Democratic candidate Rognstad will not appear on Idaho primary election ballot

Secretary of State’s office says proper candidate procedure was not followed

By: - March 14, 2022 5:21 pm
Sandpoint Mayor Shelby Rognstad

Sandpoint Mayor Shelby Rognstad announced he will be a write-in candidate for the 2022 Democratic primary. (Courtesy of Elle Casner)

Idaho Deputy Secretary of State Chad Houck told the Idaho Capital Sun on Monday afternoon that Democratic candidate for governor Shelby Rognstad will not appear on the primary ballot because he was still registered as a Republican before the candidate filing deadline.

Houck said Idaho law requires candidates to be affiliated with the party that lines up with the candidacy declaration, despite an argument from Rognstad’s campaign that Idaho Code doesn’t specify that it has to be the same party.

“That’s a semantics argument,” Houck said, and added that the Idaho Attorney General’s office agreed with their interpretation. 

In a statement sent to the Idaho Capital Sun, Rognstad said the decision was politically motivated.

“Today, a Republican Secretary of State worked with a Republican attorney general to illegally prevent a Democrat candidate from running for governor, based on a technicality that has no basis in Idaho law,” Rognstad said. “When I filed my candidacy on Friday, I declared as a Democrat on the filing form, which is exactly what the state law requires. Unfortunately, it’s not enough for Idaho Republicans to win almost every election, now they’re wanting to prevent elections from happening in the first place. I’m reviewing my options on how to fight this gross injustice that deprives Idaho voters of a choice on the primary ballot.”

The statement included a copy of the letter Rognstad’s campaign sent to the Secretary of State’s office. Letter to SoS re Shelby Rognstad

Rognstad’s campaign manager, Ethan Shaffer, told Idaho Reports over the weekend that the would-be gubernatorial candidate turned in his paperwork on Friday, and discovered Rognstad was still listed as a Republican after the final unofficial candidate list was published later that night. 

The campaign contended Rognstad did change his voter affiliation to Democrat with Bonner County in 2021, but Houck said the Secretary of State’s office found no record of that change. 

“He could not give us a consistent answer on how that change was made. It was, ‘Maybe I made it online and forgot to hit submit, maybe I submitted it on paper and it got lost,’ but he didn’t seem to know for sure how he had done so,” Houck said. “There was no record of it. There was a record of him changing from Democrat to Republican after the 2020 primary and prior to the state election, and that was done in writing on paper with the (Bonner County) clerk.”

Rognstad did change his affiliation to the Democratic party on Friday night, but that only affects his status as a voter, not a candidate, Houck said.

Shaffer told the Capital Sun the campaign would have a statement later Monday on the issue.

Rognstad, who is the mayor of Sandpoint and has been outspoken about his opposition to extremism and white nationalist movements in Idaho, now has the option of challenging the decision judicially or staging a write-in campaign. 

The deadline for a Declaration of Intent as a write-in candidate is 5 p.m. March 25. 

Democratic candidate Stephen Heidt, of Marsing, filed a candidacy declaration for governor. Unless a legal challenge from Rognstad is successful, Heidt will be the only Democrat to appear on the primary ballot.

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Kelcie Moseley-Morris
Kelcie Moseley-Morris

Kelcie Moseley-Morris is an award-winning journalist who has covered many topics across Idaho since 2011. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Idaho and a master’s degree in public administration from Boise State University. Moseley-Morris started her journalism career at the Moscow-Pullman Daily News, followed by the Lewiston Tribune and the Idaho Press.