Rognstad off Democratic primary ballot

By Melissa Davlin, Idaho Reports

The Idaho Secretary of State’s office is not putting governor hopeful Shelby Rognstad on the Democratic primary ballot, according to Chief Deputy Secretary of State Chad Houck.

Rognstad filed his paperwork to run as a Democrat for governor on Friday, but until late Friday was registered as a Republican voter, as Idaho Reports first reported this weekend. That stopped the Secretary of State from listing Rognstad and one other governor candidate, Dr. Ryan Cole, on the unofficial list of candidates released on Friday night.

Sandpoint Mayor Shelby Rognstad

The Rognstad campaign told Idaho Reports on Saturday that the candidate had told them he believed he had changed his voter affiliation to Democrat several months ago, before announcing his candidacy.

According to records obtained by Idaho Reports, Rognstad had 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,” said Ethan Shaffer, Rognstad’s campaign manager. Because the Idaho Republican Party has a closed primary, Rognstad registered as a Republican “in order to have a voice” in those elections.

The Idaho Capital Sun first reported the Secretary of State’s decision on Monday.

What does the statute say?

Idaho Code 34-704 says “(a)ll political party candidates shall declare their party affiliation in their declaration of candidacy and shall be affiliated with a party at the time of filing. A candidate shall be deemed affiliated with the political party if the candidate submits a party affiliation form along with the declaration of candidacy to the filing official.”

“The filing official shall reject any declaration of candidacy for partisan office in a primary election from candidates who are not affiliated with a political party,” the code says.

The statute does not say the political party must be the same, but Houck told Idaho Reports on Saturday that the statute has never been interpreted any other way.

Shaffer, Rognstad’s campaign manager, released a statement to Idaho Reports on Monday before the Secretary of State office announced its decision.

“Mayor Shelby Rognstad and his campaign are confident that he filed his candidacy correctly in accordance with all state law,” Shaffer said. “The list of candidates that the Secretary of State’s office released on Friday is clearly marked as an unofficial list. The Secretary of State’s office has told us they intend to release their official list today and we are confident as a campaign that Mayor Rognstad filed his paperwork in accordance with state law and he can, should, and will be on the primary ballot for the Democrats, one way or another.”

As of now, Marsing resident Stephen Heidt is the only Democratic governor candidate on the May primary ballot.

Rognstad has until 5 pm MT on March 25 to register as a write-in candidate. Shaffer indicated to Idaho Reports on Saturday that the campaign would consider a lawsuit.

<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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