Archive for May 2008
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter was scheduled to be the keynote speaker at the Washington state Republican Party convention tonight in Spokane, but now he’s canceled. “He’s going to greet the troops that are coming in tonight at 7:30 … out at Gowen,” said Otter’s press secretary, Jon Hanian. Otter had been planning on making the trip to Spokane and had his speech prepared. “It was fairly recent that he found out they were coming in,” Hanian said. “He felt it was important, they’ve given up a significant portion of their life to go overseas and honor their commitment and responsibility, and so he felt it was equally important to make sure he was here to welcome them back.”
About 30 Idaho Army National Guard soldiers will be arriving at Gowen Field in Boise tonight after being deployed for nearly a year to Operation Iraqi Freedom. The BlackHawk helicopter unit was assigned to communications and movement of personnel and equipment from Kuwait into southern Iraq.
As for the Washington Republicans, they’ll have to settle for a speech from their party’s gubernatorial candidate, Dino Rossi – his second of the day.
Boise has made another magazine ranking, this time ranking No. 4 among Kiplinger’s “10 Best Cities of 2008.” The magazine, which will publish the rankings in its July issue (which is out in two weeks), said its editors ranked cities “with strong economies, abundant jobs, reasonable living costs and plenty of fun things to do.” Here’s the list:
Kiplinger’s 10 Best Cities of 2008:
1. Houston, TX
2. Raleigh, NC
3. Omaha, NE
4. Boise, ID
5. Colorado Springs, CO
6. Austin, TX
7. Fayetteville, AR
8. Sacramento, CA
9. Des Moines, IA
10. Provo, UT
Democratic congressional candidate Walt Minnick today called on incumbent GOP Rep. Bill Sali to join him in a series of 10 town-hall meetings throughout the 1st Congressional District over the summer, with no moderator, just the two candidates taking questions from the public and expressing their views in a “polite, productive setting.” Minnick said Congress faces “complex problems,” from health care to gas prices and energy policy to education, and voters need to hear where the candidates stand on them, well beyond 30-second sound bites or scripted TV commercials. “I know it would help me to be a better congressman,” Minnick said. “I hope it would be equally beneficial to Congressman Sali, and I know it would help the voters of Idaho. … I think democracy would work a whole lot better if they could talk directly to the candidates. I very much hope that he will join me.”
Sali’s spokesman, Wayne Hoffman, said he hadn’t yet seen Minnick’s proposal. “Congressman Sali has held numerous town hall meetings up and down the district since last year, both in person and over the phone, and I’m sure he’s planning to conduct many more town hall meetings to interact with constituents,” Hoffman said.
Sali said this morning that he was “very pleased” with last night’s primary election results. “Any time you get 60 percent or better, it’s a good strong win,” he said. Minnick was unopposed in the Democratic primary, after two opponents dropped out earlier.
“We’re going to have a tough campaign for the fall, there’s no doubt about it,” Sali said. “I think our job is to let people know the differences between Walt Minnick and Bill Sali. … On just about everything important issue, Walt and I are just 180 degrees different from each other.”
Incumbent Idaho legislators who lost their seats in yesterday’s primary election were Rep. Diana Thomas, R-Weiser, an Otter appointee who lost to Judy Boyle; Rep. Curtis Bowers, R-Caldwell, another Otter appointee who lost to Pat Takasugi; Sen. Stan Bastian, R-Eagle, who lost to Chuck Winder; Rep. Mark Snodgrass, R-Meridian, who gave up his House seat to challenge Sen. Shirley McKague, R-Meridian, but lost 53 percent to 47 percent; and Rep. John Vander Woude, R-Nampa, who lost to Rich Jarvis. Former state Rep. Julie Ellsworth defeated Gail Hartnett for a shot at challenging Democratic Rep. Branden Durst; Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, easily fought off a challenge from former Coeur d’Alene school Superintendent David Rawls 70 percent to 30 percent; Rep. Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, held his seat with 38 percent of the vote against challengers Gary Bauer and Matt Beebe, who each received 31 percent, and Thayn will face Democrat Bob Solomon in November; and Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, survived a four-way primary to hold his seat with 44 percent of the vote.
