By Zach Hagadone
Sandpoint Mayor Shelby Rognstad confirmed to the Reader on Oct. 12 that he is exploring a run for Idaho governor in the 2022 election.
According to a statement emailed to the Reader, Rognstad has not yet made a final decision, but expects to conclude his research and make an official announcement sometime in the coming weeks.
As for now, Rognstad is listed on the Idaho secretary of state’s website as a Democratic candidate, with A.J. Balukoff — himself a former gubernatorial candidate — as campaign treasurer.
“Idaho, now more than ever, needs competent, pragmatic leadership from a proven executive administrator who isn’t swayed by radical fringes that increasingly exercise an outsized influence on politics in the state of Idaho,” Rognstad stated, singling out Republican Gov. Brad Little for signing into law a constitutional amendment making it harder for citizens to put initiatives on the ballot. That law was soon after struck down by the Idaho Supreme Court as unconstitutional.
“Idaho needs a governor that protects Idaho’s constitution and the democratic process,” he added.
Rognstad also highlighted education as a priority should he formally announce his candidacy, stating that, “Despite a budget surplus far exceeding projections at $900 million, Idaho is now dead last in educational funding in the nation. Idaho needs a governor who is willing to invest in education if we are to have the workforce that is competitive in the global marketplace of tomorrow.”
Finally, Rognstad pointed to Little’s handling of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, writing that, “instead of investing critical dollars to bring the pandemic under control and help those in need, the governor has considered wasting precious taxpayer dollars suing the federal government over vaccine mandates. Idaho needs a leader who will use a science based, public health approach to bring this pandemic under control and save lives.”
The 2022 gubernatorial race has already established itself as one of the most crowded and contentious in recent memory, with a slate of candidates set to faceoff in the May 2022 GOP primary — including ultra-conservative firebrand Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin and celebrity anti-government activist Ammon Bundy, both seeking the governor’s office, and White Bird Republican Rep. Priscilla Giddings and House Speaker Scott Bedke, who are vying for lieutenant governor. Little has yet to make a formal announcement on whether he will seek another term.
Among the other Republicans seeking the state’s top job is Bonner County Commissioner Steve Bradshaw, who threw his hat into the ring in July.
According to state campaign finance records, Bradshaw had raised $4,050 to fund his run as of Sept. 22 — $2,050 from the candidate himself and $2,000 from Sagle resident George Wentz, a partner in Davillier Law, which represented the county in its failed lawsuit against the Festival at Sandpoint over its no-weapons policy.
If he decides to officially mount a campaign, Rognstad would face Melissa Robinson, of Nampa, in the Democratic primary. Robinson has previously sought unsuccessfully to win a seat in the Idaho Legislature and the office of Nampa mayor.
Rognstad’s initial secretary of state filing came on Oct. 5, and so far lists no campaign contributors.
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