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Jim Risch
Jim Risch official portrait.jpg
Official portrait, 2009
United States Senator
from Idaho
Assumed office
January 3, 2009
Serving with Mike Crapo
Preceded byLarry Craig
Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Assumed office
February 3, 2021
Preceded byBob Menendez
Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
In office
January 3, 2019 – February 3, 2021
Preceded byBob Corker
Succeeded byBob Menendez
Chairman of the Senate Small Business Committee
In office
January 3, 2017 – January 3, 2019
Preceded byDavid Vitter
Succeeded byMarco Rubio
31st Governor of Idaho
In office
May 26, 2006 – January 1, 2007
LieutenantMark Ricks
Preceded byDirk Kempthorne
Succeeded byButch Otter
39th and 41st Lieutenant Governor of Idaho
In office
January 1, 2007 – January 3, 2009
GovernorButch Otter
Preceded byMark Ricks
Succeeded byBrad Little
In office
January 3, 2003 – May 26, 2006
GovernorDirk Kempthorne
Preceded byJack Riggs
Succeeded byMark Ricks
36th President pro tempore of the Idaho Senate
In office
Preceded byReed Budge
Succeeded byMike Crapo
Member of the Idaho Senate
from the 18th district
In office
1995 – December 1, 2002
Preceded byRoger Madsen
Succeeded bySheila Sorensen
Member of the Idaho Senate
from the 21st district
In office
December 1, 1974 – December 1, 1988
Succeeded byMike Burkett
Personal details
James Elroy Risch

(1943-05-03) May 3, 1943 (age 79)
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
(m. 1968)
EducationUniversity of Idaho (BS, JD)
WebsiteSenate website

James Elroy Risch (/ˈrɪʃ/ RISH; born May 3, 1943) is an American lawyer and politician serving as the junior United States senator from Idaho since 2009.[1] A member of the Republican Party, he served as lieutenant governor of Idaho under governors Dirk Kempthorne and Butch Otter and as the 31st governor of Idaho from 2006 to 2007.

Raised in Milwaukee, Risch moved to Idaho in the early 1960s. After graduating from the University of Idaho, he received a B.S. degree in forestry in 1965 and earned a J.D. in 1968. Afterward, he taught criminal law at Boise State University, and in 1970 was elected as Ada County prosecuting attorney. In 1974, he was elected to the Idaho Senate, where he represented the 21st legislative district from 1974 to 1988. In 1995, Governor Phil Batt appointed Risch to represent the 18th legislative district; he held the position until 2002.

Risch ran for lieutenant governor of Idaho in 2002, defeating incumbent Jack Riggs in the primary. He served under Governor Dirk Kempthorne from 2003 to 2006. After Kempthorne resigned to become the United States Secretary of the Interior, Risch became the 31st governor of Idaho, a position he held from May 2006 to January 2007. He chose not to run for governor in the 2006 gubernatorial election and instead ran for reelection as lieutenant governor. After winning the nomination, he served under Governor Butch Otter from 2007 to 2009.

Risch ran for the U.S. Senate seat held by the retiring Larry Craig in the 2008 election. He won the election, defeating Democratic nominee Larry LaRocco. Risch was reelected in 2014 and 2020.

Early life and education

Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Risch is the son of Helen B. (née Levi) and Elroy A. Risch, a lineman for Wisconsin Bell. His father is of German descent and his mother is 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 a B.S. degree in forestry in 1965,[4] and continued his education at the university's College of Law. He served on the Law Review and the College of Law Advisory Committee[5] before receiving a 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. Concurrent with his service in the Idaho Senate, Risch became a millionaire as one of Idaho's most successful trial lawyers.[7]

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.

39th lieutenant governor (2003–2006)

In January 2001, Risch had his eye on the lieutenant governor's seat vacated by Butch Otter, who resigned after being elected to Congress, but Governor Dirk Kempthorne appointed state Senator Jack Riggs of Coeur d'Alene to the post instead. The next year, Risch defeated Riggs in the Republican primary and won the general election, spending $360,000 of his own money on the campaign.

