• 100 Influential Idahoans 2015
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Here is one of the ways this year’s presidential campaign is so unusual:

The elected officials from one of the two major parties are split on their nominee, but more than that, it is the in-party supporters to that nominee who will have a much harder time explaining themselves, down the road.

Presidential nominee Donald Trump has divided Republicans nationwide, and no less in the gem state. Of Idaho’s five major officials, there’s (as this is written) an even split, Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter (who has a position in the Trump campaign) and Representative Raul Labrador sticking with Trump, and Senator Mike Crapo and Representative Mike Simpson in opposition. Senator Jim Risch, reportedly was out of state and apparently not weighed in.

The kind of rejection of one’s party nominee Crapo and Simpson have made is rare coming from elected officials in either party, especially those in the upper rungs. I can’t recall any similar, after the party nominations were made official, in Idaho in the last half-century. Crapo and Simpson are not the kind, either, to lightly abandon their party; over the years they have been as loyal to the Republican brand as any party loyalist could ask. Something really powerful must have blown them loose. (Neither, I should note, has gone as far as endorsing Democrat Hillary Clinton.)

Crapo cited Trump’s “pattern of behavior …. His repeated actions and comments toward women have been disrespectful, profane and demeaning. I have spent more than two decades working on domestic violence prevention. Trump’s most recent excuse of ‘locker room talk’ is completely unacceptable and is inconsistent with protecting women from abusive, disparaging treatment.”

Simpson said he found “his recent comments about women deplorable. In my opinion, he has demonstrated that he is unfit to be President and I cannot support him.”

The large and fast-growing record of Trump statements and incidents concerning women offers plenty of backing for those statements. But you have to wonder. For these two to split from Trump, surely there was more than just a collection of statements and incidents, many of them years old.

If you listen to the ideas offered by Idaho’s congressional delegation, and its governor, over the years, you get little overlap with Trumpism. (Maybe Idaho’s Republican voters saw that in the primary contest, when the state went for Ted Cruz over Trump.)

Trumpism has attracted and closely allied itself with white supremacists and hard core nationalists of the kind Idaho, and many of its top officials, have been trying to shake off for years. Trump’s Florida speech Thursday would have gone over well at the old Aryan Nations compound.

Trumpism has no consistent policy. Those Republicans worried about who Hillary Clinton might appoint to the Supreme Court should reflect that no one (likely including Trump) has any idea who the orange whirlwind actually would appoint. Trump on any substantial topic is a spinning wheel; I can point you to 18 distinct changes of position on his hallmark issue – immigration – alone. Conservative? Liberal? Those concepts don’t seem to be understood by, and are unimportant to, Trump. Forget about any certainty.

Except this: A strong predisposition to authoritarianism, or more bluntly, an American dictatorship. Republicans no less than Democrats have raised this concern. Congress? The Supreme Court? Unimportant, along with participation by the American people. (He seems no more interested in the states, or in the 10th amendment.) Trump’s answer to all problems and issues, devoid of explanation, is what he said at the Republican National Convention and repeated since: “I alone can fix it.” He alone – no one else. You think the federal government has been too powerful? Wait ’til you get a load of this guy.

This is a Republican who doesn’t talk about freedom or liberty or opportunity, but about “safety” and “winning” and “getting tough.” His is the speech of a dictator, not an American politician.

Trump runs directly counter to nearly everything leading Idaho Republicans have said, over generations, that they support. The next time Otter or Labrador tell you how much they love freedom, state’s rights and the reputation of Idaho, ask them why they supported Trump. You may find Crapo and Simpson won’t have nearly as much trouble with the question.



When Republican Senator Mike Crapo was last up for election, and was overwhelmingly favored for a re-election he easily won in a landslide, he showed a little vulnerability at one point.

That was amidst his debate with Democrat Tom Sullivan, who lobbed one tough debate point after another at Crapo. In Idaho terms it was not out of bounds but was pungent. What went on inside Crapo’s mind only he knows, but he looked to be steaming, furious, and he didn’t come across well. If the race with Sullivan had been close, it might have been seriously up for grabs after that debate.

Crapo’s first Senate debate, in 1998, was a different matter. There, his sparring with Democratic Boise attorney Bill Mauk was no less intense than the 2010 model. But it also was so high-minded, so intelligently geared to ideas and issues that people spoke of it afterwards in terms of being Idaho’s version of a Lincoln-Douglas debate. It may be the best joint debate performance I’ve ever seen in Idaho. One of the things it accomplished was this: Whether you were a Republican or a Democrat, you got your side of the case made solidly by those two candidates.

