Keith Allred has sent a long, heartfelt letter to the 1,500-plus members of The Common Interest, the good-government citizens group he founded, explaining why he's decided to run for governor. In the letter, he says he initially wasn't inclined to run, "because the vision that I'm so passionate about is so non-partisan, my strong inclination was that this was not the right path." However, he said Democratic Party official Betty Richardson told him the party expected him to "campaign and govern just as I had led The Common Interest. She said that it was that work that attracted the party to me as a candidate and that they didn't want me to change that. Rather, she said, the party wanted to embrace that approach. Honestly, this was a surprise to me."
Allred said in later discussions, "party leader after party leader expressed great respect for what we have accomplished at The Common Interest and genuine enthusiasm for me campaigning and governing that way."
Allred announced the formation of the group in February of 2005, joined by former Sen. Marguerite McLaughlin, D-Orofino, and former Sen. Laird Noh, R-Kimberly. The group, they said, was designed to counter a trend that saw politicians getting more and more extreme and polarized at both ends of the political spectrum, while regular citizens were actually getting more moderate, creating a disconnect between voters and their elected representatives. The group promised to reconnect voters; it asked prospective members for no membership fees, but instead to commit to voting in the primary and general elections and giving an hour of their time to research an issue.
After reviewing the members' research, the group voted on its most important issues, and when there was a strong majority, the group took positions and Allred lobbied for them in the Legislature. He had notable successes, including enactment of his proposal to tie the homeowner's exemption from property taxes to ups and downs in the real estate market. The Common Interest also worked for election reform, open meetings, and fairness to both motorists and truckers in state transportation policy; it was Allred who, while researching transportation legislation, discovered a $10 million calculation error in one of Gov. Butch Otter's main bills last year and alerted the administration. The bill never ended up passing. Last year, the group backed an increase in beer and wine taxes to fund substance abuse treatment, but the bill died after heavy lobbying from opponents including the beer and wine industry, restaurants and retailers.
Click below to read Allred's full letter to Common Interest members.
From: Keith Allred
Sent: Thursday, December 10, 2009 11:15 AM
Subject: BIG NEWS!!
THE COMMON INTEREST
Government by the People
December 10, 2009
I have major news to share
with you. I'm running for Governor.
The fundamental motivation driving this decision is to amplify the efforts
we've been making together over the last five years to put practical
solutions ahead of special interest and partisan politics.
In conjunction with our fifth anniversary, as you know, I've been working
on our vision for the future. With our board of directors, I arrived
at the following vision in October.
COMMON INTEREST'S VISION
be a potent and respected force for putting practical solutions ahead of
special interest and partisan politics in all 50 states and at the federal
level by 2026, our nation's 250th anniversary.
Since that time, I've been
doing more detailed strategic planning for how we realize this bold
vision. I saw credible paths by which we could get there that I was
excited to pursue, but it was clear that it would be a significant
challenge. The 5th Anniversary videos we've been producing are about
putting us on this exciting path.
A New Path for Advancing Our Bold Vision Presents Itself
A few weeks ago, Betty Richardson asked if she could have a conversation
with Christine and me about running for governor. Because Betty
chairs the committee charged with recruiting the Democratic party's
candidate for governor, and because the vision that I'm so passionate about
is so non-partisan, my strong inclination was that this was not the right
path. Christine and I agreed that we would have an initial
conversation with her but only with the clear understanding that our heavy
presumption was that we would say no.
My intention was to raise the most fundamental reason for not running at
the very beginning of that conversation. Before I could do that,
Betty started by saying that she understood what she was asking and why we
would be strongly inclined to say no. She assured us that her
expectation was that I would campaign and govern just as I had led The
Common Interest. She said that it was that work that attracted the
party to me as a candidate and that they didn't want me to change
that. Rather, she said, the party wanted to embrace that
Honestly, this was a surprise to me. When Dan Popkey was doing his
piece on us for the Idaho Statesman in 2006, he asked me if I had any
interest in running for office. I told him that the core motivation
that drives me is the independent-minded pursuit of putting practical
solutions ahead special interest and partisan politics. I explained
to Dan that I could see no way that either party would embrace such a
candidacy and that I saw no realistic way to run as an independent.
If there were a way to run and win with my approach, I said, I would
certainly be interested.