31st governor of Idaho (2006–2007)

On May 26, 2006, Risch became governor of Idaho when Kempthorne resigned to become U.S. secretary of the interior. Risch appointed Mark Ricks to serve as his lieutenant governor.[8] 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, the Property Tax Relief Act of 2006.

41st lieutenant governor (2007–2009)

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. But Otter had already announced his candidacy for the position in December 2004 and gained a significant head start 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. representative Larry LaRocco in the general election. Risch's term as governor ended in January 2007 and he returned to the role of lieutenant governor. He resigned as lieutenant governor to take his seat in the Senate on January 3, 2009. Otter named state Senator Brad Little of Emmett as Risch's successor.

U.S. Senate



On August 31, 2007, the Associated Press reported that Governor Otter might appoint Risch to the United States Senate to succeed the embattled Larry Craig. On September 1, the Idaho Statesman reported that Otter's spokesman denied Risch had been selected and that Otter had "made no decision and he is not leaning toward anybody."[9] On October 9, Risch announced that he would run for the Senate seat.[10] In May 2008, Risch was nominated as the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate.[11] In the general election he defeated former Democratic Congressman Larry LaRocco with 58% of the vote.[12]


Risch won the Republican primary with 79.9% of the vote[13] and defeated attorney Nels Mitchell in the general election with 65.3% of the vote.[14]


Risch was unopposed in the 2020 Republican primary.[15] He defeated Democratic nominee Paulette Jordan in the general election with 62% of the vote.[16]


Risch with Ivanka Trump, Lauren Gibbs and Shauna Rohbock at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea
Risch with Ivanka Trump, Lauren Gibbs and Shauna Rohbock at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea


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 of Idaho called Risch "results-oriented".[17]


In 2017, Risch was one of 22 senators to sign a letter[18] to President Donald Trump urging him to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement.

On August 11, 2017, in an interview on PBS Newshour, Risch endorsed Trump's threatening North Korea with military destruction in the event that country launched missiles at Guam.[19]

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.[20][21] Risch ultimately acquiesced.

In January 2019, Risch joined Marco Rubio, Cory Gardner, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in introducing legislation that would impose sanctions on the government of President of Syria Bashar al-Assad and bolster American cooperation with Israel and Jordan.[22]


On January 21, 2020, during the first day of opening arguments in Trump's Senate impeachment trial, Risch was the first senator to fall asleep. Courtroom sketch artist Art Lien memorialized his nap.[23]

In 2020, while Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Risch decided not to press Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to testify at the annual budget hearing. Pompeo had just successfully sought to have State Department inspector general Steve Linick fired; at the time, Linick had been conducting a watchdog investigation into the Trump administration's decision to sell arms to Saudi Arabia without congressional approval.[24] For his tenure as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during the 116th Congress, the nonpartisan Lugar Center's Congressional Oversight Hearing Index gave Risch an "F" grade.[25]

Risch was participating in the certification of the 2021 United States Electoral College vote count when Trump supporters stormed the United States Capitol. He called the attack "unpatriotic and un-American in the extreme" and suggested it was sparred by "deep distrust in the integrity and veracity of our elections."[26][27]

In 2021, Risch blocked the confirmation of Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt to the position of special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism.[28]

Committee assignments


Foreign policy positions

Saudi Arabia

In 2019, Risch sought to quell dissent among Republican senators over what they perceived as the Trump administration's weak response to the killing of Saudi journalist and U.S. permanent resident Jamal Khashoggi, and its refusal to send Congress a report on the administration's determination of who killed Khashoggi. He told his fellow Republican senators and Politico that the Trump administration was in compliance with the Magnitsky Act, but the administration had said that it refused to comply with the Act.[29]

Israel Anti-Boycott Act

In March 2018, Risch co-sponsored the Israel Anti-Boycott Act (s. 720), which would make it a federal crime for Americans to encourage or participate in boycotts against Israel and Israeli settlements in the West Bank if protesting actions by the Israeli government.[30][31]

