Idaho's elections are a family affair

Posted at 2:47 PM, May 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-07 18:55:01-04

Candidates running for state office in Idaho can share parties and opinions but some even share DNA. Members of three different Idaho families are hoping to walk into the Statehouse together next session. 

Canyon County Republican David Lincoln is seeking the District 11 House seat. His daughter, Chelsea Gaona Lincoln is running for the House in District 10 as a Democrat. 

"He used to tell me I could be anything I wanted when I grew up, so I became a democrat," Gaona Lincoln said.

The Lincoln's story is more common than you might think in the Gem State. Treasure Valley father-daughter duo have experience running in and winning Idaho elections. 

Rep. John Vander Woude, R-Nampa, has held District 22 Seat A since 2012. His daughter, Sen. Lori Den Hartog, R-Meridian, has served District 22 since 2014. 

"I'd knock on door and tell people my daughter is running for the Senate, and I'm out here helping her campaign,"  Vander Would said. "They'd say, 'Oh that's so nice of you as a dad!' I didn't tell them I was their Representative." 

In North Idaho, two brothers are running side-by-side for District 3 and 4 House seats. Dan Hanks is seeking District 3's Seat B. His younger brother, Shem Hanks, is hoping to defeat the incumbent in the general election for District 4's Seat B. 

"Our parents have probably never voted for a Democrat before, but they're going to vote for Shem, they're in Shem's district," Dan Hanks said. 

"I get to be their first one, so I better live up to that honor," Shem Hanks said. 

The pairs say there's something about family members running for public office in Idaho at the same time that just makes sense. 

"[People] just kind of get it that families would work together, communicate together, disagree with each other, that they'd be involved in the same things, so when we talk to anybody it just seems to make sense as part of the Idaho ethos for whatever reason," Dan Hanks said. 

Of course, mixing family and politics can lead to disagreements around the dinner table. 

"I've had people in the House say can't you get your daughter to go along with that? How come your daughter is on the other side of the issue?" Vander Woude said. "I said, well, I raised her independent to think for herself so she doesn't depend on me to come to conclusions on that."

"In our families, especially at family gatherings, we just don't discuss party politics for mother's sake," Lincoln said.

The families say when politics do come up, the key is to keep respect at the center of discussions. 

"They would never stand in my way and tell me that I was doing something wrong or doing something that I shouldn't, just letting me grow in my full humanity the same way I'm going to let dad go on his journey and do... what ever he's called to," Gaona Lincoln said. 

"If I didn't have very many Republican friends in North Idaho, I just wouldn't have very many friends," Dan Hanks said. "If you can't learn how to get along with people who have different political beliefs than you, you're just going to be lonely."

Though they may be running with a family member at their side, when it comes time to legislate, Den Hartog said every member of the Idaho Legislature has to stand on his or her own. 

"You have to be able to explain to people how you're processing and reviewing a piece of legislation, why you're arriving at the vote you arrived at and be able to explain that and no one can do that for you," Den Hartog said. "You have to be able to do that for yourself."

The primary election is May 15. Idaho's general election is Nov. 6.