Jim Risch Article

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James Risch
Jim Risch official portrait.jpg
United States Senator
from Idaho
Assumed office
January 3, 2009
Serving with Mike Crapo
Preceded by Larry Craig
Chair of the Senate Small Business Committee
Assumed office
January 3, 2017
Preceded by David Vitter
31st Governor of Idaho
In office
May 26, 2006 – January 1, 2007
Lieutenant Mark Ricks
Preceded by Dirk Kempthorne
Succeeded by Butch Otter
39th and 41st Lieutenant Governor of Idaho
In office
January 1, 2007 – January 3, 2009
GovernorButch Otter
Preceded byMark Ricks
Succeeded by Brad Little
In office
January 3, 2003 – May 26, 2006
GovernorDirk Kempthorne
Preceded by Jack Riggs
Succeeded byMark Ricks
President pro tempore of the Idaho Senate
In office
December 1982 – December 1, 1988
Preceded by Reed Budge
Succeeded byMike Crapo
Member of the Idaho Senate
from the 18th district
In office
Preceded byRoger Madsen
Succeeded by Sheila Sorensen
Member of the Idaho Senate
from the 21st district
In office
Succeeded by Mike Burkett
Personal details
James Elroy Risch

(1943-05-03) May 3, 1943 (age 75)
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.
Political party Republican
Vicki Risch ( m. 1968)
Education University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee
University of Idaho ( BS, JD)
Website Senate website

James Elroy "Jim" Risch (born May 3, 1943) is an American politician serving as the junior United States Senator from Idaho since 2009. [1] A member of the Republican Party, he previously served as Lieutenant Governor of Idaho from 2003 to 2006 and again from 2007 to 2009 and as Governor of Idaho from 2006 until 2007.

Early life

Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Risch is the son of Helen B. (née Levi) and Elroy A. Risch, a lineman for the local telephone company. His father was of German descent, and his mother was of Irish, Scottish, and English ancestry. [2] Risch attended the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee from 1961 to 1963 and then transferred to the University of Idaho in Moscow, where he was a member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. [3] He obtained his B.S. degree in Forestry in 1965, [4] and continued his education at the university's College of Law. He served on Law Review and the College of Law Advisory Committee [5] before receiving his J.D. degree in 1968. [6]

Risch entered politics in 1970 in Boise at age 27, winning election as Ada County prosecuting attorney. While serving in this capacity, he taught undergraduate classes in criminal justice at Boise State College and served as the president of the state's prosecuting attorneys association.

State politics

Idaho Senate

Risch was first elected to the Idaho Senate from Ada County in 1974. He entered the state senate leadership in 1976, serving as Majority Leader and later as President Pro Tempore.

In a dramatic upset, Risch was defeated for reelection in 1988 by Democratic political newcomer and Boise attorney Mike Burkett. As of mid-2006, it remains Idaho's most expensive legislative contest.

In the second political defeat of his career, Risch lost the 1994 primary election for a state senate seat to Roger Madsen. Risch returned to the state senate in 1995, as an appointee of Governor Phil Batt, who had named Madsen as the state commerce department's director.

First term as Lieutenant Governor

In January 2001, Risch had his eye on the lieutenant governor's seat vacated by Butch Otter, who resigned to take his elected seat in Congress. However, Governor Dirk Kempthorne appointed state senator Jack Riggs of Coeur d'Alene to the post instead. The following year Risch defeated Riggs in the Republican primary and won the general election, spending $360,000 of his own money to win the $27,000 a year, part-time post.


On May 26, 2006, Risch became Governor of Idaho when Kempthorne resigned to become the U.S. Secretary of the Interior. Risch appointed Mark Ricks to serve as his Lt. Governor. [7] Risch served out the remaining seven months of Kempthorne's term, which ended in January 2007.

In August 2006, Risch called a special session of the Idaho Legislature to consider his proposed property tax reform bill, entitled the Property Tax Relief Act of 2006.

Second term as Lieutenant Governor

Risch was expected to enter the 2006 Republican gubernatorial primary to succeed Kempthorne, who was completing his second term at this time of his federal appointment. However, U.S. Congressman Otter had announced his candidacy for the position in December 2004, and had gained a significant headstart in campaigning and fundraising. In November 2005, Risch announced his intention to seek election again as lieutenant governor.

Risch was unopposed for the 2006 Republican nomination for lieutenant governor and defeated former Democratic U.S. congressman Larry LaRocco in the general election. Risch's term as governor ended in January 2007 and he returned to the role of lieutenant governor. Risch resigned as lieutenant governor to take his seat in the Senate on January 3, 2009. Governor Otter named state Senator Brad Little of Emmett as Risch's replacement.

U.S. Senate



On August 31, 2007, the Associated Press reported that Risch could possibly be appointed United States Senator by Governor Butch Otter to succeed the embattled Larry Craig. The Idaho Statesman reported on September 1, however, that Otter's spokesman denied Risch had been selected and that the governor "has made no decision and he is not leaning toward anybody." [8] On October 9, Risch announced that he would run for the now open Senate seat. [9] In May 2008, Risch was selected as the Republican nominee for Craig's open seat in the U.S. Senate. [10] He defeated Larry LaRocco, a former Democratic congressman, with 58% of the vote. [11] Risch defeated LaRocco in two previous elections: for a state Senate seat in 1986 and for lieutenant governor in 2006.


