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Representative Nelsen faces primary challenge from Johnstone

Posted at 6:50 PM, May 14, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-16 11:51:12-04

JEROME, Idaho — The two Republicans faced off in the 2022 primary, with winner Nelsen narrowly beating Democratic candidate Karma Metzler Fitzgerald in the November General Election.

  • The Republican primary is May 21st. Early voting runs through Friday, May 17st.
  • District 26 is composed of Blaine, Lincoln, and Jerome Counties.

(Below is the transcript from the broadcast story)

In 2022, Republican Jack Nelsen was elected to his first term in the Statehouse by just 83 votes.

District 26 is considered a "purple" district by Idaho standards composed of Republican and Democratic voters in Blaine, Lincoln, and Jerome counties.

I met with Nelsen, who tells me the state's swift response to the quagga mussel threat is an example of government functioning as it should.

"I think everybody was super proud of our department of ag, this was only caught that there were quggas down here because the department has had a sampling program through a lot of our waterways," Nelsen said.

Nelsen also supports education initiatives like the Idaho Launch program, and he wants to see the legislature set aside funding for school maintenance and facilities in the next session, to relieve some of the need for local bonds and levies.

“It's when you really look at those numbers it's not because they hate education. It's because people just don't have the money to pay it,” Nelsen said.

Lyle Johnstone is challenging Nelsen on the Republican ticket. Among his chief concerns is the role of federal money in Idaho's state budget. He wants to ween Idaho schools away from Federal funding.

"40% of our budget comes from the federal government. That's not free money, that's either taxpayer money, or taxpayer debt,” Johnstone said. “So what I'd like to do is see the government at the state level dialed back and get with our own means, so to speak.”

And as he puts it, Johnstone sees “blue Republicans” as part of the problem.

“We've doubled in the last five years under supposed Republican leadership,” Johnstone said.

The concerns extend from Medicaid, to Health and Welfare, to education, and a majority Republican legislature hasn't done enough to address the problem as he sees it.

"I would like to see, one of the first things: we get education weened from federal dollars, and get federal control out of our education system in Idaho,” Johnstone said.