Today, if you’re an Idaho Republican, you may not feel as if you need your side of the case explained: Unless the state this year takes an abrupt left turn from what it’s done for the last quarter-century, it will vote down the line Republican, mostly if not entirely in landslides. Still, absent some kind of formalized debate – and Idaho’s debate structure is better formalized than some states have – there’s no explanation for it. An unchallenged position can become a mindless one.

But if you’re an Idaho Democrat, when you heard that the state’s three Democratic candidates for Congress – Jerry Sturgill for the Senate and James Piotrowski and Jennifer Martinez for the House – all missed the filing deadline for the debates, you probably were appalled. The phrase “political malpractice” circulated around Democratic circles, and for good reason.

For Democrats, the debates are not only the best place during campaign season they have to make their own case, and the best place to criticize the Republicans, they’re also the one singular spot where they’re on a playing field with Republicans that’s level. Differences in money, in organization, in incumbency, in interest groups – none of it matters.

In a debate, there’s just two candidates saying their piece. It’s the most dramatic point in a campaign: Two antagonists going head to head. The presidential debate on Monday will get a big audience for that reason. The Idaho debates could draw a decent audience too, in Idaho terms. They still have the potential to change a few minds.

How it happened that all three Democratic congressional candidates missed the deadline for filing is unclear. The Idaho Debates organization, which includes people from Idaho Public Television, the League of Women Voters and the Idaho Press Club, for years have been the organizers of the state’s only statewide debate series; the filings they require are intended among other things to show that the candidates involved are running serious campaigns.

The Democratic candidates and the state party were, at this writing, trying to put together another debate series through some other media outlets. Whether they can get the media support and the Republicans to go along is another question.

Incumbents generally would just as soon pass on debates if they can; it’s probably the most stressful single point along the way for a strongly-favored incumbent, as the current Idaho three are.

But they could pick up some points for participating. And it would keep them in practice for when the next closer call comes around. In the larger picture, everyone gets something useful out of campaign debates, even if it’s sometimes just an uncomfortable look in the mirror. Or sometimes, a stretch into stronger thinking and communicating.



The elections of 1992 were mostly good for Democrats around the country but overall excellent for Republicans in Idaho – in spite of a drastic drop in the GOP vote for president.

There’s a thought here worth unpacking during this campaign of 2016.

In the last half-century Idaho’s electoral votes for president not only haven’t been in doubt, but have been in landslide territory for Republicans nearly every cycle. If you consider the 1976 vote for Gerald Ford among the landslides (and at 59.9%, it’d be churlish not to), then only two elections in all those years stand out: To a lesser degree 1996, when Robert Dole won 52.2% (to 33.6% for Bill Clinton) and to a greater degree in 1992, when George H.W. Bush won Idaho with 42% (to Clinton’s 28.4%).

That 42% was the lowest percentage a Republican has gotten for president in Idaho – even though it was enough to win the state’s electoral votes – since 1936.

That also was the big year, of course, for independent Ross Perot, who caught the attention and support of a lot of Idahoans. Perot’s support, in Idaho at least, came mostly out of the Republican side, and drove down Bush’s percentage. (The same thing happened to a lesser degree four years later to Dole.)

To be clear here: The decline in Republican percentage in Idaho did not result in an uptick on the Democratic side. Clinton’s percentage in Idaho also was unusually low even for a Democrat. And Republicans did very well that year down the ballot, though the legislature and courthouses.

But Perot surely was not the only reason Bush’s numbers cratered in Idaho that year. It also had to do with the relative level of actual enthusiastic support. And the early 90s was a period when a kind of predecessor to today’s in-GOP insurgency was beginning to become active in Idaho, not to today’s extent but enough to shake up thinking and alignments among a lot of Republicans.

There was some subtlety to it. Idaho’s Republican establishment was solidly behind Bush; there was little visible Idaho activity in support of his in-party critics like Pat Buchanan. The Perot activism was genuinely grass roots; it seemed to grow in part from Republicans who were interested in sending a message to Bush, and to the Republican establishment.

If some of this is starting to sound a little familiar, there’s a reason: Those factors from back then may be a lot stronger now.

