Editor’s note: This is the second part of a three part series
Two Treasure Valley House races feature matchups between sitting House members in the May 17 GOP primary: District 9, where current Assemblymen Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, and Scott Syme, R-Caldwell, face off; and District 22, where current Representatives John Vander Woude, R-Nampa, and Greg Ferch, R-Boise, will face off.
Legislative district boundaries are redrawn every 10 years after the US census to ensure equal representation. This means areas with a lot of growth may see more line movement; Treasure Valley saw a lot in this year’s district election, resulting in four incumbent vs. incumbent pairings.
Sometimes such changes can mean the end of a legislative career. In District 22, for example, four incumbent House members initially landed in a single district that has only two seats. Rep. Steven Harris, R-Meridian, chose to retire rather than seek re-election, meaning Rep. Jason Monks, R-Meridian, was in the GOP primary for House B of the House of Representatives District unopposed. He will face Democratic nominee Dawn Pierce from Boise in November; She is unchallenged in the Democratic primary.
But the district’s other House of Representatives seat has two incumbents — Vander Woude, a sixth-term lawmaker who is also a farmer and longtime business owner, and Ferch, a chiropractor from Boise who is completing his first term in the House of Representatives.
Boyle, a former assistant to then-Congresswoman Helen Chenoweth who focuses on agriculture, natural resources and gun laws, is in her seventh term. She faces Syme, a third-term lawmaker who is a retired army officer, farmer and real estate entrepreneur and sits on the joint budget committee who proposed this year’s successful Public Workers Compensation Act.
Here’s a look at the races, backgrounds and key issues for each candidate:
DISTRICT 9, Residence B: Boyle, Syme
Boyle, a rancher and freelance writer who lives on a farm outside of Midvale, was then-US Rep. Helen Chenoweth’s director of natural resources when Chenoweth served in Congress from 1995-2001. She was also a lobbyist for the Idaho Farm Bureau and was appointed long-term deputy to then-Senator Ric Branch in 2001-2002 before he won election to an open seat in the Idaho House in 2008; Since then she has served there.
Rep. Judy Boyle
Boyle describes herself as “an uncompromising conservative” and says their voices are based on “the Bible and the Constitution.” She is the former chair of the House Agriculture Committee, a post she lost after running unsuccessfully against Rep. Mike Moyle, R-Star, for House Majority Leader in 2020. Boyle made waves in 2016 when she was one of three members of the GOP House of Representatives to pay a supportive visit to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge during the armed takeover by anti-government activist Ammon Bundy.
Boyle specializes in legislation for the House of Gun Rights and has written and sponsored several bills. This year she unsuccessfully sponsored HB 651 to require drug testing of substitute teachers; it died on the floor of the House of Representatives by a vote of 31-38. Boyle called the bill “an effort to protect our precious children.” She has a son, a daughter and two grandchildren.
On her campaign website, Boyle lists her key issues: upholding the Constitution, “protecting the sanctity of life, liberty and property” and a “strong voice for rural education”.
Syme was born in Weiser and grew up on a farm west of there; He graduated with honors from the College of Idaho, worked in the construction and retail industries, and then enlisted in the US Army, where he served a total of 32 years between active duty and reserves. He retired with the rank of colonel in 2014 and served two year-long combat tours in Iraq. He and his wife Patti have four children and eight grandchildren and operate Syme Real Estate in Caldwell along with their 43-acre farm where they raise sheep and hay.
Syme was first elected to the Idaho House in 2016, winning a five-way GOP primary with more than 47% of the vote and then winning the general election with more than 80% of the vote; Since then he has served there.
“My promise to you is that I will never sell my vote based on a score or a lobbyist’s grade,” he said in response to the Idaho GOP Voter Guide’s candidate poll. “My votes are based on the substance of the legislation and how it affects my constituents and whether it’s good for Idaho.” Syme also described himself as “pro-life,” “pro-gun,” and “pro-local control,” as stated in the Republican Platform.
He is a member of the Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee, along with the Transport & Defense and Trade & Personnel Committees. That year, after a long deadlock among lawmakers over state employee compensation, he proposed the winning solution: instead of giving state employees only pay increases by setting a percentage and making the same percentage available to all agencies, he advocated an average from $1.25 per hour for performance-based increases. That means workers with lower wages would receive larger percentage increases. His proposal passed two joint legislative committees, both chambers of the legislature, and was signed into law.
Syme lists its main problems as transport; taxes on food; and property taxes and rising housing costs.
District 22, House A: Vander Woude, Ferch
JOHN VANDER WOUDE
Vander Woude is a seventh-term lawmaker who has been a small business owner and farmer in Nampa for more than 40 years. He was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2006 and served one term, then was re-elected in 2010 and has served there ever since. Vander Woude, a high school graduate and U.S. Army veteran, is a past leader of the House Majority Group and past leader of the House Environment Committee. He is now Deputy Chair of the House Health & Welfare Committee.
Rep. John Vander Woude
He served on the board of directors of Nampa Christian School for 16 years. He and his wife Judy have three adult children and 12 grandchildren. Vander Woude’s daughter, Lori Den Hartog, serves in the Idaho Senate, making it the only father-daughter pair in the Legislature.
Vander Woude cites his push to get the State Land Board to stop investing in commercial real estate as his greatest achievements in the legislature; legislation to reduce county and state spending on emergency medical expenses; and work on the Health & Welfare Committee to try to reduce Medicaid spending. If he wins another term, he hopes to push for “property tax relief” and long-term planning of state tax policy.
Vander Woude lists his main issues as property tax breaks; education, including improving the school funding formula; and transportation and infrastructure improvements.
Ferch is a chiropractor and landlord who has been the only house to openly oppose rental fee regulations and masks and vaccines during his tenure. A medic and US Army veteran of 11 years, both active and reserve, he served in Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and achieved the rank of Staff Sergeant. He and his wife, Angie, met while both were serving in the Army.
Rep. Greg Ferch, R-Boise
Ferch holds a degree in human biology from the University of North Dakota and a doctorate in chiropractic from Northwestern College of Chiropractic. He has been a chiropractor and owner and manager of rental properties in the Boise area for more than 25 years.
He has also been active in GOP party activities, including his previous service as Republican Chairman of Ada County.
“I’m running again to continue the conversation about real health and to promote a balance between health and well-being,” Ferch said in his response to the Idaho GOP Voter Guide candidate poll. He did not respond to a request for comment on this article.
Ferch names freedom of health as his top themes; tax reduction; and combating state growth and intrusion.
According to records from the Office of the Secretary of State for Idaho, here are the latest numbers for these candidates’ campaign fundraising and spending as of January 1, 2021:
Syme has raised $40,475 for its campaign, including a $30,000 loan and $10,450 in contributions from 19 donors, and spent $9,024. Boyle raised $3,150 from seven donors and spent $7,982.
Vander Woude raised $26,950 and spent $9,795. Ferch reported raising $33,999, including $25,000 in loans for his campaign, and spending just $3,470. GOP primary winner meets Democrat Natalie Maclachlan in November; She reported raising $39,093 and spending $9,512.