James Elroy "Jim" Risch (born May 3, 1943) is a rancher, attorney and Republican politician from Ada County, currently serving as the junior United States Senator from Idaho. He previously served as Lieutenant Governor (2003–2006, 2007–2009) and Governor (2006–2007) of Idaho.
Risch was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He attended the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee from 1961 to 1963, then transferred to the University of Idaho where he was a member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. He obtained his B.S. in Forestry in 1965 and continued his education at the university's College of Law, serving on Law Review, and receiving his J.D. in 1968.
Risch entered politics in 1970, 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 University and served as the President of the Idaho Prosecuting Attorneys Association.
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.
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 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.
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. Gov. Butch Otter named state Senator Brad Little of Emmett as his replacement.
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." On October 9, Risch announced that he would run for the now open senate seat. In May 2008, Risch was selected as the Republican nominee for Craig's open seat in the U.S. Senate. He defeated Larry LaRocco, a former Democratic congressman, with 58% of the vote. Risch defeated LaRocco in two previous elections: for a state senate seat in 1986 and for lieutenant governor in 2006.
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.
August 6th, 2011