Idaho Republicans sweep statewide races, led by Gov. C.L. 'Butch' Otter winning third term

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BOISE, Idaho — Idaho Republicans won every statewide and congressional race to keep the state one of most solid GOP strongholds in the nation.

Among the GOP winners on Tuesday were Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, who secured a rare third term, and Sherri Ybarra, who squeaked past Jana Jones to become state schools superintendent.

U.S. Sen. Jim Risch along with U.S. Reps. Mike Simpson and Raul Labrador, all Republicans, defeated their Democratic challengers. Risch will represent Idaho for a second term, while Simpson logs a ninth term.

During his victory speech, Otter promised to continue to fight the legalization of same-sex marriage in Idaho. Earlier this year, Idaho's gay marriage ban was overturned in federal court.

"I believe we are the last chance to stand up and fight for traditional marriage," Otter said. "If they want to change the rest of the 49 states, go ahead. Why should we change? That's not what our voters want, that's not what our creator wants, and that's not what Idaho wants."

Otter, who served in the state Legislature and Congress before winning the governor's post in 2006, faced a difficult race against Democrat A.J. Balukoff, a Boise businessman.

Balukoff waited until late in the night to concede the race and congratulate Otter.

"I told the governor I would be honored to help in any way possible to make our state better, especially our education system," Balukoff said in a prepared statement.

Otter's political experience and cowboy charm prevailed in one of the most Republican states in the nation.

Otter became the second governor in Idaho history elected to a third consecutive four-year term. The other was Robert Smylie, who served from 1955 to 1967.

"There's an old cowboy code called the code of the West, and it's, you know, cowboys understand the difference between rules and principles," Otter said during his victory speech. "Rules can change but principles can't."

Balukoff spent more than $3.2 million on campaign ads blasting Otter's performance during his eight-year tenure.

Balukoff focused on Idaho's settlement with a private prison company that understaffed the state's largest prison. The FBI is investigating the company to see if the understaffing amounted to fraud.

Otter responded that he had recused himself from the settlement negotiations. Otter also said he successfully led Idaho out of the Great Recession while keeping the state attractive to new businesses and unemployment rates low.

In the U.S. senate race, Risch, an attorney and longtime state senator who briefly served as governor before he was first elected to Congress in 2008, was challenged by Democrat Nels Mitchell, a Boise attorney.

Simpson was opposed by former Democratic opponent Richard Stallings, who held the seat from 1985 to 1993. However, he lost to Simpson in 1998.

Labrador will serve his third term in Idaho's 1st Congressional District after defeating Democrat Shirley Ringo.

Ybarra was elected state superintendent despite committing several gaffes along the campaign trail, causing Democrats to remain hopeful that Jana Jones could win the seat.

Ybarra will succeed current schools chief and Republican Tom Luna.

During the campaign, Ybarra's opponents contended that she misled the public on her education resume, accomplishments, voting history, endorsements and marital history.

Jones had promised to increase education funding by slashing the amount of cash placed in rainy day funds — a proposal that raised concerns with some fiscally conservative voters.

In the race for Idaho secretary of state, Democratic and House freshman Holli Woodings fell to Republican, political veteran Lawerence Denney, who has served nine terms in the Idaho Legislature.

It was the first time in almost 50 years that the ballot didn't include the names Ben Ysursa, who is the incumbent, or Pete Cenarrusa, who served seven terms and was Idaho's longest serving secretary.

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