The dissatisfaction among Republicans with Bush (over the broken “no new taxes” pledge, for example) was real but low-level, not much surfacing. The dissatisfaction among a lot of Republicans this year with Donald Trump is much greater. In various ways he was all but ignored at the state Republican convention, an unheard-of slight, drastically different from past presidential elections.

A Dan Jones & Associates poll of Idaho voters released in the last few days shows Trump at 49% to 32% for Democrat Hillary Clinton. The Clinton number isn’t far from what you might expect, but the Trump number is unusually low for what you’d think a Republican nominee would pull.

Is there an opening for some third candidate (such as the Libertarian Party ticket, which has two unusually strong contenders running) to do what Perot did 24 years ago? We may see.



Dogs that don’t bark in the night-time tend not to get as much attention as those that do.

Same with political conventions.

The 2014 Idaho Republican convention got plenty of media splash, and for reasons that made party leaders grimace. That was a convention that ran on ground so bitter that much of its basic, normal work could not be done, and it adjourned in chaos. And led to lawsuits and worse, even a dispute about who was or wasn’t the state party chair.

This year’s convention, held in Nampa a week ago, saw none of that. It ran quietly and smoothly, saw the approval of party leaders – re-election without dispute of those in place – and of party platform and resolutions, with only the mildest of argument. It was closer to the way conventions were run 20 or 30 years ago, apart from the lack of enthusiasm for the presidential nominee.

Not that it was entirely an era of good feelings; new ideas were largely blocked and the platform was simply that of 2012. But it still ran far smoother than 2014.

Some of that may have to do with care and effort on the part of some of the party leaders. But some other factors were almost surely involved too.

One was the relative lack of a big rift within the party. Obviously, the Idaho Republican Party was home to plenty of legislative primary battles, concluded only a few weeks ago. But these were local and generally small in scale, and in many cases specific personalities were key to the battles involved. While both U.S. House members had in-party challenges, they didn’t come to much, and many voters probably were surprised even to see the extra names on the ballot. Almost all of the real conflict was at the legislative level, and these conflicts didn’t much spill over from district to district, or around the state.

If you were a delegate from, say, Pocatello, the recent intense battles in several legislative races up in the Panhandle would have little resonance for you. There were no big sweeping bases for opposition.

In 2014, the Idaho Republican Party seemed to contain two parties in one – the insurgents and the establishment. it involved not just local races, but many of the statewide and even congressional races, and the rhetoric involved in those contests periodically ran hot. And when the establishment won the primary, the insurgents were left fuming, and had no outlet for their anger, until the convention met. Little wonder the convention that followed a battle ground.

I have to wonder if there was another aberrational factor this year, too, by the name of Donald Trump.

Trump surely had supporters in Idaho; in the presidential primary earlier this year he came in second and won a bunch of counties in the center of the state. But Idaho’s Republican establishment hasn’t exactly attached itself to him.

One story in the Spokane Spokesman-Review noted that at the convention, “When delegates were urged to rally behind Trump at the close of their morning floor session on Saturday, only a few waved signs and the cheers were noticeably muted.”

When Representative Raul Labrador was asked for his thoughts about Trump, he responded, “It’s a beautiful day in Idaho, isn’t it?”

At this year’s Idaho convention, there was plenty of willingness to get along with one’s neighbors. Maybe they were encouraged in that process by the sounds of unexpected and fearsome creatures outside the doors.


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This is the first of two posts on the changing audiobook landscape.

No part of book publishing has grown faster in the last few years than audiobooks. The numbers of books published, of copies sold, and of audio formats, have been increasing dramatically, opening new opportunities for indie authors.

The growth in audio reflects changes both in how the books are produced and in how listeners use them. Audiobooks have become easier and more convenient for listeners to obtain and listen to, and at the same time have become easier to create.

Audiobook makers have their own trade association (the Audio Publishers Association), magazines and websites, sources and providers for reviews, and the Deyan Institute, “the world’s first school for teaching the art and technology of audiobook production.” There are even independent audiobook awards, the “audies.” Some of these have been around for a few years (the APA dates to 2001), but all have been growing.

The traditional publishers who long have produced audiobooks have begun to invest more fully in audio, which suggests indie authors should take a close look too.


Karen Commins, a veteran narrator active in the APA, recalled in a recent article how “In 2003, when I narrated my first commercial book, most audiobook productions occurred in pricey New York or Los Angeles studios. The finished products were packaged, shipped and sold on cassette or CD. Due to high production, warehousing and distribution costs, audiobooks were almost exclusively the domain of the biggest print publishers and reserved only for the bestselling authors and highest-profile titles. As a result, only about five percent of all books published were made into audiobooks.”

