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Eye On Boise

Archive for October 2004

A whole lot of voters

Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa has upped his election turnout prediction to 72 percent of the state’s registered voters.

“We are expecting a record turnout in numbers at around 530,000 ballots cast,” Ysursa said. “This is higher than the previous record set in 2000 of 516,000.”

Ysursa also warned that there could be a long wait for results on Election Night, with the expected heavy turnout and write-in campaigns that can slow vote-counting. Among those running as write-ins are independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader and state Rep. Wayne Meyer, R-Rathdrum, who is trying to keep his seat after losing in the GOP primary to Phil Hart.

Don’t bar the gate

This just in: One of the ritziest towns in the state is looking into banning gated communities.

In Ketchum, the Planning and Zoning Commission has voted unanimously to make it illegal to install a gate on any paved road or driveway that leads to more than one residence.

The resort town near Sun Valley hasn’t given the final word yet; that’s up to the City Council. But according to the Associated Press, P&Z Commission Chairman Greg Strong said Ketchum shouldn’t go the way of other western resort areas that have been filling up with gated communities that restrict public access. “I just went to Palm Springs, and after being there I don’t want to see another gate in my life,” he said.

The city attorney advised P&Z commissioners that they can, in fact, do this. That’s because the city has the authority to act “in the interest of public health, safety and welfare.”

In case you missed it

The two candidates who are vying to represent North Idaho in Congress for the next two years had their one and only face-to-face debate last night, and it was televised statewide. But many missed it. Why? It was up against both the second game of the World Series, and the popular new “Desperate Housewives” program.

But there’s still a way to see U.S. Rep. Butch Otter debate challenger Naomi Preston, at your convenience. Idaho Public Television has posted the entire debate on its website, at That means you can go to the site and see the debate from start to finish, including these highlights:

• During a segment where the two question each other, Preston asks Otter whether he got a flu shot. His answer: Yes.
• Otter asks Preston to name a section of the Patriot Act that she would fight, and she can’t come up with one.
• Otter defends his decision to campaign in eastern Idaho last week rather than appear at another debate with Preston. Eastern Idaho isn’t in the 1st Congressional District, but it’s home to the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory, which Otter says he must fight for as an Idaho representative. Preston, noting that Otter is expected to run for governor in two years, says, “It seems that you are already running for governor.”
• Otter rails against illegal immigrants, saying, “I’m not going to reward them for breaking the law. There’s plenty of legal ways to get into the United States. All they need to do is stand in line like everybody else.”
• Preston criticizes Otter for focusing on “easing regulations on corporate America,” and says, “This comes as no surprise because the majority of his campaign funding comes from corporate America’s special interest groups.”
• Otter says he’s been fighting in Congress to give Idahoans more say over how things are run. “Time and time again we have seen the agencies back off their heavy-handed tactics in Idaho … in favor of allowing the local folks some initiative at their level,” he says.

He’s baaaaack…

Rep. Wayne Meyer, R-Rathdrum, lost to Phil Hart in the Republican primary, but now Meyer has filed as a write-in candidate against Hart in the general election.

Meyer said he first got the idea when his dad told him he’d written in Meyer’s name on an absentee ballot, but it wouldn’t be counted because Meyer hadn’t declared as a write-in. “I wanted his vote to count,” Meyer said. Since then, he said, “It has seriously mushroomed into, I believe, an all-out campaign.”

Hart had lost to Meyer two years earlier when Hart was the Constitution Party candidate. This spring, he ran as a Republican and beat Meyer.

There’s no Democrat in the race – just the Republican primary victor and the Republican write-in incumbent.

He might run again

Running as a Democratic write-in candidate for the U.S. Senate has proven both rewarding and challenging for Jerome engineer Scott McClure, who is running against the otherwise-unopposed GOP Sen. Mike Crapo. McClure said he’s been particularly struck by the difficulty a challenger faces in getting his or her message out.
“If you truly want a two-party system in Idaho, we’re going to have to address the almost overwhelming advantage in fundraising that the incumbent has,” McClure said during a recent stop in Boise. “This has been a really interesting process. I’ve met a lot of good people in the Democratic party, with good ideas. But the limitations on funding make it difficult to get that message out.”
Asked if he’d run again, and get started early enough to make the ballot next time, McClure said, “That is a possibility, now that I’ve tried it and perhaps understand what’s involved a little better. … It would be an interesting challenge.

