Posts tagged: 2014 Idaho election
A.J. Balukoff, Democratic candidate for governor of Idaho, has sent a letter to the board of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, the business lobbying group whose PAC has launched an attack campaign against him including a website dubbed “LiberalAJ.com,” asking the business leaders to take down the website. Balukoff wrote, “This website is filled with lies and gross misrepresentations in a transparent attempt to mislead voters. It demonstrates an appalling lack of integrity.” He cited the Rotary Club’s “four-way test,” saying he uses it as an “ethical guide.” The test asks: “Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?”
Mike Reynoldson, IACI board member, immediate past chairman of the board and director of government affairs for Micron Technology, said he stands by the “LiberalAJ” website. Asked his reaction to Balukoff’s letter, Reynoldson said, “First-time candidate who maybe isn’t all that used to the political process. Obviously he’s upset that the website points out his positions, and so he’s trying to detract from that by making this request.”
Reynoldson said many of the “LiberalAJ” site’s claims point back to information Balukoff had posted on his own campaign website. For example, under the heading “Embracing Obamacare,” the site states, “A.J. supports Obamacare and its disastrous policies saying, ‘rather than calling for its repeal, I would prefer to work with it.’ Idahoans know that a federal government ‘solution’ isn’t what we need. We can’t afford a governor who embraces Obama and his failed healthcare policies. SOURCE: AJforIdaho.com/faq.” Next to the item is a picture of Balukoff with a picture of Obama super-imposed next to him.
Balukoff’s list of 23 “frequently asked questions” on his website includes, “What do you think about the Affordable Care Act?” His response, in part, says, “The Affordable Care Act is far from perfect, and it is not what I would have recommended. But rather than calling for its repeal, I would prefer to work with it and try to amend the parts of the law that are problematic. The problems in the law could be resolved through cooperation and compromise. Small businesses with few employees have a difficult time providing affordable health insurance for their employees, especially when one or two employees have a history of medical problems. The insurance premiums are high because the risk pool is small. This problem is fixed by the employees joining a larger risk pool, which is exactly what the state’s existing health insurance exchange provides—the opportunity to join a larger risk pool in an Idaho-run health insurance exchange rather than the federal exchange.”
Both IACI and GOP Gov. Butch Otter, whom Balukoff is challenging, supported the state-run insurance exchange, which Otter championed. But Reynoldson said, “His position and IACI’s position are different.”
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) — The Constitution Party of Idaho has rejected its gubernatorial candidate. The Lewiston Tribune reports (http://bit.ly/1kBzsTb) in a story on Wednesday that delegates at the party's recent state convention in Cascade voted against endorsing Steve Pankey for governor. The 63-year-old Pankey describes himself as celibate, a born-again Christian, and Idaho's first openly gay gubernatorial candidate. Constitution Party Chairman Floyd Whitley says Pankey's advocacy for same-sex marriage goes against party beliefs. Pankey in May wrote a letter to Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden urging him to accept a federal court ruling that overturned Idaho's ban on same-sex marriage. The Idaho Secretary of State's Office says Pankey will remain on the November ballot as a Constitution Party candidate because there are no statutory provisions for kicking someone out of a party.
Click below for a full report from the AP and the Lewiston Tribune.
The Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, a lobbying group that represents the state’s largest businesses, announced today that its political action committee, the Idaho Prosperity Fund, is launching an independent campaign against A.J. Balukoff, the Democratic candidate for governor. “A.J. Balukoff wants Idahoans to think he’s some kind of level-headed moderate,” said Alex LaBeau, IACI chief. He said his group will seek to counter that impression and tie Balukoff to Democratic President Barack Obama, drawing on everything from Balukoff’s voting record as a Boise school board member to his campaign website.
“As the voice for a strong and vibrant economy in Idaho, the Prosperity Fund believes it’s a critical part of our mission to inform voters about the true positions of someone running for our highest office,” LaBeau said. He said the campaign will include television, direct mail, social media and more, and will be centered around a new website dubbed “LiberalAJ.com.”
Asked why his group decided to launch the effort, LaBeau said, “We wanted to make sure that there wasn’t just one side of the issue getting out there. We wanted to make sure that people understood there are two sides to this campaign.”
Balukoff is challenging GOP Gov. Butch Otter, who is seeking a third term; former Canyon County prosecutor John Bujak also is in the race, running as a Libertarian. The ballot also includes independents Jill Humble and “Pro-Life,” and Constitution Party candidate Steve Pankey.
A.J. Balukoff, the Democratic candidate for governor, has sent a guest opinion out to Idaho news media laying out his vision for improving the state’s economy. “Under the state’s current leadership, our economy has plummeted,” he writes. “Today, Idaho’s families work harder for less.”
