Former Valley County Commissioner Terry Gestrin won an 18-15 vote over Boise County Republican Chairman John Blattler in a meeting of the District 8 GOP Committee Saturday in Lowman.
Gestrin will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot in place of former House GOP Caucus Chairman Ken Roberts of Donnelly, who resigned after Gov. Butch Otter appointed him to the Idaho Tax Commission. Gestrin faces Democrat Karla Miller in the heavily-Republican district in November.
Roberts supported Gestrin, who got 28 percent of the vote in the three-way GOP primary for a vacant Senate seat. That race was won by Rep. Steve Thayn, R-Emmett.
Blattler was one of two challengers to Roberts in the May 15 primary, finishing second with 30 percent of the vote.
House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, gave $5,000 to a political action committee that
attempted to defeat Roberts, a move Roberts called “unprecedented.” Moyle said he targeted Roberts because Roberts was planning to challenge him for leadership after the November election.
Moyle did not immediately reply to a request for comment Monday.
Gestrin said he hasn't yet been courted for votes in what look to be leadership races for all four Republican posts: speaker, majority leader, assistant majority leader and caucus chairman.
"I'm going to wait and see," said Gestrin, who owns and operates Long Valley Farm Service in Donnelly with his wife. "It's too early; I'm not going to jump into the conversation."
Blattler was backed by Thayn and Rep. Lenore Barrett, R-Challis. Thayn said Gestrin made a good speech in the meeting at the Lowman Fire Station.
"Terry Gestrin showed himself to be better on that day," Thayne said. "I'm looking forward to working with Terry, and I won't have to run against him next time."
Barrett didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
Gestrin may be picked to complete the final four months of Roberts' term, said Secretary of State Ben Ysursa. Blattler and the third candidate, former professional boxer Kenny Keene of Emmett, could not complete the term because they now live in different legislative districts after reapportionment. Valley County is the only county that is in both the old and new districts.
"I would imagine that Mr. Gestrin is going to be appointed to fill the office, but that's in the governor's discretion."
The decision on the appointment has not been made, said Otter's spokesman, Jon Hanian. "It is conceivable that the governor could appoint Terry Gestrin for the remainder of Rep. Roberts' term," Hanian said.
The close vote came with 33 of the 40 district committee members present, said District 8 GOP Chairman Todd Hatfield. In the first round, the vote was 16 for Gestrin, 15 for Blattler and two for Keene. The two Keene voters apparently shifted to Gestrin in the second round, accounting for the 18-15 final tally.
Blattler said he had "no idea" whether the outcome might make a difference in leadership races. "Terry's a good conservative guy and we're going to support him and help him get elected," Blattler said. "It's a bit disappointing, but he'll do a good job down there."
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