Turkey sanctions

Risch was a co-sponsor of the Promoting American National Security and Preventing the Resurgence of ISIS Act of 2019 (S.2641–116th),[32] which was intended to punish Turkey and protect allies like the Kurds, who had suffered from recent Turkish military operations in Syria, including by resettling them in the U.S. The measure had broad support in Congress, which was concerned about the purchase of the Russian S-400 missile system Turkey was testing.[33]


On October 18, 2022, Risch criticized the Biden administration for hesitating to impose sanctions on the government of Ethiopia, where many atrocities and war crimes were committed in the Tigray War. He tweeted that Biden "must stop avoiding the use of sanctions in fear of offending and prioritize #humanrights".[34]

Political positions

Risch with Hong Kong activists who have become prominent figures in the 2019–20 Hong Kong protests
Risch with Hong Kong activists who have become prominent figures in the 2019–20 Hong Kong protests

Risch is considered politically conservative. The American Conservative Union's Center for Legislative Accountability gives him a lifetime conservative score of 91.54.[35] The liberal Americans for Democratic Action gave him an ideology score of zero in 2019.[36]


Risch is anti-abortion.[37] He believes that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided.[38] In 2013, he co-sponsored the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, which would have made it illegal for a minor to cross state lines for an abortion.[39] Risch supported the June 2022 overturning of Roe v. Wade and applauded the Supreme Court for recognizing "that states have an interest in protecting life at all stages of development by giving Americans the power to decide this matter at the state-level through their elected representatives."[38]


The National Rifle Association (NRA) endorsed Risch and gave him an A+ grade for his voting record on gun issues.[40]

In 2013, along with 12 other Republican Senators, Risch threatened to filibuster any bills Democrats introduced that Republicans perceived as a threat to gun rights, including expanded background checks. In an interview with National Public Radio, he said that Americans' right to keep and bear arms includes "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 said that additional background checks would mean that gun dealers would "have to deal with the federal bureaucracy, which is very, very difficult to deal with."[41]

In response to the Orlando nightclub shooting, Risch and Crapo said the shooting was not a reason to call for gun control legislation.[42]

In 2016, Risch voted against the Feinstein Amendment, which would have blocked the sale of guns to people on the terrorist watch list, and Democrat Chris Murphy's proposal to expand background checks for sales at gun shows and online. Risch voted for both Republican-backed bills, John Cornyn's proposal to create a 72-hour delay for anyone on the terrorist watchlist buying a gun and Charles Grassley and Ted Cruz's proposal to alert authorities if a someone on the list tries to buy a firearm.[43]

Criminal justice

Risch opposed the FIRST STEP Act, a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill. The bill passed 87–12 on December 18, 2018.[44]

Health care

Risch supports repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare.[45] He voted against the ACA in 2010.[46]

On May 21, 2020, Risch introduced S. 3829, the Global Health Security and Diplomacy Act, but it did not receive a vote. In opening the confirmation hearings for Secretary Antony Blinken, Risch emphasized it as a legislative and foreign policy priority, given the "catastrophic failure at every level" of global health security infrastructure. The bill's supporters claim it would "improve coordination among the relevant Federal departments and agencies implementing United States foreign assistance for global health security, and more effectively enable partner countries to strengthen and sustain resilient health systems and supply chains with the resources, capacity, and personnel required to prevent, detect, mitigate, and respond to infectious disease threats before they become pandemics, and for other purposes."[47]

2021 storming of the United States Capitol

On May 28, 2021, Risch abstained from voting on the creation of an independent commission to investigate the 2021 United States Capitol attack.[48]

Veteran Affairs

On August 2, 2022, Risch was one of only 11 senators to vote against the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act, a bill to expand VA health care and benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances.[49]