When all the votes were finally counted, Idaho Supreme Court Justice Joel Horton held his seat by just 285 votes. In unofficial final results, Horton had 74,665 votes to challenger Judge John Bradbury’s 74,380. Horton told the AP, “I’m pleased though I’d hoped it wouldn’t be this close, obviously.” Bradbury, who campaigned on a judicial reform platform, said, “I hope it’s a wake up call for some officials.”
In other final, unofficial results from last night’s election, Ron Paul got 24 percent against John McCain’s 70 percent in the GOP presidential primary; Larry LaRocco defeated opponent David Archuleta 72 percent to 28 percent to become the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Larry Craig; Jim Risch took 65 percent on the GOP side of that contest, with Scott Syme trailing at 13 percent, Richard Phenneger at 5 percent and the other challengers with smaller figures; U.S. Rep. Bill Sali defeated GOP primary challenger Matt Salisbury 60 percent to 40 percent; and Debbie Holmes defeated David Sneddon 70 percent to 30 percent in the 2nd District Democratic primary for Congress, while incumbent Rep. Mike Simpson took 85 percent against two challengers in the GOP primary.
With 71 percent of the vote counted, it’s a virtual dead heat in the contested race for the Idaho Supreme Court. Both incumbent Justice Joel Horton and challenger Judge John Bradbury have 50 percent of the vote. But Horton has a tiny edge, with 52,970 votes to Bradbury’s 52,057 – just 913 votes separate the two.
With 36 percent of the vote counted in the GOP presidential primary in Idaho tonight, John McCain had 72 percent, but Ron Paul had 22 percent, while 6 percent of votes were for uncommitted delegates. Though the GOP nomination already has been decided and McCain is the presumptive nominee, the Idaho tally counts because it’s the basis for apportioning 80 percent of the state’s GOP delegates. Paul supporters have made Idaho one of their targeted states, hoping to influence both the state and national party and conventions.
Here’s a link to the Idaho Secretary of State’s unofficial election results site, which is being updated as the results come in.
Today is the day for Idaho’s primary election, with the ballot covering everything from the presidential race to local county commission and legislative contests to a contested non-partisan race for the Idaho Supreme Court. Polls are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and with turnout expected only around 30 percent of registered voters, every vote will count.
Ah, Memorial Day weekend. In Idaho it means military ceremonies, hikes and bike rides, the opening of fishing season on rivers and streams, three days off, the year’s first camping trip for some, and if the weather cooperates, a taste of the summer to come. But for Idahoans who are unpacking their gear, getting the kids back to school and returning to the groove of the work week on Tuesday after the three-day weekend, there’s something else that’s easy to overlook: It’s Election Day. Idaho’s primary election has been held on the fourth Tuesday in May since 1980, when it moved from its previous August date. That means that in 45 percent of election years, it falls on the day after the Memorial Day holiday. Who’s thinking politics on that often-hectic day? Typically, fewer than a third of the state’s registered voters.
“We hope we’re looking at about a 30 percent turnout of registered voters,” said Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa. “Which would be better than 2004, but not quite as high as 2000.” The last time Idaho’s primary election fell on the day after the holiday, in 2002, turnout actually was the second highest on record, at 33.6 percent. “Candidates and issues make turnout,” Ysursa said. “And it’s all relative. We don’t like our primaries to say we have good turnouts when we’re in the 30 percents, but that’s reality.” He said, “I’d just encourage the folks to get out and exercise their right, because there are important races.”
Below are some reasons to make sure and vote, whether it’s by casting a ballot in advance or going to the polls on the Tuesday after the holiday weekend. And you can click here for information on the 10 candidates facing off Tuesday for Idaho’s open U.S. Senate seat; click here to learn about the two candidates facing off in the GOP primary for the 1st District congressional seat; and click here to read about the two choices in the non-partisan race for the Idaho Supreme Court.
