By Zach Hagadone
As candidates have filed to run for local office in the November election, Jim Woodward has his eye on the May 2024 Republican primary, announcing Sept. 7 that he will seek the District 1 Idaho Senate seat currently held by Sen. Scott Herndon, R-Sagle.
Woodward served in the Dist. 1 position for two terms, from 2018-2022, until being bested by Herndon in a GOP primary marked by hitherto unprecedented negative campaigning — primarily from the latter, putting out numerous ads on various platforms labeling Woodward “Liberal Jim” and making claims about his record that Woodward spent much of the election cycle disproving.
Still, Herndon won with 56.17% of the vote to Woodward’s 43.83%. Since then, Herndon has made more than a few headlines with his sponsorship and support of bills focused on hot-button partisan issues such as abortion access, school choice and education savings accounts, firearms regulation, voter ID and more.
Herndon has yet to issue a formal announcement that he will run in 2024. However, in his announcement, Woodward took aim at Herndon’s first-term record, stating it “reflects neither real Idaho values nor embraces principles held dear by a majority of North Idahoans.”
Woodward, who spent a 21-year career as a Navy submariner before retiring as a commander to operate his own marine excavation and construction business, added: “I spent years of my life underwater, in defense of the entire population of the United States, on a submarine ready to fight an actual war. Herndon’s culture wars are based on his personal interests. I focus on a broader picture using real Idaho values which benefit the majority.”
In an interview with the Reader, Woodward emphasized his own record of focusing on what he called “the business of the day,” including adequate education funding, transportation infrastructure and access to quality health care — the latter “especially with the legislation that’s passed in recent years.”
On infrastructure, Woodward highlighted his work getting the Lakeshore Drive turnaround constructed, and said that one of his big issues will be to address water and sewer infrastructure.
“As we continue to grow, at some point having enough groundwater will become an issue,” he told the Reader, noting that with continued hot, dry summers, well levels are already dropping for many residents. “We have to pay attention to our groundwater and surface water — we’ve taken it for granted in North Idaho for a long time,” he said.
Assessing the recent trajectory of the Idaho Legislature, Woodward said too much focus has been on “manufactured problems.”
“I think that people are seeing that there aren’t any results coming from the folks who’ve been so vocal,” he said, referring to the ultra-conservative wing of the Idaho Republican Party. “They don’t provide day-to-day solutions for the regular Idahoan.”
The political climate within the Idaho GOP has become increasingly hardline, as Party Chair Dorothy Moon and her supporters have cracked down on what they perceive to be “Republicans in Name Only” — and that has included Woodward, among other state and local officials who some party leaders don’t deem conservative enough in their priorities and voting records.
Woodward, a 52-year-old lifelong Idahoan raised in Bonner and Boundary counties and an engineering graduate from the University of Idaho, told the Reader that he is “still a member of the Republican Party that I’ve known here for decades — I have been a member of the Republican Party since I started voting when I graduated from high school in Bonners Ferry. …
“I’ll not let a passing wave deter me from participating in our state as a Republican,” he added.
What’s more, Woodward nodded in his announcement to the tenor of the 2022 primary, acknowledging that his loss resulted at least in part from not “aggressively challenging the half-truths and deceptive campaign advertising that deluged mailboxes.”
He stated that he would campaign differently this time around.
“I did not anticipate the aggressive and deceitful messaging, directed and well-funded by national groups, intent on using Idaho as a laboratory experiment for their dangerous political agenda,” he stated. “That changes with this announcement.”
Woodward’s campaign website can be found at WoodwardForSenate.org.
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