BOISE — Riding record turnout and a presidential election that mobilized Republican voters statewide, Representative-elect Codi Galloway’s decidedly conservative campaign returned House Seat B to GOP control last week after defeating incumbent Rep. Jake Ellis (D) in West Boise’s District 15 race — one of Idaho’s rare battleground contests.
Linked to conservative politics by a family member in the Statehouse, a past lobbying effort followed by the New York Times and a drive for low-to-no cost education reform, the school teacher turned businesswoman will look to make an early impact in the next legislative session, representing a district where sophomore terms are far from guaranteed.
After completing her first run at public office, Galloway earned early praise from top Republicans for her 52.5% to 47.4% victory.
House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, said, “The voice that Codi Galloway will bring is that of a young Republican mother with kids in school. I think it’s an important voice to add to the mix.”
“She’s sharp. I’ve been very impressed with her,” said Bedke, calling Galloway “very articulate and a hard, hard worker, hard campaigner.”
State GOP Chairman Tom Luna credited the “big win” to Galloway’s experience as a business owner and teacher, along with her ability to relate to people.
“She is a heck of a candidate. Nobody worked harder than her in District 15. I think you’re going to continue to see her as a leader,” he said by phone Nov. 6.
The district she’ll represent bridges overwhelmingly Republican Meridian and Democrat-dominated Boise. Republicans managed to win the district’s House Seat B with Galloway and extended the six-vote lead GOP Sen. Fred Martin held two years ago to 1,355 ballots. Split-ticket voting likely occurred, as Seat A remained in Democratic hands with incumbent Steve Berch’s 2.8 percentage point win, which left Democrats’ majority in Boise legislative spots 13-2 while Republicans’ supermajority widened statewide.
The district drew heightened attention after Democrats took both House seats in 2018, the first time they’d nabbed a West Boise spot since 1990 (redistricting has since altered District 15’s shape three times, but it has generally covered West Boise since at least the ’80s, according to a legislative map shared by longtime League of Women Voters Idaho volunteer Elinor Chehey).
“When we’re flipping a district, we usually have a little bit of a turnover in the beginning,” Idaho Democrats Chairwoman Van Beechler said. “This is to be expected” but “I can tell you we plan to take all of the district in 2022.”
It’s unclear whether Ellis, 59, will be part of the take-back campaign. He said Monday it’s “too early to tell” if he’ll run for office again.
That turnover came despite Ellis outspending Galloway by just over $7,000, though the two raised within $1,000 of each other, according to Idaho Secretary of State campaign finance reports. Ellis also had a potential “incumbency advantage” on his side in which name recognition, perceptions of experience in office and other factors may make local incumbents around 32% likelier to run and win campaigns than an average candidate, a 2011 University of California Merced study found.
Luna said he’s “just tickled” that campaign efforts panned out as Republicans focused on contacting new Idahoans who were registered Republicans in the states they recently left. That strategy helped the GOP flip another seat in Pocatello, turn the Ada County Commission to a 2-1 Republican majority and retain control of all its existing legislative seats.
Luna said his party will “aggressively” go after more seats in Boise in 2022, which is likely welcome news to Galloway.
Galloway did not provide responses to questions from the Idaho Press before publication.
“Every day, I hear people who are frustrated with the liberal agenda that’s pushing out of Boise and into their neighborhoods,” she said in a campaign video. “We don’t have Republican representation here in Boise anymore and it’s infringing on our freedoms.”
Galloway’s disdain for Democratic control might hint at her guiding principles, but as her term’s Dec. 1 start rapidly approaches, the question remains, “Who is she?”
“I’ve never been a politician before,” Galloway declared in a campaign video. But her first run for elected office was far from her inaugural foray into politics.
She kicked off her involvement with Idaho Republicans in 2008 by volunteering for Rep. Joe Palmer, R-Meridian’s, first run at the Idaho Legislature. Palmer this year endorsed Galloway’s candidacy ahead of his own landslide win of a seventh consecutive House term. The two are tied by trade and lineage; Palmer is a fellow business owner and Galloway’s uncle. He aligns himself with a conservative wing of the Idaho GOP which decries local health districts’ power to implement mask mandates, seeks to curtail gubernatorial executive power and hopes to amend the Idaho Constitution so that the Legislature can call itself into session, an idea popularized by conservatives dissatisfied with Gov. Brad Little’s pandemic response.
“In general, I agree with (Palmer’s) conservative voting record and honest approach to government,” Galloway wrote in a Ballotpedia survey, though she’s been publicly silent on where the two might split.
Galloway’s fingerprints on policy became increasingly visible in 2017, when she testified at the Legislature in favor of a bill that, when it was later passed, made it easier for Idaho employers to enforce noncompete agreements. LeapFox Learning, a career-technical training business that Galloway founded and co-owned with her husband, Scott, became the policy’s first poster child when LeapFox sued a former employee who took a job with the company’s chief competitor and allegedly shared a contact list she’d had access to at LeapFox.
Embroiled in the suit, Galloway successfully pushed the Legislature to pass restrictions on inter-employer movement by employees despite staunch opposition from Treasure Valley tech firms, among other businesses, who claimed the bill would stymie entrepreneurship and short-circuit competition for top workers in Idaho’s growing market, dissuading companies from moving to or starting out in a state where picking off top industry talents became increasingly difficult. In many cases, company officials were not allowed to switch to their employers’ competitors for 18 months after leaving their old jobs; the burden was on employees to prove they had “no ability to adversely effect the employer’s legitimate business interest” to get out of noncompete pacts and take jobs elsewhere in their industry, an Idaho Attorney General’s opinion said.
Then-Rep. Patrick McDonald (R), who held District 15 Seat B until 2018 and lost a bid to take Seat A this year, sponsored the bill in the Idaho House.
The New York Times detailed early efforts to repeal the bill under the headline “Noncompete Pacts, Under Siege, Find Haven in Idaho,” after a laundry list of big names in business including two Micron co-founders signed a letter decrying the legislation. Despite the best efforts of some Idaho businesses who clung to the amendment to prevent their employees from leaving, it was repealed in 2018, two years after it passed.
According to Galloway’s LinkedIn, she ceded ownership of LeapFox in July 2016 and moved on to become a marketing consultant elsewhere. Scott Galloway’s ownership ended in 2018, per his LinkedIn page.
The case against Galloway’s former employee was resolved out of court after a three-year legal fight.
The representative-elect’s business policy will undoubtedly intersect with infrastructure funding, another arena where Idaho’s legislators grapple with growth management.
“Infrastructure must be funded more appropriately,” Galloway wrote in a League of Women Voters survey that ran in the Idaho Press. “This is not a case of cutting expenses or being more efficient with funds. Idaho needs to spend more tax dollars on roads and bridges.”
In videos and the survey, Galloway, the granddaughter of a former Ada County sheriff, advocated for police to be “fully funded” to establish “law and order” in Boise, said she’s a “believer in guns” and the Second Amendment and condemned attempts to allow more municipalities to levy sales taxes, a power currently reserved to Idaho resort towns. She also wants to lower property taxes and selectively deregulate Idaho businesses while leaving some guardrails in place.
After starting her career teaching in elementary schools for three years, she said, “I support Gov. Little’s efforts to focus more on education through career ladders and higher teaching salaries,” along with other reforms. On her campaign site, she advocated for smaller class sizes, more student internships and increased school choice, all three of which she argued can be achieved without more funding.
Galloway will take office in December as the Idaho Legislature ramps up for the 2021 legislative session with an organizational session.
Idaho Press reporter Betsy Z. Russell contributed.