The 10 candidates for Idaho’s open U.S. Senate seat who face off in Tuesday’s election – eight Republicans and two Democrats – all were asked for their positions on the war in Iraq. Here is what they had to say:
Idaho Supreme Court Justice Joel Horton’s campaign finance report is in now, and it hints that much is in the works from his campaign in the final days. As of May 12, Horton’s campaign committee had raised more than $70,000, including a $10,000 loan from the candidate but also including an array of contributions from individuals, law firms and businesses. Since that reporting period ended, Horton also has put $30,000 of his own funds into the campaign. But as of May 11, he’d spent only $8,513.
IACI is stepping directly into campaigning this year, mounting independent expenditure campaigns on behalf of three incumbent Idaho lawmakers and one Senate challenger in the GOP primary election. The business lobbying group reported spending $2,640 on a mailing and advertising on behalf of Clayton Cramer of Horseshoe Bend, who’s challenging Sen. Tim Corder, R-Mountain Home; and $3,987 for a direct-mail piece and advertising supporting Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, and Reps. Cliff Bayer, R-Boise, and John Vander Woude, R-Nampa. The Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry is running the independent expenditure campaign through the newly renamed “IACI Business PAC.”
State Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna has named a 22-member task force to develop standards for evaluating teacher performance, following up after his pay-for-performance plan failed in this year’s Legislature. Luna said, “The work of this task force will be critical in improving the public education system in Idaho. We know the most important factor in a student’s academic success is the quality of the teacher in the classroom. Therefore, we must ensure that every Idaho student has a great teacher in the classroom, and that starts with making sure Idaho teachers receive fair and valid evaluations of their performance each year.” The group will meet monthly, starting this week, and come up with a proposal for the governor, Legislature and state Board of Education by year’s end.
The task force includes two school principals, three school board members, a charter school representative, a charter school teacher, three other teachers, two parents, business people, the president of the Idaho Education Association, the chairmen of the House and Senate education committees, Luna, one district school superintendent, and representatives from the colleges of education at LCSC and BYU-Idaho. Below is the full list of members.
Former Idaho Supreme Court Justice Robert Huntley says the school districts that sued the state and got Idaho’s funding system declared unconstitutional aren’t giving up yet – even though a federal judge has tossed out their lawsuit against five Idaho Supreme Court justices for taking no further action. “We are considering two additional alternatives to get our day in court,” Huntley said. “We’re pleased with the fact that Judge Winmill has indicated that if there’s an absolute denial of a right to a remedy phase, that such would appear to be a violation of the 14th Amendment.”
Jack Buell, longtime elected Democratic county commissioner in Benewah County, has signed on as a county co-chairman of Republican Congressman Bill Sali’s re-election campaign. The campaign says it’s a sign that Sali has bipartisan support, though they couldn’t name another Democratic supporter. Buell has a history of supporting conservative Republican candidates despite continually being elected as a Democrat. His sister-in-law Jeanne Buell, vice-chair of the Idaho Democratic Party and an Obama superdelegate, says, “If it was in some of your other counties, that county party would be having a fit.” Sali’s Democratic opponent, Walt Minnick, says party labels don’t matter in the race as much as issues; he used to be a Republican. You can read my full story here in the Spokesman-Review.
The two competing candidates for the Idaho Supreme Court clashed over everything from the state’s judicial selection process to political influence on the court, in a debate broadcast live tonight on Idaho Public Television. District Judge John Bradbury of Lewiston, the challenger, said, “It’s who you know to get an appointment” to state judicial positions, and suggested that’s why the court lacks diversity. Incumbent Justice Joel Horton responded, “That’s an absurd proposition,” and said the state Judicial Council focuses on “the merits and qualifications of the individuals.”
Horton was appointed to the court in September by Gov. Butch Otter after review by the council, and now is standing for election. Bradbury has called for an end to appointed judges running to succeed themselves, and wants all judgeships decided in open elections.
Horton said he’s the best qualified candidate because he’s been a judge three times as long as Bradbury, while Bradbury maintained he brings a “diverse life experience” to the court, including many years in private practice. Horton said other justices on the court have private practice backgrounds. Before becoming a lower court judge, Horton served as a deputy prosecutor.
The two also clashed over Idaho’s sentencing system, with Bradbury calling for guidelines to address extreme disparities in sentencing from one judge to another around the state, and Horton opposing any guidelines, saying, “It is essential that judges have discretion … because every case is different.”
