Democratic candidate Rognstad registered as Republican voter

By Melissa Davlin, Idaho Reports

This story was updated at 11:35 am to add comments from the Rognstad campaign.

Shelby Rognstad does not appear on the Secretary of State’s website of gubernatorial candidates, despite announcing he had filed as a Democratic candidate for governor before the Friday deadline.

Sandpoint Mayor Shelby Rognstad

That’s because according to public records, Rognstad is registered as a Republican.

Idaho law requires that candidates file with the party for which they are registered, said Chad Houck, Chief Deputy Secretary of State.

“There were two candidates for governor, both of whom had filing declarations that did not line up with their current voter registration,” Houck told Idaho Reports on Saturday morning. 

Houck said he didn’t have the names in front of him, but told Idaho Reports one was a Democratic candidate who was registered as a Republican, and the other was an unaffiliated voter who had filed as a Constitution Party candidate.

Ethan Shaffer, campaign manager for Rognstad, confirmed to Idaho Reports that Rognstad is the Democratic candidate. Boise pathologist Dr. Ryan Cole also did not appear on the unofficial list posted on as of 8:40 pm Friday night. Cole told Idaho Dispatch on Friday he was running for governor as a Constitution Party candidate. 

According to public records, Cole is an unaffiliated voter.

Candidates had until 5 pm MT Friday to file for office. Houck told Idaho Reports those candidates may have changed their affiliation at their local county offices after filing with the Secretary of State.

“As of when we closed out last night, Jason (Hancock, Deputy Secretary of State) had looked into and reached out to the county clerks in the associated counties to see if they had anything pending they hadn’t processed yet. At that point they did not,” Houck said. “However, the list that’s up is still unofficial.”

According to records obtained by Idaho Reports, Rognstad has been registered as a Republican since at least 2014.

“There have been races where, particularly in north Idaho, there are two Republicans on the primary ballot and no Democrats,” Shaffer said. Because the Idaho Republican Party has a closed primary, Rognstad registered as a Republican “in order to have a voice” in those elections.

But Shaffer told Idaho Reports told Idaho Reports that Rognstad did change his voter affiliation to Democrat with Bonner County last year before launching his gubernatorial campaign.

“We went over the fact that he would need to make sure he was registered as a Democrat,” Shaffer said.

Rognstad turned in his paperwork at the Secretary of State’s office on Friday, well before the 5 pm deadline. On Friday night, when Rognstad’s name didn’t appear on the final unofficial list of candidates posted at 8:40 pm, members of the campaign team tried to figure out what had happened, Shaffer said. They looked up Rognstad in the voter database and discovered he was still listed as a Republican.

Rognstad quickly re-registered to vote as a Democrat online, but Shaffer says they’re sure he had submitted the paperwork to Bonner County months ago. Any paperwork proving that would be in Sandpoint, where Rognstad lives, Shaffer said.

The Idaho Attorney General’s office and Secretary of State’s office are reviewing the issue, but Shaffer told Idaho Reports he’s certain the campaign’s paperwork is in order.

“I feel pretty confident we’re going to get on the ballot,” Shaffer said. If not, the campaign will consider a lawsuit.

Idaho Reports attempted to reach Cole on Saturday morning and has not yet heard back.

<strong>Melissa Davlin</strong> | Lead Producer
Melissa Davlin | Lead Producer

Melissa Davlin is the lead producer and host of Idaho Reports. She has covered the Idaho Legislature since 2012. She also produces for Outdoor Idaho and Idaho Public Television. She has won multiple awards for her work, including a regional Emmy for her documentary on Chinese immigration in Idaho, Idaho Press Club broadcast reporter of the year for 2015 and 2019, the Idaho Press Club First Amendment Award, and the 2019 Boise State University Enhancing Public Discourse award. She lives in Boise with her husband and two children. 

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