The conversation with Betty began to change that core assumption about why
my independent-minded approach was not viable in elective politics. Christine
and I deliberated and prayed for several days about whether we should
seriously consider what Betty was suggesting. We concluded that it
would be worth having additional conversations with Democratic party
leaders to see if they felt about my potential candidacy the way Betty
did. A string of many remarkable conversations followed in which
party leader after party leader expressed great respect for what we have
accomplished at The Common Interest and genuine enthusiasm for me
campaigning and governing that way.
Why I've Chosen this New Path
Upon further reflection, it became clear to me and Christine
that becoming governor on these terms would be a remarkable way of
demonstrating not only to Idahoans but also to all Americans that there is
a better way to lead in our system of government. We realized that it
would be the most powerful route available to advance the vision of making
The Common Interest a potent force in all 50 states and at the federal
level by the time of our nation's 250th anniversary.
Let me be clear that when I say that I would govern as I have led The
Common Interest, I mean that quite literally. Let me illustrate what
I mean with a concrete example. A few years ago, our membership
overwhelmingly endorsed the idea that we take a comprehensive and proactive
look at all the tax breaks in Idaho Code. The idea was to investigate
whether we could close many of those tax breaks in order to reduce
substantially the tax rate that all of us pay.
Imagine doing this same work together with me in the governor's
office. I would convene a task force to examine the pros and cons of
each tax break, drawing on the substantial work done on this by previous
task forces and interim committees. That work would be captured in
policy briefs just like those that The Common Interest currently
produces. When we had broad consensus that we had fairly captured the
issues, I would ask a random sample of thousands of registered voters to
review the brief and weigh in. I would then advocate energetically
for those measures supported by a large majority Idahoans, including
Republicans, Democrats, and independents.
Following The Common Interest approach in this way would not only give us a
reliable means of identifying the measures that are genuinely in The Common
Interest. It would also be a powerful means by which we could advance
those policies in the Legislature. Imagine the possibilities of a
governor joining with the hundreds of citizens in each legislative district
who had weighed in on a particular measure to pass such legislation.
Proposals identified and passed in such a way could be a powerful force for
making ours truly a system by and for the people. Think of the tax
break example. Particularly in our current economic climate with the
highest unemployment in decades, there are few ways that state government
could more effectively spur the generation of new jobs. The evidence
is overwhelming that the vast majority of new jobs and economic growth is
generated by small business. Yet it is not Idaho's many small
business owners who seek tax breaks. They don't have the time or
wherewithal to pursue them in our complicated system; other powerful
interests do even though they don't produce nearly as many new jobs as
small businesses. When the legislature passes these tax breaks it
substitutes its judgment about tomorrow's winners in our economy for the
market's judgment. Consequently, we routinely saddle the portion of
the economy that produces more jobs with a heavier tax burden in order to
lighten the burden on powerful interests that produce fewer jobs.
Together, we could rewrite this old story of the government doing the
bidding of special interests. Imagine that together we overcame
special interest influence to close tax breaks so that we could
substantially cut the taxes that all of us pay. The result would be
tax fairness and vigorous job creation by an unbridled small business
I have to tell you that my blood begins pumping even as I write these words
to you. And that's just the single example of applying our approach
to tax policy. My excitement surges to new heights as I think about
taking this same approach in other areas. For example, imagine a
similar process to identify the most cost effective means by which we could
improve K-12 education in our state.
As exciting as the prospects are for identifying and passing practical
solutions that advance Idahoans' common interests, however, I get truly
charged about demonstrating to the good citizens of our state and our
nation how, together, we can realize the full potential of the remarkable
system of government by the people that our Founding Fathers deeded to
us. James Madison powerfully articulated in Federalist #10 and #51
the main reason our constitution established separation of powers and
checks and balances. Madison explains that they structured our system
this way because it would mean that measures that were able to attract
broad support across partisan and special interest lines will have a better
chance of prevailing in this complicated system than those measures that
draw narrow support because they are not in the common interest.
There are important additional details to share with you about what this
means for The Common Interest organization in the future. I will
share those with you in additional e-mails in the near future.
Today, I am filing the initial papers paving the way for my
candidacy. Within a few weeks there will be a formal announcement.
For now, I wanted to share this news with you first. Although I
didn't anticipate this new path, it is the work that you and I have done
together through The Common Interest that has brought me to this
point. Ours is a relationship that I have cherished. Most of
all, I wanted you to be the first to know that I've decided to run for
governor because it is the most powerful means by which I can work with you
and all Idahoans to realize the full promise of the inspired founding of
our remarkable nation.
I hope that you'll share with me your thoughts and advice about this
The Common Interest