Tom Loertscher and Chad Christensen were in an almost dead heat in the race for the District 32B House seat at press time.
District 32 wraps around the southeastern corner of the state, starting at Oneida County and going east and then up to include eastern Bonneville County and all of Teton County. With five of six counties reporting, Christensen had 2,554 votes, just 29 ahead of the incumbent Loertscher. Loertscher was leading in Bonneville and Teton counties and Christensen leading in Franklin, Oneida and Caribou counties. The election will come down to Bear Lake County, which hadn’t reported results as of press time.
Loertscher, R-Bone, who was first elected in 1986 and except for a two-year hiatus in the early 2000s has been in the Legislature since then, is chairman of the powerful House State Affairs Committee. He was challenged by Christensen, also a Bonneville County resident who lives outside of Ammon, in Tuesday’s Republican primary.
There also was a Republican primary contest between incumbent Mark Harris and challenger Noall Wolff for the district’s Senate seat. Harris was leading with 82 percent of the vote at press time.
No Democrats have filed to run for any of the district’s seats, meaning whoever wins the GOP primaries will, barring some unforeseen event, win the November elections.
The committee Loertscher heads hears some of the state’s most controversial bills on topics such as abortion and gun laws. Loertscher has been criticized by the party’s further-right wing for blocking some gun bills, in particular. One was this year, when he declined to hold a hearing on a bill that would have expanded the state’s self-defense laws to create immunity from arrest in self-defense cases, opting for another bill that codified existing self-defense case law but didn’t go as far as some Republicans wanted. Christensen said this is what motivated him to run.
Reporter Nathan Brown can be reached at 208-542-6757. Follow him on Twitter: @NateBrownNews.