Has Gov. Butch Otter changed his stand on repeal of the 17th Amendment? Today during a campaign debate before an audience of more than 400, Otter was asked by moderator Jim Weatherby, posing an audience-submitted question, “Governor, where do you stand on the 17th Amendment? You’ve implied your support for repeal. Simple question: Do you want Idahoans to elect our U.S. senators?” Otter responded, “I want Idahoans to elect our U.S. senators.” The 17th Amendment shifted selection of U.S. senators from state Legislatures to a vote of the people, and repealing it is a plank in Idaho’s Republican Party platform. Otter added, “I have said time and time again, and I’ll say again, my focus is on the 10th Amendment. I do not believe you’re going to repeal the 17th Amendment, and have spent no time on repealing the 17th Amendment. That was a decision, and a very populist decision that was made in the early 20th Century, and I believe that decision is one that is going to stand no matter who wants the 17th Amendment repealed.”
But when he was the keynote speaker at the Spokane Tea Party rally in Spokane on April 15, Otter was sharply critical of the 17th Amendment. There, he told a cheering crowd, “All of the amendments to the Constitution in one form or another, some of ‘em I have a serious objection with, like the 17th Amendment, the direct election of United States senators. You know, that was the first big loss we had in states’ rights.” Since then, he’s been non-committal in his comments about the issue, saying he understands concerns about electing senators by popular vote rather than having legislatures choose them, but didn’t think the issue was likely to be addressed. Backers of repeal contend it would increase states’ rights by giving state legislatures a more formal say in the federal government.
Otter’s campaign spokesman, Ryan Panitz, said Monday afternoon that Otter “has always disagreed with the 17th Amendment but from a practical stance, repealing it isn’t going to happen.” Otter’s Democratic challenger, Keith Allred, responded during today’s debate, “This is what you see with career politicians, the flipping and flopping back and forth depending on their audience. I have been consistent and clear. Idahoans can, should elect their own senator.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.