GOP tour bus hits the road

Here’s another sign that it’s election season in Idaho: The Republican campaign bus is on the road. The bus left Boise early this morning, headed toward North Idaho with stops on the way.
Campaign volunteer Jack Raymond said this year’s is the fifth GOP campaign bus tour for him and his wife, Mary Jane. Even on his first, stumping for Phil Batt back in 1994, the retiree said he kept up with the younger volunteers just fine. “I covered more ground,” he said. “I was a walking postman for my career, so I always used to walk.”
But Raymond also said he’s gotten left behind the bus three times, from getting so engrossed in campaigning and distributing literature that he hasn’t made it back before the bus pulled out. He always hooked back up with the tour, thanks to a chase car, and one time, a helpful sheriff’s deputy in Spirit Lake who chased down the bus.
“We just enjoy doing it,” Raymond said. “It’s like getting together with family, folks who have common interests.”
In these photos, “wagonmaster” Rosie White, in yellow, gives last-minute instructions to campaign volunteers including Raymond, in the ball cap, before the bus’s first stop in Cascade; and U.S. Rep. Butch Otter talks to high school students in Cascade. The students gathered in a downtown parking lot to get a chance to question Otter, while the campaign bus waited in the background.
Several of their questions focused on the new ISAT high-stakes graduation test. “What if we don’t pass the test – are we still going to graduate?” a young woman asked the congressman.
He told them that’s up to their local school district, and recalled how when his own son got a D, he made him go to summer school. The teen may not have appreciated it at the time, Otter said, but he did later.
The GOP tour bus, which is picking up more candidates and volunteers as it goes, is headed for Lewiston tonight, Moscow, Plummer and Coeur d’Alene tomorrow, and Sandpoint, Kellogg, Wallace and Post Falls the next day. On Friday, it’ll be St. Maries, Potlatch, Orofino, Kamiah, Kooskia and Grangeville.

Lobbyists ante up

Legislative candidate Mike Jorgenson is unopposed in the general election, but his campaign finance report shows that he’s raised $4,347 since his victory in the three-way GOP primary contest for a Senate seat in District 3 – almost all of it from lobbyists or big business interests that lobby the Legislature.

Jorgenson’s post-victory contributors included Idaho Power Corp. ($500), Micron Technology ($400), RJ Reynolds Tobacco ($200), and Boise lobbyists Jerry Deckard and Roger Sieber ($100 each). However, he still closed out the reporting period with a $2,317 campaign debt, according to his report.

Jorgenson raised a total of $30,423 in campaign funds this year, more than $15,000 of that his own money, to unseat Sen. Kent Bailey, R-Hayden. The three-way GOP primary also included former Sen. Clyde Boatright, R-Rathdrum, whom Bailey defeated two years ago.

Southern Idaho’s fall colors

Beyond the blue and red of the election season, Boise is beginning to see vivid shades of red, orange and gold, as the area heads into what promises to be a banner year for fall foliage. Already, the Boise National Forest has announced that this year’s autumn colors are “just spectacular,” with aspen, maple, cottonwood and willow trees leading the way. Colors out in the woods are at their height now, and are expected to last for several more weeks. In Boise, the leaves are just starting to turn, like these shown here at scenic Kathryn Albertson Park.

We used to be first

Idaho once led the nation in voter turnout, but no more. Now we’re down to near the middle of the pack.

In 1960, Idaho was No. 1 in the nation in turnout among its voting-age population. In 1980, we were No. 2. But in 2000, according to Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, we were 20th. “We’re slipping,” Ysursa said. “We want to get back up to where we belong, which is near the top.”

As part of that effort, the state has launched a new voter information website,, for easy access to everything from voter registration information to how to find your county clerk to election-night results. Thanks to funding from the federal Help America Vote Act and cooperation from an array of Idaho civic, government and business groups, there will also be billboards and radio and TV ads to remind people to vote.

Said Ysursa, “We’ve done it well historically; we need to do better.”

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About this blog

Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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