Electoral history

Idaho State Senate

Idaho State Senate District 18 election, 1996[50][51]
Primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Jim Risch (incumbent) 2,299 76.43
Republican Emil Loya, Jr. 709 23.57
Total votes 3,008 100.00
General election
Republican Jim Risch (incumbent) 9,543 67.53
Democratic Sharon Ullman 4,589 32.47
Total votes 14,132 100.00
Republican hold
Idaho State Senate District 18 election, 1998[52][53]
Primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Jim Risch (incumbent) 2,656 67.43
Republican Sharon Ullman 1,283 32.57
Total votes 3,939 100.00
General election
Republican Jim Risch (incumbent) 8,742 76.02
Libertarian Daniel Adams 2,758 23.98
Total votes 11,500 100.00
Republican hold
Idaho State Senate District 18 election, 2000[54][55]
Primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Jim Risch (incumbent) 3,222 50.40
Republican Jack Noble 3,171 49.60
Total votes 6,393 100.00
General election
Republican Jim Risch (incumbent) 12,917 80.32
Libertarian Daniel Adams 3,165 19.68
Total votes 16,082 100.00
Republican hold

Idaho Lieutenant Governor

Idaho Lieutenant Governor election, 2002[56][57]
Primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Jim Risch 49,607 34.62
Republican Jack Riggs 39,689 27.69
Republican Celia Gould 22,134 15.44
Republican Larry Eastland 22,079 15.41
Republican Jim Pratt 5,638 3.93
Republican Darrell Babbitt 4,161 2.90
Total votes 143,308 100.00
General election
Republican Jim Risch 226,017 56.22
Democratic Bruce M. Perry 160,438 39.91
Libertarian Michael J. Kempf 15,562 3.87
Total votes 402,017 100.00
Republican hold
Idaho Lieutenant Governor election, 2006[58][59]
Primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Jim Risch (incumbent) 119,401 100.00
Total votes 119,401 100.00
General election
Republican Jim Risch (incumbent) 259,648 58.29
Democratic Larry LaRocco 175,312 39.36
Constitution William Charles Wellisch 10,460 2.35
Total votes 445,420 100.00
Republican hold

U.S. Senator

U.S. Senate election in Idaho, 2008[11][12]
Primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Jim Risch 80,743 65.34
Republican Scott Syme 16,660 13.48
Republican Richard Phenneger 6,532 5.29
Republican Neal Thompson 5,375 4.35
Republican Fred Adams 4,987 4.04
Republican Bill Hunter 4,280 3.46
Republican Brian Hefner 2,915 2.36
Republican Hal James Styles, Jr. 2,082 1.68
Total votes 123,574 100.00
General election
Republican Jim Risch 371,744 57.65
Democratic Larry LaRocco 219,903 34.11
Independent Rex Rammell 34,510 5.35
Libertarian Kent Marmon 9,958 1.54
Independent Pro-Life 8,662 1.34
Total votes 644,777 100.00
Republican hold
U.S. Senate election in Idaho, 2014[13][14]
Primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Jim Risch (incumbent) 119,209 79.93
Republican Jeremy "T" Anderson 29,939 20.07
Total votes 149,148 100.00
General election
Republican Jim Risch (incumbent) 285,596 65.33
Democratic Nels Mitchell 151,574 34.67
Total votes 437,170 100.00
Republican hold
U.S. Senate election in Idaho, 2020[60][61]
Primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Jim Risch (incumbent) 200,184 100.00
Total votes 200,184 100.00
General election
Republican Jim Risch (incumbent) 538,446 62.62
Democratic Paulette Jordan 285,864 33.25
Independent Natalie M. Fleming 25,329 2.95
Constitution Ray J. Writz 10,188 1.18
Total votes 859,827 100.00
Republican hold


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  30. ^ "Cosponsors - S.720 - 115th Congress (2017-2018): Israel Anti-Boycott Act". March 23, 2017.
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External links

Political offices
Preceded by Lieutenant Governor of Idaho
Succeeded by
Preceded by Governor of Idaho
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Mark Ricks
Lieutenant Governor of Idaho
Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by
Larry Craig
Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Idaho
(Class 2)

2008, 2014, 2020
Most recent
U.S. Senate
Preceded by U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Idaho
Served alongside: Mike Crapo
Preceded by Ranking Member of the Senate Small Business Committee
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chair of the Senate Small Business Committee
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Succeeded by
Preceded by Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by Order of precedence of the United States
as United States Senator
Succeeded by
Preceded by United States senators by seniority
Succeeded by
This page was last edited on 17 January 2023, at 01:12
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