Special audiobook players were needed or recommended for many of these audiobooks, which often were produced in proprietary formats. You may remember the long-departed Sony Discman, which was designed for books on compact disc. There have been many others as well, including the Playaway and the Daisy Player.

Many of the old limitations are gone. Audio now can be recorded in a vast number of local studios (many narrators work at least partly from home studios), and equipment requirements for professional results are specific but not necessarily expensive. Professional narrators can be found around the country; audio work can be a form of telecommuting.

Audiobooks traditionally were recorded onto cassette tapes or compact discs (or before that, on phonograph records). Now most audiobooks are sold as audio files (often in the common MP3 format), which can be sent or downloaded online. They can be heard through a range of commonly-used devices, from laptop computers to phones to tablets.


The audiobook industry is objectively large: Worldwide, this year it has been estimated in value at about $2.8 billion. The APA said a July 2015 study showed audio sales in the year before “totaled more than $1.47 billion, up 13.5% over 2013. Unit sales were also up 19.5%, nearly five times the increase of the overall book trade industry.” In 2015, the APA said sales increased again by about 20%, to $1.77 billion.

Part of that increase was driven by the number of titles offered to buyers. In 2010, the APA said that 6,200 audiobook titles were published. Last year the comparable number reached 35,572, according to the APA.

That’s still far fewer than the hundreds of thousands of new print and eBooks being published each year, but a big increase from just a few years ago.

Some categories of books seem to fare better in audio. Research has shown that fiction accounts for more than three-fourths of all audio sales, and adult fiction overwhelmingly dominates audio sales and number of titles.

Downloaded files have become far more popular than other audio formats (such as tape or CD), and a bunch of apps for smartphones and other devices have been developed for listening to those files. Baker & Taylor’s Acoustik is one example of a widely-used app.

Audio seems to be one area of tech advancement in publishing that appeals more to an older rather than younger audience. Still, the APA said that 36% of its survey respondents reported listening to children’s or young adult audiobooks.

Abridged audio versions of a number of books are available, but unabridged versions heavily dominate sales, surveys indicated. New audio variations, with music, sound effects, multiple voices, non-music sound beds, are being tried, but their future is unclear.


How do readers find their audiobooks?

The book news and review site Bookriot in 2014 asked that question of its readers, and got some clear results.

Libraries, often in connection with the audio-providing service called Overdrive, accounted for 687 responses—much the largest group finding their books from one type of source, but split among a vast number of libraries.

Audible, the Amazon.com-affiliated audiobook site, accounted for another 494, becoming the largest single-location go-to source. Audible is a subscription service ($14.95 a month) which lets people download audiobooks.

The next largest single category—53 responses—is brick and mortar bookstores, which still sell various formats of audiobooks. (Other responses covered everything from iTunes to YouTube to illegal downloads.)

Readers can find book descriptions in many of these places, but many readers also rely on reviewers, who discuss not only the text of the book but also the sound and narration quality and other factors. These audiobook reviews have been increasing in number as well. Audio reviews can be found on the AudioFile Magazine as well as many broader sites like Bookriot.

Readers can be approached in other creative ways. The site Tryaudiobooks approaches listeners according to what else they’re doing while absorbing a new book: “Do you listen to audiobooks during your commute? Or do you prefer listening while working out or crafting? Whatever your activity, we have the perfect listening suggestion for you. Audiobooks are a great companion for activities such as cooking, gardening, coloring, running, and many more! You choose your activity and we’ll provide the entertainment.”

Next: Is an audiobook right for you?

BookWorks columns


Idaho voters over the years have had a hand in reshaping or founding several important state agencies, from the Department of Water Resources to the reapportionment commission. But the Department of Fish & Game may be the most voter-impacted of all.

The dispute ongoing now, involving two Fish & Game commissioners – Mark Doerr of Kimberly and Will Naillon of Challis – who were not reappointed by Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter, makes for a direct reflection on some of that.

Idaho has had fishing and hunting rules since its early territorial days; the first were set in 1864, banning big game hunting for a period from February to July. But those rules were on the honor system. No one enforced fish or game law until after statehood, when in 1899 the Fish & Game Department was first created and a game warden was hired. (Maybe there’s an indicator here: Idaho is among the states referring to “game” in its agency name, while most other nearby states, such as Washington, Oregon, California, Montana and Utah, refer to “wildlife”.)