Risch won the Republican primary with 79.9% of the vote. [12]

Risch defeated Nels Mitchell with 65.3% of the vote. [13]


Risch was one of four freshmen Republican Senators in the 111th Congress of 2009, with Mike Johanns of Nebraska, George LeMieux of Florida and Scott Brown of Massachusetts.

Republican Senator Mike Crapo praised Risch as "results-oriented". [14]

In 2017, Risch was one of 22 senators to sign a letter [15] to President Donald Trump urging the President to have the United States withdraw from the Paris Agreement.

On Aug. 11, 2017, Risch, in an interview aired on the PBS Newshour, warmly endorsed President Trump's rhetoric threatening North Korea with military destruction in the event that country launched missiles at Guam. [16]

On March 22, 2018, the day before a potential federal government shutdown, Risch threatened to block a government spending bill because it included changing the name of the White Clouds Wilderness protected area to honor a deceased political rival, former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus. [17] [18] Risch ultimately acquiesced.

Committee assignments

Political positions

Abortion law

Risch is pro-life . [19] In 2013, Risch co-sponsored the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, which would have made it illegal for a minor to travel over state lines to have an abortion to avoid parental consent laws. [20]

Gun law

Risch was endorsed by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and was given an "A+" grade by the organization for his voting record on NRA-related issues. Chris W. Cox, chairman of the NRA-Political Victory Fund stated that "Jim is a battle-tested ally who will make sure billionaire gun control zealots like Michael Bloomberg are stopped from destroying our freedoms." [21]

In 2013, Risch, along with twelve other Republican Senators, threatened to filibuster any bills set forth by Democrats that the Republicans perceived would be a threat to 2nd Amendment rights, including expanded background checks. In an interview with National Public Radio, Risch stated that individuals have the right to keep and bear arms also means "a right to purchase one [a gun], to sell one, to trade in one, and you really have to have a robust market if indeed you're going to have a constitutional right." He also expressed that adding additional background checks would mean that gun dealers would "have to deal with the federal bureaucracy, which is very, very difficult to deal with." [22]

In response to the Orlando nightclub shooting, Risch joined fellow Senator Mike Crapo to state that the shooting should not be a reason to call for increased gun control legislation. [23]

In 2016, Risch voted against the Feinstein Amendment, which would have blocked the sale of guns to individuals on the terrorist watch list and Democrat Chris Murphy's proposal to expand background checks related to sales at gun shows and online sales. Risch voted in favor for both the Republican backed bills, specifically John Cornyn's proposal that would create a 72-hour delay for anyone on the terrorist watch list buying a gun and Charles Grassley and Ted Cruz's proposal to alert authorities of a terrorist tried to buy a firearm. [24]

Regarding the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, Risch and his wife, Vicki, offered thoughts and prayers to the victims and stressed the "heroic" work of the first responders. [25]

Health care access

Risch supports the "repeal and replace" of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare. He voted against the ACA in 2010. He stated in 2017 that "Health care is one of – if not the most – complex and personal issues … and it is incredibly hard to resolve." [26]

Electoral history

Idaho State Senate District 18 Republican Primary election, 1996
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Jim Risch (inc.) 2,299 76.0%
Republican Emil Loya, Jr. 709 24.0%
Idaho State Senate District 18 election, 1996
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Jim Risch (inc.) 9,543 67.5%
Democratic Donald Baumback 4,589 32.5%
Idaho State Senate District 18 Republican Primary election, 1998
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Jim Risch (inc.) 2,656 67.4%
Republican Sharon Ullman 1,283 32.6%
Idaho State Senate District 18 election, 1998
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Jim Risch (inc.) 8,742 76.0%
Libertarian Daniel Adams 2,758 24.0%
Idaho State Senate District 18 Republican Primary election, 2000
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Jim Risch (inc.) 3,222 50.4%
Republican Jack Noble 3,171 49.6%
Idaho State Senate District 18 election, 2000
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Jim Risch (inc.) 12,917 80.3%
Libertarian Daniel Adams 3,165 19.7%
Idaho Lieutenant Governor Republican Primary election, 2002
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Jim Risch 49,607 34.6%
Republican Jack Riggs 39,689 27.7%
Republican Celia Gould 22,134 15.4%
Republican Larry Eastland 22,079 15.4%
Republican Jim Pratt 5,638 3.9%
Republican Darrell Babbitt 4,161 2.9%
Idaho Lieutenant Governor election, 2002
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Jim Risch 226,017 56.2%
Democratic Bruce Perry 160,438 39.9%
Libertarian Michael Kempf 15,562 3.9%
Idaho Lieutenant Governor election, 2006
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Jim Risch (inc.) 259,648 58.3%
Democratic Larry LaRocco 175,312 39.4%
Constitution William Charles Wellisch 10,460 2.4%
U.S. Senate Republican Primary election in Idaho, 2008
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Jim Risch 80,743 65.3%
Republican Scott Syme 16,660 13.5%
Republican Richard Phenneger 6,532 5.3%
Republican Neal Thompson 5,375 4.3%
Republican Fred Adams 4,987 4.0%
Republican Bill Hunter 4,280 3.5%
Republican Brian Hefner 2,915 2.4%
Republican Hal James Styles, Jr. 2,082 1.7%
U.S. Senate election in Idaho, 2008
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Jim Risch 371,744 57.7%
Democratic Larry LaRocco 219,903 34.1%
Independent Rex Rammell 34,510 5.4%
Libertarian Kent Marmon 9,958 1.5%
Independent Pro-Life 8,662 1.3%
U.S. Senate Republican Primary election in Idaho, 2014
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Jim Risch (inc.) 119,209 79.9%
Republican Jeremy "T" Anderson 29,939 20.1%
U.S. Senate election in Idaho, 2014
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Jim Risch (inc.) 285,596 65.3%
Democratic Nels Mitchell 151,574 34.7%


