James Risch (ID)

Austin Smith

Early Years

James Risch was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was the son of Helen B. and Elroy A. Risch. He attended the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee from 1961 to 1963, then transferred to the University of Idaho. He obtained his B.S. in Forestry in 1965 and continued his education at the university's College of Law, receiving his J.D. in 1968.


Risch began his political career in 1970, at age 27, winning the election as Ada County Prosecuting Attorney. While serving, 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, but he was defeated for reelection in 1988.

In 2002, Risch won the seat for Idaho Lieutenant Governor, 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, finishing the 7 month term of Kempthorne, after which he returned to Lieutenant Governor, where he stayed until 2009, when he left to take his seat in the Senate as the Republican nominee in the U.S. Senate, where he remains today.


James Risch opposes minimum wage increase, abortion, gun control, immigration, mandates for affirmative action, and sexual orientation as a protected right.