Idaho Supreme Court candidates Joel Horton, incumbent, and John Bradbury, challenger, will face off in a debate to be broadcast live tonight on Idaho Public Television. The debate will air at 8:30 p.m. Mountain time, 7:30 Pacific time.
The federal court has issued an order advising the more than 300 potential jurors in the Joseph Duncan case that their term as potential jurors is being extended due to the delays in the case – the judge has ordered a second mental evaluation of the defendant – and that all prospective jurors are now asked to call in for instructions on June 23rd. Until then, the court order says, “Potential jurors are free to go about their business or vacations so long as they notify the Jury Administrator if they will be out of the area for more than two weeks. The Court apologizes for what may be a lengthy delay in this case. Your patience is much appreciated.”
The jurors originally were called for a term of service running only from April to May.
U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge announced today that even after receiving an evaluation of confessed killer Joseph Duncan’s mental competency, he’s not ready to rule on whether Duncan can act as his own attorney in his death penalty hearings until there’s further review.
In a press release, the court announced, “The court has, on its own motion … elected to seek a further mental competency evaluation of the defendant, which will necessitate an additional delay in these proceedings.”
The case has been on hold since April 22, when jury selection proceedings were halted so Duncan’s competency could be evaluated. A competency evaluation was completed by a Boise clinical psychologist and submitted to the court under seal. But Lodge now wants more.
Duncan has admitted murdering three members of the Groene family at their North Idaho home in 2005 in order to kidnap the family’s two youngest children, whom he then held captive and repeatedly abused before killing one, 9-year-old Dylan. The only survivor of the attack on the family was then-8-year-old Shasta Groene, who was rescued after being spotted with Duncan at a Coeur d’Alene Denny’s restaurant seven weeks after her ordeal began.
Duncan has pleaded guilty to all charges in a 10-count federal indictment, several of which carry the death penalty. The current hearings are to determine whether his sentence will be death, or life in prison without the possibility of release.
Idaho’s May 27 election is not just the primary election – it’s also the final say on the non-partisan contest for the Idaho Supreme Court. Two seats on the high court are up for a vote this year, and one is a contested race, between recently appointed Justice Joel Horton and court-reform advocate and state District Judge John Bradbury of Lewiston. Recent appointee Justice Warren Jones is running unopposed. Below is a look at the two candidates in the contested race.
The Idaho Republican Party’s lawsuit against the state of Idaho seeking to close the state’s primary elections has been sitting in federal court for a month, but the state hasn’t responded. The reason? They’ve never been served with the lawsuit. “As best as I can determine, we have not been served with that lawsuit,” said Bob Cooper, spokesman for the Idaho Attorney General’s office. “When you’re named in a lawsuit, the court activity doesn’t begin, you have to serve the complaint upon the respondent.” That hasn’t occurred, he said.
Rod Beck, the party activist who earlier tried to file a similar lawsuit along with dozens of dissident party members, said, “It means they’ve filed a lawsuit but they don’t have any intent to pursue it.” He said his group is planning to file a 10-day notice today to intervene in the case.
Sid Smith, Idaho GOP executive director, wasn’t aware of the issue. “I am very much a novice in the world of legal proceedings, so I’m sure that our attorney probably has a solid reason, but I don’t know what that might be,” he said. As far as not pursuing the lawsuit, Smith said, “That certainly isn’t the case. We’re doing our due diligence to follow the rules of the party and the lawsuit is what they call for. I really don’t know why, what the reasons may be for the delay, or if it is considered a delay.”
Idaho Sen. Larry Craig’s retirement has prompted something of a ballot rush, with eight Republicans, two Democrats, two independents and a Libertarian vying for the chance to replace Craig in the U.S. Senate.
Idaho’s primary election is May 27, but many voters – particularly in Kootenai County – already are sitting down to mark their absentee ballots and mail them in before the polls open. Below is a look at who’s on the crowded Republican ballot and the two-way Democratic ticket.
Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden today announced an agreement between Facebook and Idaho, along with 48 other states and the District of Columbia, to provide new safeguards to protect children on the popular social networking site from sexual predators and inappropriate content. “I look forward to working with Facebook on developing industry-wide practices to ensure a safe online environment for children,” Wasden said, adding that the agreement – similar to one reached earlier with MySpace – will result in “deterring and prosecuting criminals who misuse the Internet to prey upon children.” Click below to read Wasden’s full press release.