  1. ^ 2008 statewide totals Archived 2015-02-20 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ "risch". Retrieved 26 December 2015.
  3. ^ "Phi Delta Theta". Gem of the Mountains, University of Idaho yearbook. 1965. p. 359.
  4. ^ "College of Forestry, '65 graduates". Gem of the Mountains, University of Idaho yearbook. 1965. p. 63.
  5. ^ "Jim Risch Biography". Jim Risch Senate. Retrieved 18 November 2014.
  6. ^ "College of Law". Gem of the Mountains, University of Idaho yearbook. 1968. p. 36.
  7. ^ "Governor names Ricks to lieutenant post". The Spokesman-Review. June 16, 2006.
  8. ^ Hahn, Gregory (2007-09-01). "Risch rumors about replacing Sen. Craig are 'dead wrong'". Idaho Statesman. Retrieved 2007-09-01.
  9. ^ Greene, Tom (2007-10-09). "Jim Risch announces Senate bid". Coeur d'Alene Press. Retrieved 2009-10-10.[ permanent dead link]
  10. ^ "2008 Primary Results statewide". sos.idaho.gov. Retrieved 2017-04-12.
  11. ^ "2008 General Results statewide". sos.idaho.gov. Retrieved 2017-04-12.
  12. ^ "Statewide Totals". sos.idaho.gov. Retrieved 2017-04-12.
  13. ^ "Statewide Totals". sos.idaho.gov. Retrieved 2017-04-12.
  14. ^ Catalini, Michael (10 February 2014). "Idaho Sen. Jim Risch: High energy, low visibility". Idaho Statesman. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
  15. ^ Inhofe, James. "Senator". Retrieved 7 June 2017.
  16. ^ "WATCH: North Korea 'will regret it fast' if it acts against U.S. allies, Trump says". pbs.org. 11 August 2017.
  17. ^ "Idaho senator holds up bill over political rivalry with deceased governor".
  18. ^ "Sen. James Risch's decades-old grudge briefly derailed the big spending bill".
  19. ^ "Aspiring Pol Changes Name To Pro-Life". CBSNews. Retrieved 4 October 2017.
  20. ^ Cox, Ramsey (15 February 2013). "GOP bill would tighten rules on parental consent for abortion". TheHill. Retrieved 4 October 2017.
  21. ^ "NRA Endorses Jim Risch for U.S. Senate in Idaho". NRA-PVF. Retrieved 4 October 2017.
  22. ^ Cornish, Audie. "Republican Senators Pledge To Filibuster Gun Control Bill". National Public Radio. Retrieved 4 October 2017.
  23. ^ Eichelberger, Greg. "Idaho senators speak out against gun control in shadow of Orlando | Morning News". Morning News. Retrieved 4 October 2017.
  24. ^ Statesmen Staff. "Risch, Crapo favored two of four gun bills that failed Monday". Idaho Statesmen. Retrieved 4 October 2017.
  25. ^ Russell, Betsy Z. "Idaho officials offer prayers for victims in Vegas shooting". Spokesman.com. Retrieved 4 October 2017.
  26. ^ Gerber, Drew. "Washington and Idaho senators split along party lines ahead of health care vote". The Spokesman Review. Retrieved 4 October 2017.

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Jack Riggs
Lieutenant Governor of Idaho
Succeeded by
Mark Ricks
Preceded by
Dirk Kempthorne
Governor of Idaho
Succeeded by
Butch Otter
Preceded by
Mark Ricks
Lieutenant Governor of Idaho
Succeeded by
Brad Little
Party political offices
Preceded by
Larry Craig
Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Idaho
( Class 2)

2008, 2014
Most recent
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Larry Craig
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Idaho
Served alongside: Mike Crapo
Preceded by
Olympia Snowe
Ranking Member of the Senate Small Business Committee
Succeeded by
Jeanne Shaheen
Preceded by
David Vitter
Chair of the Senate Small Business Committee
Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Mark Warner
United States Senators by seniority
Succeeded by
Jeff Merkley