James Ruchti (left) and Dustin Manwaring | Courtesy photos
POCATELLO — In an election that saw much of Idaho run red, voters in District 29 elected Democrats to fill two of its three legislative seats.
Dustin Manwaring, the lone incumbent on the ballot and lone Republican selected in the district, said that districts that select legislators from both parties — so-called purple districts — are becoming exceedingly rare in Idaho.
“Voters are choosing the candidates that best represent Pocatello values,” he told EastIdahoNews.com, adding that District 29 voters took a stand based on candidates rather than party affiliation. “It continues Pocatello’s history of getting it right — I’m proud of that.”
Manwaring retained Idaho House of Representatives Seat 29A by a margin of 644 votes — 4% — over Democrat challenger Mary Shea. The final vote tally was 7,575 to 6,931.
Shea posted a concession on her campaign Facebook page, congratulating Manwaring on his victory. In the post, Shea expresses her hope that Idaho leadership will successfully temper extremist agendas while also saying she will continue advocating women’s rights and bodily autonomy.
“I will continue to advocate for youth mental health. I will continue to advocate for our underserved populations. I will continue to call out those who are not honest or fair in their political discourse,” she wrote in the post. “Stay informed. Stay engaged. Don’t ever give up.”
Shea campaigned alongside fellow Democrats Nate Roberts and James Ruchti.
Roberts claimed House Seat 29B by a razor-thin margin — 7,321 to 7,209 — over Republican Jake Stevens.
EastIdahoNews.com attempted to contact Roberts for comment but did not receive a response.
Courtesy Nate Roberts
In his post following the reporting of final election results, Stevens seemed raise questions about the counting of the votes — particularly the mail-in ballots.
The Elections Office waited until after all the Election Day votes were counted to count the Early and Absentee ballots (not standard procedure, typically the early/absentee are counted first),” the post reads. “I received 56% of the votes that were cast on Election Day and my opponent received 43%. A 13-point lead prior to counting early and absentee ballots. Now, at 2:06 AM the count of the early and absentee ballots is complete and I received 37% of those votes, which caused me to lose by 112 votes. This is obviously not the outcome we hoped for, and the circumstances are shocking and bizarre.”
Stevens concluded his post by thanking those who supported his campaign.
With his victory, Roberts claimed the seat currently being filled by Ruchti. Rather than run for re-election to the Idaho House, Ruchti ran to fill the Idaho Senate seat in District 29, formerly filled by his friend and mentor — Mark Nye.
Ruchti called Nye, who died in July, a representation of all that is best in a legislator.
“Those shoes are big to fill, but it’s exciting to show that I can do something similar for Pocatello,” Ruchti told EastIdahoNews.com.
In the most open of three tight races in the district, Ruchti topped David Worley by 1,185 (8%) votes — 7,863 to 6,678.
As of noon Wednesday, Worley has not posted a concession statement.
Like Manwaring, Ruchti took Tuesday’s results as a loud message from voters in District 29.
“It was a full-scale rejection of the sort of campaigns that were run by my opponent and by Nate Roberts’ opponent,” he told EastIdahoNews.com. “Those campaigns were dirty politics at its worst — they were focused on hot-button social issues that don’t solve real problems for people.”
Ruchti continued, saying that in his new position in the Idaho Senate, he plans to work the way he has through three terms as a representative — 2006 to 2010 and 2020 to 2022. He pointed to property taxes and public education spending as his key issues facing Idahoans in the immediate future.
Manwaring shared a similar opinion, saying that among his primary focuses entering his second term in office are lowering property taxes and keeping income taxes low. He added that he will focus on a spending plan for the $410 million recently added to the education budget while also protecting southeastern Idaho’s water resources.
As for its continued purple standing, Manwaring said he is interested to see how things play out in Bannock County during the 2024 presidential election cycle.
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