BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho Lt. Gov. Brad Little on Tuesday won the hotly contested GOP primary in the race to replace Republican Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter.
Little secured the nomination against top opponents U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador and Boise businessman Tommy Ahlquist.
The gubernatorial seat became a top race when Otter announced he wouldn't seek a fourth term — marking the first time in 12 years the top statewide office would be open.
Little will face former state Rep. Paulette Jordan, who won the Democratic primary. She is the first woman to become the Democratic gubernatorial nominee in Idaho. If she wins the general election, a tough task in this deep red state, Jordan would not only be the first woman to serve as Idaho governor, but also the first Native American woman to serve in that position in any state.
Idaho hasn't elected a Democratic governor since 1990, and the Republican Party now controls a supermajority on all federal, state and legislative seats.
Little, 64, is a rancher and Idaho native who has spent the past 16 years in elected office. In 2009, Otter appointed Little to the number two position with the expectation that he would one day become the Republican governor's successor.
Little is the grandson of the "sheep king of Idaho," Andy Little, a Scotsman who came to Emmett in 1884 and built an empire with 100,000 sheep.
The incoming governor will take over a state experiencing tremendous growth in residents and low unemployment. However, the state is facing a deficit of skilled workers to fill key tech jobs and grappling with a troubled education system where teachers often leave due to low wages.
The new governor will also face key health care decisions now that supporters of a Medicaid expansion initiative effort claim they have collected enough signatures to get it on the November ballot. If the initiative passes with just a simple majority, the next governor will be in charge of implementing Medicaid expansion for the first time in Idaho.