Friday, November 5, 2004

Pence ousts Ridinger in nail biter

Republicans gain seats at Legislature

Express Staff Writer

Despite an extremely close election loss Tuesday, District 25 Rep. Tim Ridinger, R-Shoshone, will not seek a ballot recount.

?That didn?t even cross my mind,? the 10-year veteran of the Legislature said Wednesday.

In a rematch from 2002, Gooding Democrat Donna Pence edged out Ridinger by a scant 96 votes on Tuesday. In 2002, she lost to Ridinger by 144 votes. She will take office in January.

Despite the loss, Ridinger appeared to be taking things in stride, and said this probably won?t be the end of his political career.

?Am I going to give up politics because I lost one race? No. That would be like giving up horse riding because you got bucked off once?and I?ve been bucked off a lot of times,? Ridinger said.

He declined to speculate, however, about what kind of political seat he might eventually seek.

?I enjoyed serving in the Legislature,? he said. ?I?ve been active in politics since I was 18. It?s something I like to do, that I enjoy. I?ll always be involved in politics. My dad was until the day he died.

?I just thank everybody for your support.?
Pence, a first-time lawmaker, observed that the election results were ?definitely not a huge mandate.?

She said her first priority this winter would be to get in the swing of things.

?There will be a lot to learn,? she said. ?That?s going to occupy the first week or so. After that, I think I can kind of adjust.?

She said she would not be reticent about asking for help and promised to become an active participant in water issues as soon as possible.

?That?s definitely one thing that?s going to be a priority,? she said.

Pence also said she would stick to campaign promises to seek improvements in education and property tax relief for seniors.

As for her successful campaign, Pence said the people who helped deserve a lot of credit.

?It?s been a long, long haul. It?s been a lot of work,? she said.

Among the most important things Pence said she will bring to the Legislature is open and active communication with constituents.

?I ran on being responsive and involved, and that?s what I intend to do,? she said. ?I believe it?s extremely important.?

Despite Pence?s win, Democrats were overall losers in races for the Statehouse this year. Republicans knocked the minority party out of some seats and added to the GOP?s supermajority.

In the Senate, Democrats had seven. They lost two, but also gained two for no net change.

In the House, Democrats had 16 members and lost four seats while picking up one for a net loss of three. However, a Boise race between Democratic challenger Sean Spence and Rep. Kathie Garrett came down to nine votes, with Garrett on top.

A recount was scheduled Thursday.

House Minority Leader Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, has been working to increase Democratic presence at the Statehouse. But in a presidential election year in Idaho, she didn?t set extremely lofty goals.

?My goal all along was to hold the 16 seats in the House,? she said. ?I thought, it?s just not possible in a presidential year? to gain seats.

But she was prepared this time around.

?I don?t see this as the end of the world. Hopefully we can pick up more people and just incrementally increase that base,? she said. ?We had truly outstanding candidates, and I think some of them will run again.?

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