BOISE — Sandpoint Mayor Shelby Rognstad announced he would campaign as the Democratic write-in candidate for governor of Idaho in the May primary, a week after the office of the secretary of state in Idaho determined that he would not appear as an official candidate in the May 17 primary. ballot.
The campaign had threatened a lawsuit in an attempt to get Rognstad’s name on the ballot, but decided against it.
“We are continuing the writing campaign. This is our sure path to be on the ballot for a chance to be elected in the primary,” Rognstad told the Idaho Capital Sun on Monday. “There are too many unknowns around a trial.”
Rognstad filed his declaration of candidacy on the day of the filing period deadline, March 11, but failed to change his voter registration from Republican to Democrat, according to a recent report from the Idaho Capital Sun. Rognstad said he has a 15-year track record of Democratic values in elected office, but in Bonner County there are often no Democratic choices on the ballot. To have a voice in elected leaders and vote in the closed Republican primary, he said, he had registered as a Republican.
The campaign argued Rognstad changed his electoral affiliation to Democratic with Bonner County in 2021, but Deputy Secretary of State Chad Houck told the Capital Sun last week that the secretary of state’s office found no no trace of this change.
After discovering his name was not on the unofficial list of candidates on deadline night, Rognstad changed his affiliation online, but that only affects his voter status, according to Houck.
Rognstad’s campaign released a statement after the Secretary of State’s office decision saying it was politically motivated, arguing that Idaho’s code does not specify that it must be the same party. Houck said it was a semantic argument and the Idaho attorney general’s office agreed.
The deadline for a statement of intent as a written candidate is 5 p.m. on Friday. Rognstad said he was disappointed with the decision not to include it on the ballot, but the campaign will focus on a voter outreach strategy in Idaho counties.
“I regret that I didn’t file much sooner, and obviously I would have avoided this disaster,” Rognstad told Capital Sun. “But we are where we are, and you fall off the horse, get up and go on. … I pledge to keep fighting for the future of Idaho.
Democratic candidate Stephen Heidt of Marsing has filed a gubernatorial nomination paper and will appear on the primary ballot. Avery Roberts, spokesman for the Idaho Democratic Party, said the party would back the winner of the primary.
“Mr. Heidt and Mayor Rognstad are both running to become Idaho’s Democratic nominee for governor. The Idaho Democratic Party will remain neutral in this competitive primary race. We look forward to voters making their choice on May 17,” Roberts said in a statement.