Colorful Challis legislator loses in primary



Perhaps the most outspoken member of the Idaho Legislature had little to say the morning after her defeat.

Rep. Lenore Hardy Barrett, a 22-year veteran of the Legislature, didn’t mince words when asked to comment on her Tuesday defeat in the Republican primary.

“No, I don’t care to talk about it. Thank you,” she said Wednesday.

With that she hung up the phone.

Republican newcomer Merrill Beyeler handily won the three-way primary for the Legislative District 8B seat, pulling in

almost 47 percent of the vote. Barrett received 34 percent, while Boise County Assessor Brent Adamson finished with 19 percent.

Beyeler, 69, a Leadore rancher who unsuccessfully challenged Barrett in 2012, said she should be honored for her decades of service.

“She served for a long, long time, and anyone who has ever been in service … doesn’t do those things in a selfish way,” Beyeler said. “We always need to pay a debt of gratitude to those who have served.”

Beyeler, who said he was grateful for voters’ support, is shifting his attention to his general election campaign against Democrat Jocelyn Francis Plass of Stanley.

“I think the most important thing I need to do now is get back into the counties,” he said.

Barrett, 79, of Challis, made a name for herself as a blunt — and highly quotable — conservative legislator.

“Lenore Barrett has been an institution at the Legislature,” said David Adler, director of the Andrus Center for Public Policy. “It’s probably going to be to the disappointment of reporters around the Statehouse because she was such a colorful, candid, outspoken legislator.”

Others agreed.

“Lenore was entertaining, I’ll give her that,” said Louise Wagenknecht, Democratic candidate for Lemhi County Commission. “And she always told you exactly what she thought.”

During the last legislative session, Barrett introduced a bill to repeal the Idaho Health Exchange. She had hoped to reintroduce it this year, saying in a previous interview she wanted to be “on deck when we make Obamacare walk the plank.”

Beyeler, on the other hand, campaigned on his ability to “bring people together” saying both inter- and intra-party divisions had crippled state government’s ability to “accomplish tasks.”

“We’re creating conflict where conflict should not exist, making enemies where there were not enemies before,” he said in a previous interview. “We’ve lost the ability for civility.”

Wagenknecht, a neighbor of Beyeler, said he is well respected by both parties.

“I don’t know anyone, Republican or Democrat, in this area who doesn’t like Merrill,” she said.

Reporter Bryan Clark can be reached at 542-6751.