prospective opponent taking credit for the lawsuit, Horton said, “I’m not sure an individual commissioner should be taking credit for the actions of the entire commission. If a lawsuit was needed to settle the question of competing rights, my leadership would be different. Carefully considering and exhausting all avenues available to mitigate the issue would be my approach.”

Horton said he intends to rely on neighborhood gatherings, meet-and-greets and door-to-door events to connect with constituents, while also making his phone number and email address available.

“I plan on meeting as many folks as will meet with me,” he said. “I want to hear all points of view, and by doing so, I will be able to perform the job of county commissioner to the best of my ability. This county is made up of almost 45,000 individuals and it is my belief that there is more that unites us than divides us.”

The District 2 commissioner seat — currently held by Commissioner Jeff Connolly — is also up for reelection in 2020. Connolly, a Republican, told the Reader in January that he will be seeking reelection in order to continue the work that he said has only just begun.

“I think we’ve done some good things, and I’d like to see some of those things through,” he said of the current board. 

So far, no opposing candidates for the District 2 seat have indicated interest in running against Connolly, nor have any potential contenders emerged for the offices of county sheriff or prosecutor, which will be on the ballot this spring. McDonald is halfway through the four-year term he won during the 2018 election. 

The Bonner County Elections Office is accepting declarations of candidacy from March 2-March 13. Until then, all announcements are informal and subject to change.

Yet, at the state level, current Lake Pend Oreille School District Board Trustee Gary Suppiger has signaled his intention to challenge Rep. Sage Dixon, R-Ponderay, in the Republican primary race for a seat in the Idaho House of Representatives. 

Suppiger announced his run Feb. 1 in Sandpoint at a Reclaim Idaho tour stop in support of the group’s Invest in Idaho education ballot initiative. Suppiger, a vocal proponent of the initiative, told the Reader that his campaign will focus on education and property tax relief. He said Idaho’s current system to fund education — which relies heavily on property taxes — is “not only inadequate, but also inequitable.”

At the congressional level, the race for Idaho Republican Sen. Jim Risch’s seat has already attracted a number of prospective Democratic challengers, including former Idaho gubernatorial candidate Paulette Jordan, of Plummer, who served two terms in the Idaho House representing District 5A; U.S. Army veteran and Shelley farmer Travis Oler; and former U.S. House of Representatives candidate James Vandermaas, a retired police officer from Eagle.

Paulette Jordan.

Idahoans have two primary election dates to note. First, the presidential primary — for both Democratic and Republican candidates — will take place Tuesday, March 10. Two months later on Tuesday, May 19, Idahoans will have the chance to vote on state and county primaries. 

Republican primaries in Idaho are closed to registered Republicans only, though unaffiliated voters are able to request a Republican ballot at the polls. Those wishing to change their party affiliation ahead of the May primary have until Friday, March 13 to do so.

For more information regarding local election dates and registration, visit or call 208-255-3631. For more information about voting in state and national races, visit

[Editor’s note: A previous version of this story listed Nancy Harris as a candidate in the race for the U.S. Senate. She announced the end of her campaign Feb. 13, after the Reader‘s press deadline.]

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