Election Central

Democrat Nels Mitchell to announce challenge to Idaho GOP Sen. Risch Tuesday

Political newcomer and Boise lawyer Nels Mitchell will formally announce his campaign to unseat first-term GOP Sen. Jim Risch at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Boise Depot.

Mitchell “promises to give Idaho’s hard working families and small businesses a powerful advocate in Washington, D.C.,” according a news release from the Idaho Democratic Party. “With Idaho wages at 50th in the nation, it is time for our career politicians, like U.S. Sen. James Risch, to retire.”

Mitchell is a graduate of Boise High School, Columbia University in New York and the University of Idaho Law School, where he has worked as an adjunct instructor for 10 years.

After a 27-year legal career in California and New York, Mitchell returned to Idaho to become a partner at Mauk & Burgoyne. The firm was founded by former Idaho Democratic Party Chairman Bill Mauk and Idaho House Assistant Minority Leader Grant Burgoyne. Mauk ran for the U.S. Senate in 1998 against GOP Sen. Mike Crapo.


From 1978-80, Mitchell was a law clerk for Idaho-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge J. Blaine Anderson. From 1980 to 2007, Mitchell practiced law in California and New York, including three years at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in Los Angeles, where he was associate regional director and regional trial counsel in the nine-state Pacific region.

According to a campaign biography, Mitchell skied for Boise High and “still loves to hunt, fish and ski” and “is a westerner through and through.”

“The young Nels had a series of classic Idaho jobs: moving irrigation pipe, delivering
papers for the Statesman, clearing rocks at Bogus Basin, thinning lodge pole pine in the Stanley
Basin, washing dishes at the Elk’s Hospital and mowing lawns in Ann Morrison Park,” says the biography. “Later, in college and law school, he spent three summers as the caretaker of the Garden Valley Airport and on the crew that maintained small airports around the state.”

In Risch’s first Senate race in 2008, he defeated former 1st District Congressman Larry LaRocco in a five-way contest, with 60 percent of the vote to LaRocco’s 34 percent.




Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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Posted in Election Central, Idaho Politics