The Idaho Republican Party has issued a press release criticizing Democratic congressional candidate Walt Minnick’s campaign event today, at which Minnick made up the difference to allow motorists to buy gas at a Boise Chevron station for $2.26 a gallon, instead of the posted $3.59. “This was a clever way to generate publicity for his campaign, but it does nothing to bring down the price of gas,” said GOP Executive Director Sid Smith. “Republicans in Congress, including Idaho’s Congressional delegation, have been working for real, comprehensive solutions to address the root of our energy problems.” Smith said that should include increasing oil supplies through domestic drilling and more refineries; click below to read the full GOP press release.
Meanwhile, Minnick reported that about 350 vehicles came through his gas sale in about 90 minutes – those who were in line when the hour-long sale ended still were allowed to fill up – and the motorists purchased 3,230 gallons of fuel and saved $4,259. The campaign said in a press release, “The event cost the Minnick campaign slightly more than it cost a political action committee to buy just four tickets to today’s Bill Sali fundraiser in Washington, D.C.” Sali’s fundraiser was with representatives of the oil and gas industry.
In response to Democratic challenger Walt Minnick’s wildly popular discount-gas campaign event today, GOP Rep. Bill Sali’s spokesman, Wayne Hoffman, said, “It sounds to me as if he (Minnick) has signed on to the same energy policy Democrats have adopted, which has resulted in the high gas prices we’re experiencing.” Minnick had criticized Sali for voting against three bills this year that Minnick said offered “real solutions” to the problem, including HR 6, which Minnick said “ended the egregious, lavish tax breaks heaped on ‘big oil.’” Hoffman disagreed. “If you read those bills, there are billions of dollars in new taxes contained in the legislation, taxes on energy producers. That’s not going to lower gas prices,” he said. Hoffman said, “Radical environmentalists and left-wing Democrats are directly responsible for the high gas prices we are experiencing today.”
As to why Sali was holding a luncheon fundraiser with the oil and gas industry today, Hoffman said, “They are business people, and Congressman Sali has an excellent voting record in supporting businesses big and small. He understands that raising taxes on businesses is not going to result in lower gas prices.”
Idaho Sen. Larry Craig joined officials from the French company Areva today to announce that the firm has chosen eastern Idaho as the location for its next uranium enrichment plant. Craig called Areva “a world-class nuclear company,” and said, “It is a phenomenal opportunity for Idaho to play host to and partner with the potential that this company brings to the state.” Idaho lawmakers this year scrambled to enact big tax incentives designed to woo the firm, which also was considering Washington, Ohio, Texas and New Mexico for the $2 billion uranium enrichment plant, the first the company will build in the United States. The company expects to begin construction by 2011.
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Larry LaRocco’s campaign headquarters in Boise was broken into over the weekend, but apparently nothing was stolen. The campaign reported that Boise Police are investigating the break-in, which occurred mid-day, just past noon on Saturday. “We will not know whether this was a politically motivated break-in or just a random act of senseless violence until the Boise police conclude their investigation,” said Bob Stout, campaign manager. “We would like to thank the police for their prompt and professional work.” The break-in caused $200 in damage to the office’s front door and frame. The campaign office is the only office in the building, which is festooned with LaRocco for Senate campaign signs.
Two years ago, Idaho Lt. Gov. Jim Risch demanded that he be able to appear alone on the “Idaho Debates,” sponsored by the League of Women Voters, Idaho Press Club and Idaho Public Television, answer questions, and then leave the studio before his opponent appeared. When the debate sponsors refused, Risch skipped the traditional debate and appeared only on one sponsored by a Boise TV station with a more controlled format. Now, he’s doing the same in his run for the U.S. Senate. The crowded GOP primary race is scheduled to be featured on the Idaho Debates on May 22; it’ll go on without Risch.