That early agency was under direct political control, meaning that governors appointed the executives and oversaw the staff, and legislatures directly set much of the policy. Not many years passed before complaints began to surface. As early as 1911 the state Game Warden, Frank Kendall, advised “placing the fish and game department of Idaho on a scientific basis and in order to do so we must have men who have made this a study and are familiar with the needs and requirement of this line of work, regardless of political affiliations, and to this end I would recommend … we place the men who are directly in the fish and game department under a civil service ruling and retain them as long as they do good work.”

Sportsmen’s groups started calling for the same thing, pressing the legislature to upgrade the state fish and game efforts. Lobbying over a span of 25 years by Idaho’s many hunters and fishers got them nowhere.

In 1938 they mobilized to place on the ballot their proposal, placing fish and game under control of a commission and requiring that officers hold and keep their jobs based on merit. At a time when suspicion of government expansion was not so different from now across much of Idaho, the initiative passed with 76 percent of the vote. That measure set the framework for the Department of Fish & Game still in place today.

Nothing in government can ever truly be “taken out of politics,” and in the broad sense shouldn’t be – that would mean the public has no input, no control. And there’s often some tension between what various people in the public, and sometimes their elected officials, want and what the fish and game department and commission do. But the measure of independence usually has been seen as a plus.

In 1995, new Governor Phil Batt asked for letters of resignation of the commissioners; he had wanted the departure of the then-director, Jerry Conley, and a number of policy changes. A statewide eruption ensued, and Batt dropped his request for the resignations.

He later told Idaho Public Television, “I found out that was a mistake, I apologized for it, and since that time I have never tried to influence any decision of the Fish and Game Commission. I don’t think that I should. I do think that we all have to work together for the good of the State of Idaho, I’ve impressed that on them many a time, but I’ve never tried to tell them what they have to do or what they can’t do.”

The tension is always there. Doerr and Naillon could tell you about that.



One of the hazards of punditry is a tendency to wrap things up in a neat package – a nice simple conclusion and overview of what usually was a messier reality.

Last week I pointed out a trend line in the recent Idaho primary election, in which relatively “establishment conservative” candidates, some challengers and others incumbents, tended to do better in seriously contested races than the more ideological insurgents. As a broad-picture view, I still think that was a reasonable take.

But a series of communications from the field over the last week reminded me that elections are a more complex thing than one simple trend line will allow. Why did someone win or lose? The reasons may be many, and the big picture might be only a piece of the story. And maybe not so big a piece.

One of the key primary contests was in District 15, in western Boise, where incumbent Patrick McDonald was challenged by Rod Beck, a veteran of legislative campaigns. Beck has been allied with the more insurgent side of the party, and McDonald with the more establishment conservatives (he got primary backing from Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter, Senator Jim Risch and others). The race fit within the overall trend.

But there was more to it than that. One caller pointed out that McDonald and other Republicans in the district organized hard and pursued door-knocking intensively, even trying to visit every registered Republican in the district several times. That as much as other considerations probably paid off on election day.

In District 23, centered around Elmore County, Republican voters tossed out both incumbent House members – Pete Nielsen, given to viral quotes and sort of a member of the insurgent side, but also the much less controversial Rich Wills, backed by more establishment conservatives like Otter. Nielsen’s loss fit within the framework, but people who have watched the race develop note that personal and campaigning factors played a role there. Why did Wills lose? I suspect one factor is that he was pulled in by the undertow; when Nielsen got only 22.1% of the vote, and Wills lost with 44.9%, it’s easy to suspect a spillover effect was involved. But so too may have been a strong campaign from Wills’ opponent, Christy Zito.

Then there’s the case of Ron Nate of Rexburg, who narrowly survived a challenge from Doug Ricks. Ricks was a newly-minted candidate, but he was well positioned. Like Nate he worked at Brigham Young University-Idaho, and his father is the veteran former state senator and Lieutenant Governor Mark Ricks, a significant figure among establishment Republicans; Otter endorsed the younger Ricks in the primary. Nate was top-ranked in the Idaho Freedom Foundation’s “Freedom Index,” which loosely helps measure where you’re at on the insugent-establishment scale. A high rank like Nate’s marks you as an insurgent, and Ricks’ campaign zeroed in on Nate’s opposition to school spending bills and other insurgent causes.

