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Eye On Boise

Archive for October 2005

So that’s the deal with Casey

Back in July, folks who pay attention to Idaho politics were surprised to see a little squib of news from Coeur d’Alene saying that CdA High Principal Steve Casey was running for state superintendent of schools as a Republican – and no other information, followed by silence. Today, as candidates are multiplying for the job in the wake of Supt. Marilyn Howard’s announcement that she won’t seek re-election, I finally caught up to Casey by phone to ask what’s up – just as he was sitting down for a cup of coffee with his wife after a busy day at school.

“Am I running? Absolutely, no question,” Casey said. But he hadn’t actually meant to launch his campaign last summer. He was with his “very good friend” state Sen. Mike Jorgenson, R-Hayden Lake, at a public event, and Jorgenson, who had been encouraging Casey to run, introduced him as a candidate. That spilled the beans.

Casey said he’s tried to stay out of politics over the years, because of his role as a high school principal. “So I’ve made it a point not to be politically outspoken,” he said. “Now on education issues, that’s a little different story.” But now, at age 56, he said, “I think I can make a difference in education in the state of Idaho after 34 years of being a teacher, coach, principal.” He doesn’t plan to take off work to campaign, however. “I can’t not work and I can’t not do this. It’d be four years before it comes around again.” Casey said he’ll work with his school board to figure out how best to balance the two. He expects to formally announce his candidacy before Thanksgiving.

Though Steve Casey hasn’t been politically active, his brother Greg Casey certainly has. Now a Washington, D.C. lobbyist, Greg Casey is the former head of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry.

And another one…

Dr. Jana Jones, currently chief deputy for state Superintendent of Schools Marilyn Howard, has scheduled an announcement for tomorrow afternoon that she’ll run for the superintendent post as a Democrat.

Marilyn Howard is NOT running

Despite reports around the state suggesting otherwise, Marilyn Howard is not running for re-election as state superintendent of schools. Howard, the only Democrat currently holding statewide elected office in Idaho, announced this morning that she’ll retire next year when her current term ends.

The two-term superintendent said she will retire with mixed feelings. “There is so much left to be done,” she said. “And yet it is time I turn this over to someone else.” She noted that at age 66, she reached retirement age a year ago, and said she wants to spend time with her children and grandchildren.

Howard, who spent 40 years in education as a teacher, principal and administrator, stressed that she believes her successor as state superintendent must be someone with strong education experience. “Our schools are not businesses, and they don’t turn out widgets,” she said.

That remark seemed aimed, perhaps, at Tom Luna, the Republican who unsuccessfully challenged Howard in the last election and who, coincidentally, is announcing tomorrow that he’s running again. Luna is a businessman with no background in education, who scrambled to complete a correspondence course to get the minimum required college degree before the last election.

Already in the race is Coeur d’Alene High School Principal Steve Casey, a Republican who announced months ago. State Rep. Steve Smylie, a Republican and a teacher from Boise who is the son of the late former Gov. Bob Smylie, and state Sen. Bert Marley, a Democrat and a teacher from eastern Idaho, also are eyeing the race.

Board holds hearings, doesn’t attend

The state Board of Education is holding hearings across the state on its sweeping high school redesign proposal, which seeks to make Idaho’s high school curriculum much tougher and impose new requirements down into the junior high level as well. But some attendees have been miffed that the board hasn’t been attending the hearings. Hundreds of people turned out for a hearing in Boise this week, with many expressing concern about how Idaho high school students will be able to fit in electives like choir and band under the new requirements, but only two board members were there to hear them. At another hearing in Twin Falls this week, just one board member was there – and he left for an hour, leaving just a transcriptionist listening, according to KTVB-TV news reports.

“State board members are attending the hearings in their area,” said board spokeswoman Luci Willits. “Karen McGee attended in Pocatello, Blake Hall in Idaho Falls, It’s not a full board hearing. But there has been a board member at every hearing.”

Plus, she said, all the public comments are being taped and transcribed. “The board will have an opportunity to review every one.” State board members are volunteers, Willits said, and are only able to attend the hearings in their regions. “But they’ll have a chance to review them all,” she said.

The next public hearing on the plan is Oct. 18 in Lewiston, at the LCSC Williams Conference Center, followed by one Oct. 19 in Coeur d’Alene at the Edminster Student Union at North Idaho College. Both will begin at 6:30 p.m.

Butch wins friends in Eastern Idaho

What if you represent North Idaho in Congress, but you’re running for governor and you want to win friends over in Eastern Idaho? 1st District Rep. Butch Otter found a way to do just that when President Bush came to town. Otter used his allotment of tickets to the president’s Idaho Center speech not for the folks from his own 1st District, but for two busloads of GOP party faithful from Eastern Idaho, which is in the 2nd Congressional District. (He also gave tickets to military families.)

The Eastern Idaho Republicans “started in from Rexburg at 4 in the morning, went to Idaho Falls, had another bus in Pocatello,” said Otter campaign manager Debbie Field. “They met up and caravanned.” The GOP bus-riders were served continental breakfast on the ride over, and pizza on the way back. “It turned out really nice – we had a great experience,” Field said. She noted that Eastern Idaho was close enough for a one-day trip, while a North Idaho caravan would have required an overnight. “He just said that since it was the president’s first time here, he wanted to make sure that people from Eastern Idaho had an opportunity.”

The effort may have had something to do with the loud cheers for Otter at the Idaho Center event – and with the waves and thanks he gets these days when campaigning in eastern Idaho, which he’s been doing a lot of. Political watchers expect that part of the state to be the toughest challenge for Otter, and more fertile ground for his expected GOP primary rival, Lt. Gov. Jim Risch, who won big in the east when he won his current office. Risch hasn’t yet announced his candidacy.

Candidate will serve time

The Boise City Council candidate who claimed she was too busy to serve her sentence of 25 hours of community service for obstructing and delaying a police officer, and wanted to pay a $100 fine instead, has changed her mind, and now says she’ll serve out her sentence. Brandi Swindell, a 28-year-old anti-abortion activist, had claimed through her lawyer that serving the community service would place an “extraordinary hardship” on “her ability to actively pursue her life’s work.” That prompted the councilwoman she’s challenging to publicly wonder how someone with no time to do community service would have time to run for or serve on the City Council. Now, Swindell has told the Idaho Statesman she’s instructed her lawyer to withdraw her request to change her sentence. “It’s a non-issue now,” she said.

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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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