In 2014, District One voted Senator Shawn Keough, Representative Heather Scott, and Representative Sage Dixon into the state legislature. Representative Scott and Dixon are not only fresh faces to constituents but also offer a different ideology than that of their 10th term colleague.

The Freedom Index, created by the Idaho Freedom Foundation, is an analysis of each legislator based on his or her votes. According to the Freedom Foundation “Positive numbers indicate a pro-free market and freedom-oriented voting record; negative numbers indicate the opposite.” After the session, Representative Scott was placed at the top of the Index with a score of 116. Representative Dixon, trailing only eight places behind Scott, was given a score of 94. And Senator Keough? She was given a score of -62, interweaving with the Democrat legislators who are true to their nature. It is fair to say that District One’s Senator couldn’t be more opposite than its’ Representatives. One is not like the others.

So, how did Shawn Keough win in the same district as someone like Heather Scott? One might think that electing Keough was simply intentional, that the people who voted her into the legislature for her 10th term are entirely different than the group who elected Scott. Or, it was a complete accident. Accident meaning perhaps some people voted for both Senator Keough and Rep. Scott; that it is quite possible that Keough has portrayed herself as a true Republican so well that her voters have drunk the I’m a conservative Kool-aid.

First, let’s consider the precinct data between Keough’s and Scott’s 2014 primary races.

A) Two counties make up District One: Bonner and Boundary. Bonner County shows 28 Precincts; however, one of Bonner’s precincts (14, Hope) has a tie between Heather Scott and Stephen Snedden so we will recognize only 27 precincts from Bonner County. Boundary shows 6 precincts and an absentee voter column. We will only recognize the precincts. The total votes recorded when adding only the 33 precincts:

St. Sen.

Danielle Ahrens: 2,775

Shawn Keough: 3,067

St. Rep. A

Heather Scott: 3,796

Stephen Snedden: 2,063

The candidates who lost in the primary, Danielle Ahrens and Stephen Snedden, are both a vital piece to this puzzle. Regarding ideology, anyone who knew the candidates of these races would pair Danielle Ahrens with Heather Scott, and Stephen Snedden with Shawn Keough. In a newsletter, Keough said,

“Thank you to all who voted and all who voted for me, for Rep. Eskridge and for Stephen Snedden in the Republican Primary.”

So, it is reasonable to assume that when Scott won a precinct, Ahrens also won, vice-versa. Wrong: out of the 33 precincts, there are only 15 precincts where both Danielle Ahrens and Heather Scott won; 14 precincts where both Shawn Keough and Heather Scott won, an unlikely pair; and 4 precincts where both Shawn Keough and Stephen Snedden won.

Initially, I had thought that there were just more people who voted for Keough than Ahrens, a separate population that outdid the conservatives in that race – also wrong. Based on the total number of voters who showed up to vote in the Keough and the Scott race, I can assume the conclusion that some of the people who voted for Keough, also voted for Scott.

[ (D.A. + S.K.) is almost equal to (H.S. + S.S.) in almost every precinct. ]

For example, Bonner’s Precinct 10 – East Priest River:

D.A.    S.K

90       154

Total: 235

H.S.    S.S.

169      72

Total: 241

The total numbers in each race are strikingly similar. So similar that it is fair to conclude that each race in this precinct had the same voters. After all, there are only so many people in a precinct. And in many other instances alike, there is a larger gap between Scott and Snedden than there is between Ahrens and Keough. I interpret that if indeed these were the same voters, I can assume that the votes that went to Ahrens went to Scott, and some Keough voters found Snedden to be less favorable and also voted for Scott instead.

D.A. = 90        S.K. = 154       H.S. = 169       S.S. = 72

1) Scott had 169 votes. Let’s say that the people who voted for Ahrens also voted for Scott. Subtract those 90 votes from Scott’s 169, that equals 79.

H.S. – D.A. = 79

Where did those 79 other votes come from?

2a) Since it is reasonable to pair Snedden with Keough I will see how many of the Keough voters allegedly voted for Snedden also. Subtract Keough’s total from Snedden’s. That comes out to 82 Keough votes that I can assume did not go to Snedden. That is 3 votes away from the number of Scott’s 79 other votes.

S.K. – S.S. = 82

2b) Let’s add the number of votes for Ahrens that we assume also voted for Scott, to the amount of Keough voters that we assume did not vote for Snedden. The total is 172, 3 votes away from Heather Scott’s total from that precinct.

D.A. + (S.K. – S.S.)

= 90 + 82

= 172

Meaning, it is arguable that in Bonner’s Precinct 10, some voters liked Keough and Scott.

The same incident occurs repeatedly:

Bonner County                                                          

Precinct 2 – Algoma

Precinct 10 – East Priest River

Precinct 15 – Humbird

Precinct 17 – Kootenai

Precinct 20 – Lamb Creek

Precinct 23 – Priest Lake

Precinct 24 – Priest River West City

Precinct 27 – Selle

Precinct 32 – Priest River Bench

Boundary County

Precinct 1 – BF/Koot

Precinct 2 – Copeland

Precinct 5 – Naples

Precinct 6 – NBF

Precinct 7 – VV

B) For the second set of data, we will examine the pre-primary finance reports for all four candidates by looking at their total expenditures (line 5).

State Sen.

Danielle Ahrens

Total Expenditures: $4,043.24

Shawn Keough

Total Expenditures: $21,752.59

State Rep. A

Heather Scott

Total Expenditures: $15,137.88

Stephen Snedden

Total Expenditures: $18,720.17

Overall, Heather Scott acquired more votes than any of the other candidates; however, she spent less money than Snedden and Keough, making her a far more effective communicator than both of them. Shawn Keough outspent her opponent by about five times; Scott outspent Ahrens by almost four times. Comparing the amount that Heather Scott spent against Stephen Snedden, it is also fair to say that Keough won, unfortunately, because Ahrens finances were no match for Keough’s $21k. Keough had enough money to get her message out. If Ahrens had another $10k, she would’ve been able to compete at the same level as Scott had.

Combining the conclusions from Section A and B, it is plausible to say that Keough, of all people, won alongside Scott because 1) some of Keough’s voters saw her the same as Scott and/or 2) found Scott to be more favorable than Snedden and 3) Keough outspent her challenger by about five times. Scott has demonstrated time and time again that she and Keough are disparate, and Keough has shown to be a heavy hitter when it comes to finances. It will be interesting to see how District One votes in 2016, and time will tell if Glenn Rohrer, Keough’s 2016 Republican challenger, will be able to contend.


Idaho Freedom Foundation

Idaho Freedom Index

Shawn Keough Newsletter

Bonner County 2014 Primary Election Results

Boundary County 2014 Primary Election Results

2014 Idaho Campaign Finance Reports, Legislative Districts 1-13

About the Author

Reina studies Political Science at College of Western Idaho. She is the Editor/Founder of The 212th Degree, President/Founder of the Millennial Liberty PAC, Idaho State Director of Millennials for Ted Cruz, and Executive Director for Idaho Federation of College Republicans. In her spare time she can be found on the trail or training for her next summit.

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