Idaho voters will select new governor, decide on Medicaid

Posted at 1:15 PM, Nov 04, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-04 15:15:28-05

Idaho voters will elect a new governor, decide who will be their U.S. representatives and make decisions on a pair of initiatives about expanding Medicaid and gambling.

A ballot initiative called Proposition 1 seeking to legalize historical horse racing devices that opponents say are the equivalent of illegal slot machines has drawn millions of dollars both for and against the measure ahead of Tuesday’s election.

Proposition 2 would expand Medicaid to an estimated 62,000 working Idaho residents believed to be in a gap population that earns too much to qualify for Medicaid and too little to qualify for insurance subsidies. It got a late boost last week when Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter announced his endorsement in television ads.

In the race to replace Otter, Democrat Paulette Jordan is vying to become the first woman and first Native American governor. She faces a tough challenge in Lt. Gov. Brad Little, a southwestern Idaho rancher.

Here’s a look at what’s on the ballot:


An initiative seeking to legalize historical horse race betting devices that opponents say are slot machines in disguise is in the home stretch in what could be a close race.

The initiative, if passed, would allow historical horse racing machines at places that have a minimum of eight days of live horse racing. Backers, who have spent more than $3 million in advertising, say the machines will save live horse racing in the state.

Opponents say the devices are the equivalent of slot machines.

More than $3 million has been spent to defeat the measure, mainly by the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, which has a casino in Worley with slot machines that could face competition.


This initiative, if passed, would expand Medicaid to an estimated 62,000 working Idahoans believed to be in a gap population that earns too much to qualify for Medicaid but too little to qualify for insurance subsidies.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the U.S. government pays at least 90 percent of the cost of expanding Medicaid while states pick up the rest. Backers say the initiative would save Idaho $400 million in the first year. Otter gave the initiative his backing last week.

The primary argument against expansion has been that accepting federal dollars only comes with regulatory burdens that do not help lower the growing costs of medical care.


Republican Lt. Gov. Brad Little, a rancher who has been in elected office for the past 16 years, is trying to defeat Democrat Paulette Jordan, a former lawmaker and member of the Coeur d’Alene Tribal Council who if elected would become the first woman and first Native American governor of the state. Both seek to replace Otter, who has served three consecutive four-year terms as the state’s chief executive.

Little is a longtime Republican lawmaker who has served as lieutenant governor since 2009. Little has said that his priorities for the office will be ensuring that Idaho residents have access to good jobs, a good education system, affordable health care and that he will work to “protect our quality of life.” Little says expanding Medicaid is not his first choice, but if voters approve Proposition 2 he’ll work with lawmakers to implement it.

Jordan said state leaders have failed to adequately fund public education and that she would increase public school funding by saving elsewhere, particularly by stopping out-of-state prison spending and by expanding Medicaid, which she said would save $400 million in the first year.


Democrat Kristin Collum, an Army veteran and software engineer who describes herself as a moderate willing to collaborate with both sides for “Team Idaho,” is facing former state Rep. Janice McGeachin, a Republican.

Collum describes herself as a moderate who would collaborate with those on the right and the left for the good of “Team Idaho.”

McGeachin promised to hold onto Idaho’s “conservative values,” saying in a televised debate that she opposes same-sex marriage, abortion, Medicaid expansion and supports gun rights and limited government.


Republican Russ Fulcher, a former state senator and real estate broker from Meridian, is running against Democrat Cristina McNeil, a longtime volunteer for several organizations and a real estate agent with a brokerage in Boise. They’re running to replace Republican U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador who opted to run for governor, but lost in the primary.

Fulcher and McNeil have starkly different ideas on environmental regulations, health care and immigration.

Fulcher says families have been disenfranchised by regulations that limited logging and mining, and that has led to forest overgrowth and catastrophic wildfires. McNeil said that Fulcher as a state legislator worked to give control over resources like property owners’ mineral rights to special interests.


Democrat Aaron Swisher, who holds degrees in economics and finance, faces a tough task in trying to unseat 10-term incumbent Mike Simpson, a Republican and powerful House member.

Simpson wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which he said will create more competition among health care providers. Swisher said he supports the Affordable Care Act and a single-payer health care system.

On climate change, Swisher said he’s in favor of solar and wind energy while also using a carbon tax to cut back on carbon-based fuels. Simpson wouldn’t support a significant carbon tax, and said he’ll continue working with the Idaho National Laboratory near Idaho Falls to advance science on nuclear energy.


Republican incumbent Sherri Ybarra is facing a strong challenge from Democrat Cindy Wilson for a statewide seat where Democrats have shown they can be competitive.

Ybarra is a former teacher and previously served as a federal curriculum director in Mountain Home School District in southwestern Idaho. Wilson is a longtime classroom teacher who has served on the state Board of Correction and Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s education task force.

The state remains far from its goal of having at least 60 percent of young adults obtaining a college degree or career training certificate, and Ybarra and Wilson differed on their solutions. Wilson said increased early childhood education is the key. Ybarra said research shows early childhood education pays off, but programs shouldn’t be mandated by the state.

Ybarra says that under her leadership, graduation rates are up, educator pay is improving, and high school students can get a jump start by earning college credits.

Wilson said that during Ybarra’s tenure, Hispanic, Native American and impoverished children have fallen behind, with a 25 percent achievement gap between those populations and other Idaho students.



Incumbent Republican Lawerence Denney, a farmer from Midvale, faces Democrat Jill Humble, a registered nurse and mental health counselor.

Where the two candidates differ most is on trying to balance ease of voting and higher voter turnout with making sure ballots are secure and limiting opportunities for voter fraud.

Humble favors mail-in voting because states that have it see greater voter turnout. Denney said he knows Idaho’s county clerks want mail-in voting but he has reservations because the security of the ballots isn’t 100 percent.