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Democrats lose four seats in Idaho Legislature

BOISE -- Big losses weren't just seen at the national level for the Democratic Party. In the Gem State, the Democrats lost four seats to Republicans in the state Legislature, and the two lawmakers running for re-election were longtime legislators.

The Idaho Democratic Party tells KTVB those two incumbents who lost - one in the Idaho House of Representatives and one in the Senate - were devastating upsets. Party leaders say the losses are partially a result of the national landscape.

Idaho's Legislature is staying overwhelmingly red: Of the 105 members in the House and Senate, 88 are now Republicans, and 17 are Democrats.

"We were expecting to do better and hoping to do better," Idaho Democratic Party Spokesman Dean Ferguson said.

With three seats lost in the House and one lost in the Senate, the Republican party has more control in the state Legislature.

"It is significant because right now Idaho is imbalanced," Ferguson added. "This does not create a system of government that works very well."

Ferguson says the candidates that lost were still competitive in their races, but came up short in the end.

"Two seats were particularly big, big pick-ups for us and were very large upsets [for the Democratic Party]," Idaho GOP Executive Director David Johnston told KTVB.

Johnston is referring to Democratic Idaho House Minority Leader Rep. John Rusche (District 6B) who was defeated by Republican candidate Mike Kingsley.

"He's been an incredible leader," Democratic House Assistant Minority Leader Rep. Mat Erpelding told KTVB. "It's a huge blow to me personally. Representative Rusche has been my mentor."

Democrat and longtime District 5 Sen. Dan Schmidt was defeated by Republican candidate Dan Foreman.

"What message did Idahoans send to us? I think the message they sent to us is that the Republican values and ideas are more consistent with their values than what the Democrats have to offer," Johnston said.

Dems also lost control of District 6A in northern Idaho, which was taken by Republican candidate Thyra Stevenson.

The Idaho GOP says District 29A in eastern Idaho has been a Democratic stronghold, but this year, was won by Republican candidate Dustin Manwaring.

"One of the things that voters in Idaho were reacting to on a national level is a sense that things aren't working right," Ferguson added.

President-Elect Donald Trump brought out a lot of supporters in Idaho, and the state Democratic Party says many voters may have voted along party lines down ballot in local elections.

"A lot of conversations are going to be affected by it," Rep. Erpelding said. "The biggest one that's going to be affected by it right now is actually a result of the national election."

Rep. Erpelding says the conversation around Medicaid expansion will be on the back burner indefinitely.

"The next two years may be difficult for Idaho Democrats but I'll tell you that we're not going to stray from our values, we're not going to stray from the things we believe in, and I think that we can make that back up in the next election," Erpelding said.

The Idaho Republican Party says they are pleased that there is now continuity of leadership at the local and national levels.

For all election results in Idaho, click here.

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