In a press release, Risch said, “We have an excellent group of candidates seeking the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate. I look forward to a positive and constructive discussion of the important issues facing Idaho and America today. The KTVB format has proven to be the best format for undecided voters to judge the candidates’ positions on issues.” In letter to the League of Women Voters, Risch’s campaign spokesman, his son Jason, criticized the Idaho Debates for allowing “cross talk” among the candidates.
The Idaho Debates sponsors issued the following statement:
“We are obviously disappointed; we believe our format is an actual debate, one that benefits Idaho voters interested in seeing the candidates, a format that’s been tested and has worked over many decades in both primaries and general elections. Despite Mr. Risch’s refusal to participate, our debate will be held as scheduled. It will air live, statewide, on Thursday May 22 at 8 p.m. Mountain time, 7 p.m. Pacific.”
Full disclosure here: I’m the president of the Idaho Press Club, which has been one of the three sponsors of the Idaho Debates for the past four decades (since long before my tenure). Last week, when I interviewed Risch about his campaign for the U.S. Senate, he told me he’d always debate his political opponents, but that his idea of a debate is that a question is asked by a third party, each candidate responds separately, and then they move on to the next question. “I want to make sure that you explain this to your readers, that I am running a positive campaign,” Risch said. “I am not running a campaign where I’m going to engage in responding to allegations from someone else. … I don’t do that.”
Incidentally, American Ecology Corp., the company bringing the contaminated sand from Kuwait to Idaho, also employs a prominent Boise lobbyist to represent the firm in the Idaho Legislature, Roy Eiguren.
A major annual study of “entrepreneurial activity rates” has Idaho tied for first place as the most entrepreneurial state in the nation. Idaho shares the top honors with the District of Columbia and Arizona, and is followed by second-ranked Tennessee and Louisiana. Ranking the lowest were West Virginia, Alabama, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Ohio. The index measures the percentage of the adult population that created a new business each month, and was developed by Robert Fairlie, a professor of economics and the director of the master’s program in applied economics and finance at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Known as the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity, it’s been calculated each year since 1996 and includes extensive demographic research about who tends to start new businesses and who doesn’t. You can read the full report here.
How is it that 6,700 tons of sand contaminated with depleted uranium and lead – 80 rail cars worth – is coming all the way from Kuwait to Idaho, destined for a hazardous waste dump 70 miles southeast of Boise? The AP reports that American Ecology Corp., operator of the dump, has previously disposed of low-level radioactive waste and hazardous materials from U.S. military bases overseas at facilities in Idaho, Nevada and Texas, according to American Ecology spokesman Chad Hyslop, who is based in Boise.
“As you can imagine, the host countries of those bases don’t want the waste in their country,” Hyslop told the AP. The sand is coming from Camp Doha, a U.S. Army base in Kuwait, where it was contaminated after military vehicles and munitions caught fire during the first Iraq war. Click below to read the full AP story by reporter Jessie Bonner.
Idaho U.S. Senate candidate Richard Phenneger of Post Falls says he’s loaned his campaign “almost $100,000,” but his fundraising is picking up and he’s starting to pay off the loan. He financed his campaign “with a lot of my own money to start with on it,” Phenneger told Eye on Boise. “But I think a lot of that’s going to get replaced.” As of the last campaign finance report, which covered the period from Jan. 1 to March 31, Phenneger, a Republican, had reported $9,675 in individual contributions and $29,770 in loans of his own funds, but he said he added to that in April.
He isn’t the only one in the race for the seat now held by Sen. Larry Craig to draw on his own funds. Republican Jim Risch loaned his campaign $380,000, plus reported $456,859 in individual contributions and $291,900 in PAC contributions for a cash-on-hand total at the close of the period of $935,876. And independent candidate Rex Rammell, who initially announced as a Republican, reported loaning his campaign $140,000 from Jan. 1 to March 31, in addition to receiving $7,802 in individual contributions.
Democratic candidate Larry Larocco didn’t put in any of his own funds, but reported receiving $281,389 in individual contributions during the period plus $125,419 in PAC contributions. The only other candidates in the race to file campaign finance reports were Republicans Scott Syme, who reported no contributions in the period but spent $36,435, and Neal Thompson, who reported a single $1,000 contribution from a McCall resident and put in $200 of his own funds.