Editor’s Note: This is the third of three-part series
Sens. Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, and C. Scott Grow, R-Eagle, both won reelection two years ago with more than 70% of the vote. But now they’re facing off in the GOP primary for a single Senate seat in the new District 14.
Thayn is the chairman of the Senate Education Committee and is finishing his fifth Senate term after three terms in the House. Grow, the lead sponsor of the since-voided 2021 bill to sharply restrict ballot initiatives and of far-reaching but unsuccessful legislation to prevent Idahoans from legalizing marijuana or other drugs, is completing his third Senate term.
Both are prominent members of the Senate, but thanks to redistricting, voters in the new District 14, which includes both the Eagle area in Ada County and all of Gem County, must choose between the two. They also have a third choice in the GOP primary, Katie Donahue, a medical cannabis advocate from Emmett.
In the general election, the GOP primary winner will face Libertarian Robert Imhoff of Eagle and Constitution Party candidate Kirsten Faith Richardson of Emmett; no Democratic candidate filed for the seat.
Here’s a look at backgrounds and the top issues of each of the candidates in the contested GOP primary:
Thayn, 68, holds a political science degree from Boise State University and also earned his teaching certificate there, which he’s currently re-upping. A former public school teacher, he’s also a farmer who owned and operated a dairy for 18 years and was first elected to the Legislature in 2006. He substitute-taught this fall at public elementary, middle and alternative schools, and has focused in his legislative career on school choice.
“I’ve carved out a niche that no one else has,” Thayn said. “I’m the leader in school choice within the public school system. … My opponent is very good on taxes and budgets, but what I say about that is that’s what Republicans do. Republicans don’t do education. Most of the Republicans you have do education are trying to undermine it, not build it.”
Thayn counts as his top accomplishments Idaho’s fast-growing “advanced opportunities” program, which pays for high school students to earn college credit. He also touts a “self-directed learner” bill he pushed through this year. “An emerging thing in education is these public school-affiliated micro-schools or learning communities,” Thayn said. “There’s a real desire amongst a group of parents that they want more hands-on, but they don’t want to home-school.”
Thayn and his wife, Sherry, have lived in Gem County for more than 60 years; they have eight children and 28 grandchildren.
He lists his top three issues as education, especially focusing on parental choice; aiming poverty programs at “helping the poor gain the economic skills they need to become self-sufficient;” and “respectful dialogue with the intent of empowering people to solve their own problems.”
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C. SCOTT GROW
Grow, 74, is a former small business owner, business consultant and partner in a CPA firm. He served two terms on the Meridian School Board, now West Ada, and he and his wife raised eight children and have numerous grandchildren. Since 2005, Grow has been a general authority, a high-ranking role, in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He holds an accounting degree from Brigham Young University.
First appointed to the state Senate in August of 2018, he subsequently was elected twice to the seat. Grow serves on the joint budget committee and is vice-chair of the Senate Local Government & Taxation Committee.
On his campaign website, Grow promises to use his “three decades of small business and accounting experience to help rebuild Idaho’s economy, lower taxes, reduce traffic congestion and manage growth.” Among his accomplishments in office, he touts the “largest transportation budget in Idaho’s history,” including the extension of Highway 16 from Highway 20/26 to I-84.
He lists his top three issues as “protecting Idaho taxpayers while maintaining the fiscal integrity of the state;” continuing to “adequately fund education, while assuring that public education teaches patriotism and basic Idaho values;” and transportation.
Donahue describes herself as a “rare disease warrior.” She has been an advocate for decriminalization of medical cannabis, as she copes with several serious medical conditions.
Donahue describes herself as “a wife and mom living in Emmett, Idaho, who believes every voice holds unique value in making Idaho a beautiful home for all.”
She lists her top issues as mental health, education, and government overreach.
According to records from the Idaho Secretary of State’s office, here are the most recent figures for campaign fundraising and spending by these candidates since Jan. 1, 2021:
Grow has reported raising $39,312, and spending $32,397. Thayn has reported raising $15,426, including $3,226 in loans to his campaign, and spending $7,224. Donahue, who is serving as her own campaign treasurer, hasn’t reported any fundraising.