Randy Jensen, a middle school principal from American Falls and one of the four Republicans vying for the GOP nomination for state schools superintendent, has a rather unusual campaign message for folks on this day-before-tax-day: Don’t donate to my campaign, donate to your local schools instead. “Hopefully people will look at this and say, ‘This is the kind of superintendent we’d like, one that wants to put money toward kids and not spend money on campaign stuff,” Jensen said.
He’s not turning away all campaign donations. “If somebody sends me a check, I’m not going to rip it up,” he said. But he’s decided he doesn’t need a lot of campaign funding, and will be reaching out to voters personally and electronically, while encouraging potential donors to take into account Idaho’s generous tax credit for donations to schools.
“In Idaho, if you donate $500, you immediately get a $250 tax credit,” Jensen said. “So that means the most you can pay is $250. But then if you itemize, you save about $160, depending on your tax bracket. So it costs you just about $90.” Jensen said schools can end up with more than five times as much money if people donate to them instead of candidates. “If I wanted to send a mailer out to the 100,000 people that voted in the last three Republican primaries, that mailer would cost $30,000,” he said. “I would rather have $150,000 go to schools.”
Jensen said he’s meeting this afternoon with four major corporations in his area, and he’s hoping to talk each of them into, instead of donating $1,000 to his campaign, donating $5,000 to schools. “I could generate $4,000 for my election – hopefully instead I can generate $20,000 for a program at a school,” he said. Jensen said even if he doesn’t win his race, his purpose is to help schools. “What most people don’t realize is they can donate $500 to a school and their out-of-pocket expense is typically going to be less than $100.”
He faces John Eynon, Andy Grover, and Sherri Ybarra in the May GOP primary; the victor will face Democrat Jana Jones in November.