The result was close; Nate won with 51.6%, a thin lead for an incumbent. But he didn’t come across like many of the insurgents from, say, northern Idaho. His language and tone seemed lower-key (befitting the Rexburg ethos).

And the insurgent side did score a few wins, even taking out a couple of legislators (Merrill Beyeler from Leadore and Paul Romrell from St. Anthony).

Overall, I think the initial impression of what happened stands. But there’s also a lot more to see in the details.



New BookWorks post on the many mergers, acquisitions, agreements and more reshaping the environnment self-publishers work within.

It begins,

“On May 10, the R.R. Bowker Company, the main source in the United States for ISBN numbers and other services, said it plans to ally with two other publishing-related companies, FastPencil and Infinity Publishing, to offer a suite of services to help authors “write, edit, collaborate, format & publish your book.” It also indicated “distribution partners” would include Barnes & Noble, Amazon and others. Bowker said “this solution makes it easier to go from concept to manuscript to market.”

It’s the most recent example of many agreements, mergers, acquisitions and other connections in the book publishing environment. Headlines in the last few decades have pointed out the swallowing of one major national book publisher by another, but those are only the most visible instances. Indie publishers would be well served by maintaining awareness of other connections between companies with which they work. Sometimes these can help their interests—and sometimes not so much.

BookWorks columns


Just got the box of Camping Idaho (2nd edition) author-copy books from Rowman Littlefield, via UPS. Always a nice feeling when the books show up.

The first edition came out about a dozen years ago. I did most of the work on this new edition last year. Good to have it updated.

This is one of four titles I’ve done for Rowman Littlefield (aka Globe Pequot). All but the most recent (the Idaho jerks book) have now gone to second edition.



Whatever will Idaho do for viral quotes next legislative session? The most reliable providers won’t be back, and neither will a number of their allies. Or newcomers to the task.

The Republican primary election on Tuesday yielded a persistent theme in its results among challenged races. The more extreme insurgent candidates, whether incumbent or challenger, tended to lose to the more establishment conservative alternative.

You can find no better case study than in Coeur d’Alene’s District 4, where the House seats were held by one from the insurgent group – Kathleen Sims – and one from the establishment conservative group, Luke Malek. (The Senate seat, held by Mary Souza, was unchallenged.) Malek, challenged by an insurgent, won his primary with 58.4%. Sims, challenge by an establishment conservative, lost hers at 48.4%

There’s Sheryl Nuxoll, the three-term senator from Cottonwood whose statements have gone as viral as anyone’s. Remember the Holocaust/health insurance exchange comparison, the “false faith with false gods” of Hinduism, and so many other greatest hits? This time she lost (48.8%), a result probably not widely expected. Likewise the bigger loss in the same district by Shannon McMillan (38.7%), known for her frequent votes against spending on education without explaining why.

The theme was repeated up and down the state, not in every instance but in enough to make the trend line clear.

Up along the Canadian border the new co-chair of the legislature’s budget committee, Shawn Keough, has faced insurgent challenges for several cycles, and the margins have been getting closer. Still, in possibly the highest-profile legislative primary this year, she again survived (with 55.7%) another determined effort this year.

Runner up among top primaries may have been in west Boise’s district 15, where relatively new establishment conservative Representative Patrick McDonald was challenged by Rod Beck, who has been active in Republican politics for a long time (more than a quarter-century ago, he was state Senate majority leader) but is allied with the insurgents on the right. McDonald won, decisively (57.9%).

Other serious insurgent challenges fell short too, to Representatives Kelley Packer in Bannock County (she had blasted the Idaho Freedom Foundation’s legislative index), to Maxine Bell (Keough’s House budget chair counterpart) and Stephen Hartgen of Twin Falls.

Here’s another useful measure. Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter, more or less Idaho’s lead “establishment conservative” (with his own primary challenge two years ago to show for it), recently took the unusual step of endorsing a dozen Republican legislative candidates contested in the primary, some incumbents and some challengers, but all (obviously) on his side of the fence.

Of that dozen, which included three challengers and nine seriously challenged incumbents, eight won, and one of the others lost only by a hair. Election night wasn’t bad for Otter on the legislative front.

If the 2014 primary election was something close to an overall holding action in the internal battle among Idaho Republicans, this year’s election marked some definite ground gained by the establishment.

Does that make Idaho an outlier in the national Republican picture? More thoughts on this to come.