|United States Senator|
January 3, 2009
Serving with Mike Crapo
|Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee|
January 3, 2019
|Chair of the Senate Small Business Committee|
January 3, 2017 - January 3, 2019
|31st Governor of Idaho|
May 26, 2006 - January 1, 2007
|39th and 41st |
Lieutenant Governor of Idaho
January 1, 2007 - January 3, 2009
January 3, 2003 - May 26, 2006
|President pro tempore of the Idaho Senate|
|Member of the Idaho Senate|
from the 18th district
|Member of the Idaho Senate|
from the 21st district
James Elroy Risch
May 3, 1943
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.
Vicki Risch (m. 1968)
|Education||University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee|
University of Idaho (BS, JD)
|Net worth||$15.6 million (2018)|
James Elroy Risch (born May 3, 1943) is an American politician who has served as the junior United States Senator from Idaho since 2009. A member of the Republican Party, he served as lieutenant governor of Idaho from 2003 to 2006 and from 2007 to 2009, and as governor of Idaho from 2006 to 2007.
Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Risch is the son of Helen B. (née Levi) and Elroy A. Risch, a lineman for Wisconsin Bell. His father was of German descent and his mother of Irish, Scottish, and English ancestry. 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. He obtained a B.S. degree in forestry in 1965, and continued his education at the university's College of Law. He served on the Law Review and the College of Law Advisory Committee before receiving a J.D. degree in 1968.
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.
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 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.
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. Risch served out the remaining seven months of Kempthorne's term, which ended in January 2007.
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.
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." On October 9, Risch announced that he would run for the Senate seat. In May 2008, Risch was nominated as the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate. In the general election he defeated former Democratic Congressman Larry LaRocco with 58% of the vote.
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".
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. 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.
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."
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.
In response to the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, Risch said "Today is a sad day for all Americans. Vicki and I are praying for the victims of this horrible event and for their families. As usual, our first responders reacted in their typical heroic fashion."
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. Risch told his fellow Republican senators and Politico that the Trump administration was in compliance with the Magnitsky Act, but the administration had stated that it refused to comply with the Magnitsky 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.
Risch is a co-sponsor of S.1241, the Promoting American National Security and Preventing the Resurgence of ISIS Act of 2019, which is intended to punish Turkey and protect allies like the Kurds who have suffered from recent Turkish military operations in Syria, including by resettling them in the United States. The measure has broad support in Congress, which is concerned about the purchase of the Russian S-400 missile system Turkey is currently testing.
|Idaho State Senate District 18 Republican Primary election, 1996|
|Republican||Jim Risch (inc.)||2,299||76.0%|
|Republican||Emil Loya, Jr.||709||24.0%|
|Idaho State Senate District 18 election, 1996|
|Republican||Jim Risch (inc.)||9,543||67.5%|
|Idaho State Senate District 18 Republican Primary election, 1998|
|Republican||Jim Risch (inc.)||2,656||67.4%|
|Idaho State Senate District 18 election, 1998|
|Republican||Jim Risch (inc.)||8,742||76.0%|
|Idaho State Senate District 18 Republican Primary election, 2000|
|Republican||Jim Risch (inc.)||3,222||50.4%|
|Idaho State Senate District 18 election, 2000|
|Republican||Jim Risch (inc.)||12,917||80.3%|
|Idaho Lieutenant Governor Republican Primary election, 2002|
|Idaho Lieutenant Governor election, 2002|
|Idaho Lieutenant Governor election, 2006|
|Republican||Jim Risch (inc.)||259,648||58.3%|
|Constitution||William Charles Wellisch||10,460||2.4%|
|U.S. Senate Republican Primary election in Idaho, 2008|
|Republican||Hal James Styles, Jr.||2,082||1.7%|
|U.S. Senate election in Idaho, 2008|
|U.S. Senate Republican Primary election in Idaho, 2014|
|Republican||Jim Risch (inc.)||119,209||79.9%|
|Republican||Jeremy "T" Anderson||29,939||20.1%|
|U.S. Senate election in Idaho, 2014|
|Republican||Jim Risch (inc.)||285,596||65.3%|
| Lieutenant Governor of Idaho
| Governor of Idaho
| Lieutenant Governor of Idaho
|Party political offices|
| Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Idaho
| U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Idaho
Served alongside: Mike Crapo
| Ranking Member of the Senate Small Business Committee
| Chair of the Senate Small Business Committee
| Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
|U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
| United States Senators by seniority