In the final weeks leading up to the General Election, the Idaho Bulletin will be highlighting swing district races and their candidates. These races will impact the balance of power in the Statehouse — not just between Democrats and Republicans, but importantly, they will help determine the direction of the GOP after far right hardliners picked up safe seats in the Primary Election. Today we highlight Senate District 26.
- Location: Blaine, Jerome, Lincoln Counties
- Incumbent: Open Seat
- Partisan Lean: Toss-Up
- R: Laurie Lickley
- D: Ronald Taylor
Though she vocally opposed being redistricted into a new district as the maps were being drawn, Laurie Lickley (current State Representative for District 25) chose to throw her hat in the ring for District 26’s State Senate seat, open after the retirement of Sen. Michelle Stennett. She survived a contentious Republican primary challenge from “Bundy Sniper” Eric Parker, and now faces Democrat Ron Taylor in the general election.
Lickley is a graduate of University of Idaho and from a fourth-generation ranching family, well-known for her involvement in the Idaho Cattlemen’s Association and other agricultural industry groups.
In her tenure as State Representative, Laurie Lickley sponsored Idaho’s trigger ban on abortion making abortion illegal in Idaho after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and she voted in favor of legislation that makes it a crime punishable by life in prison for a parent seeking certain medically recommended health care treatments for transgender youth. While these stances have curried favor with some on the far right, her alignment with Governor Little on vaccines and education has won over some moderates — and left others guessing which direction she’ll take if elected to the Senate.
Lickley’s endorsements include: Governor Brad Little, Idaho Chooses Life, Farm Bureau, Idaho Cattle Association, and the National Rifle Association.
Ron Taylor is from the Wood River Valley and is running for this open senate seat after recently retiring from serving as a fire chief in Wood River Valley. He was recruited to run for office by SD 26’s former senator, Michelle Stennett. He has been a firefighter and paramedic in the area for nearly 30 years and is passionate about public service.
Taylor’s endorsements include: Planned Parenthood; Idaho Democratic Women’s Caucus; Muffy Davis, current Blaine County Commissioner; Michelle Stennett, former State Representative for District 26; Bart D. Lassman, retired Chief of Fire and Emergency Services, Wood River Fire & Rescue.
Why this race matters
This open seat was formerly held by Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett (D) who decided not to run for reelection and helped recruit Ron Taylor to run for her seat. An open swing-district seat is always newsworthy, but that’s especially true for this district which has been represented by a Stennett for 30 years (Michelle Stennett was preceded by her husband who passed away in 2010).
People in the know will see that Senate District 26 looks different today than it did in the last election. Formerly the district contained Lincoln, Gooding, and Camas counties, and now those have been exchanged for Jerome and Lincoln counties. The only county to remain in the district is Blaine. Rep. Laurie Lickley was deeply involved in the redistricting process, and the changes ended up encompassing her property in Jerome, allowing her to run for the seat.
In the GOP Primary, Lickley defeated Eric Parker, a militia leader (founder of the Real 3%ers Idaho) known as the “Bundy Ranch Sniper” for aiming his semiautomatic rifle at officers during the 2014 Bundy Ranch standoff in Nevada. Given the success of far right challengers in this election’s primaries, it’s likely that, if elected, Lickley will continue to face extremist challengers; yet it’s unknown how that would impact her policy stances. Would we see more partnership with Little and the established GOP, or an increase in her sponsorship of bills like the abortion ban and taking on controversial social issues? If the citizens of the newly reshaped SD 26 elect her, we will surely find out.