Spokane valley republican and former and future State Representative Leonard Christian is something of an expert on loss.
He lost the race for County Auditor in 2010, the race for State House in 2014, the race for County Assessor in 2018 and another one race for State House in 2020.
“One of my best financial supporters says, ‘You have to pay sometimes. This is a failed investment that is going nowhere,” says a laughing Christian, who was appointed to the State House in 2014 before losing in the subsequent election.
And just because his opponent this year, fellow Republican and incumbent Rob Chase, was a fumbling QAnon conspiracy theorist, doesn’t mean Christian had a good chance of winning.
On the contrary, Chase was much softer than the man he took over for: the equally conspiratorial Matt Shea. Until Shea decided not to run in 2020, he had repeatedly ignored attempts to unseat him, including from members of his own party. Tons of critical reporting – about the gun Shea pulled in a road rage incident and his never-fully-explained “Biblical Basis for War” document that seemed to endorse the killing of men who weren’t giving in to the theocratic rule – only seemed to make him more beloved in his neighborhood.
And yet this year, the relatively moderate Christian beat Chase in Shea District, 50% to 47.6%.
Maybe it’s because Christian’s perseverance paid off. Perhaps his name has crept into the brains of voters. Maybe it was the recent redistricting (although Legislative District 4 didn’t become less Republican, we don’t know if the kindly of Republican in the district has changed).
Or maybe Shea wielded conspiracy theories as a weapon — using them to stoke crowds and inspire an intensely loyal podcast — while Chase seemed happier wandering down conspiratorial rabbit holes with no destination. particular in mind. Voters love confidence, after all.
Or maybe the voters finally rebelled against the extremists.
“I think you’ve seen this all over the country,” Christian says of the moderates winning at the polls. “A lot of Trump-backed candidates haven’t done well.”
And yet, just across the state line, Idaho has shown that the far right is alive and well. As incumbent Idaho Governor Brad Little, a Republican, waltzed easily to victory, the battle for second place was neck and neck, with Democrat Stephen Heidt edging independent Ammon Bundy by just three percentage points. . (Little received three times as many votes as Heidt.)
Who is Bundy, you ask? Well, remember how Shea was investigated for “domestic terrorism” because of his involvement in a gunfight at a National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon? Well Bundy actually LEDs this dead end.
In fact, in more than three-quarters of Idaho counties, including most of northern Idaho, Bundy actually beat the Democrats. It’s hard to tell how much of this is about the weakness of the Idaho Democrats, how much is a conservative backlash against Little, and how much is about Bundy’s own strength.
Additionally, Bundy’s fundraising of over $640,000 is 22 times that of Heidt’s. A cleverly produced ad showed Bundy in a U-Haul truck promising to pay moving expenses for liberals who vowed to leave the state if he won.
“Nobody’s saying you have to leave,” Bundy said, turning to the camera to wink — with a “ding!” audible. sound effect. “But if you stay here, then you have to work like all of us.”
Devin Burghart, director of the Institute for Human Rights Research and Education, found the announcement revealing.
“Towards the end of his campaign, where he was talking about the liberals and the poor in the state, he was widely cheered by a lot of people,” Burghart said. “That says a lot about the state of Idaho politics and where people like Ammon Bundy want to go.”
He says one of the legacies of Bundy’s campaign this year is how he introduced far-right parties to each other. The same thing happened in the 80s and 90s in Idaho, he says, with permanent results.
“These disparate types of far-right activists under one umbrella began to work with each other, share ideas, and build a larger movement that was independent of any organization or individual,” said Burghart. “It changed the landscape here for several years.” ♦