Balukoff calls for more funding for both K-12 and higher education; targeted help for existing businesses, including infrastructure improvements; and “building a better Idaho brand,” on which he writes, “My opponent has perpetrated the stereotype that Idaho is a backwater haven for political extremists. His divisive policies have driven Idaho to the bottom economically. Inadequate education investment and a national media spotlight on our foibles are bad for business. A governor should know that.”
Balukoff’s full piece is online here; I’m awaiting response from Otter’s campaign. (UPDATE: Otter's campaign said Wednesday that it would have no response.)
Shoppers at the Albertson’s store at 16th and State streets reported an unusual sight this morning – Gov. Butch Otter and a crew apparently filming a campaign commercial, doing multiple takes. Otter campaign spokeswoman Kaycee Emery confirmed that’s what was happening. “We’re currently in production,” she said. “I can’t really discuss the details, but we have been to a variety of locations and we’ll continue to utilize a variety of locations across the valley.” The date that Otter’s new campaign spot will begin airing hasn’t yet been finalized, she said.
Meanwhile, the GOP governor’s Democratic challenger, A.J. Balukoff, has had his own TV campaign commercial up and running for more than a month now; it starts airing in the Spokane television market tomorrow.
Unsuccessful GOP state school superintendent hopeful Randy Jensen, who placed second in the four-way GOP primary, falling to Sherri Ybarra, says he never authorized Ybarra to list him as a member of her campaign team, nor has he endorsed either candidate in the general-election race between Ybarra and Democrat Jana Jones. Clark Corbin, reporter for Idaho Education News, reports today that Ybarra had Jensen listed as part of her five-member “campaign committee” on her website.
Jensen told Corbin, “I never intended my name to be on anyone’s website or endorsement list. I told Jones the same thing.” Corbin reports that Jensen said he talked with Ybarra and she agreed to remove his name from her website; however, as of mid-day today, it remained listed there under “Meet the Sherri Ybarra Campaign Team.” You can read Corbin’s full report here.
The first campaign commercial of Idaho’s governor’s race is out, and it’s from GOP Gov. Butch Otter’s Democratic challenger, millionaire businessman A.J. Balukoff. “Tired of business as usual in Boise? Then take a look at A.J. Balukoff, a successful businessman who’s created jobs by bringing people together to get things done,” the ad begins.
“It’s a good positive ad introducing himself to the people of Idaho, in terms of his background and that he’ll run on a change platform,” said Jim Weatherby, Boise State University emeritus professor and longtime observer of Idaho politics. “We don’t know exactly what he will do, but he needs to introduce himself. He’s not well-known outside the Boise valley.” You can read my full ad-watch story here at spokesman.com, and watch the commercial here.
A.J. Balukoff, Democratic candidate for governor, is criticizing GOP Gov. Butch Otter for destroying 22 of the 37 applications for two recent openings on the state Board of Education, saying Otter isn’t following through with his pledge to emphasize openness in government, made when he appointed a state public records ombudsman in his office this spring. However, in his statement, he mixes up the Idaho Public Records Law and the state Constitution. “That was my error,” said Mike Lanza, communications director for Balukoff’s campaign; he said a corrected statement is in the works. “We’re talking about the law here,” Lanza said. (Update: A corrected statement was posted within an hour.)
Balukoff said, “Gov. Otter made a great show of this appointment, which followed a request from newspaper publishers for better government compliance with the freedom of information and public-records laws. The Otter administration’s handling of this episode raises two questions: How committed is the governor to obeying state open-records law? And why would his administration conceal from us some applicants for a high-profile state board?”
Balukoff also charged that Otter’s move violated the state Constitution, incorrectly attributing a passage from the Public Records Act to the Idaho Constitution. “The public has the constitutional right to know who’s seeking positions in government, and there was no legitimate reason to have destroyed those records,” he said.
Otter’s public records ombudsman, Cally Younger, told Idaho Education News that the applications were destroyed because they contained personal information; the news outlet had requested all the applications. But those that weren’t destroyed, and were released, also contained personal information such as driver’s license numbers; it was redacted, or blacked out, in the released versions.
Lanza said, “The language is pretty darn clear in that statute – it seems to be clear to us, anyway, as to what the government should be doing.” Balukoff’s full statement is online here.
In his 16 years as Idaho’s state treasurer, Ron Crane has built up the state’s credit rating, launched a popular college savings program and a free annual control-your-finances conference for women, and helped create a bond bank that lets local school bonds and other local-government debt take advantage of the state’s favorable interest rates, potentially saving property taxpayers millions. But he’s best known for a series of critical state audit findings over the past five years, the most recent suggesting that Crane made an inappropriate transfer between two funds that cost the state’s taxpayers more than $10 million.
Crane vigorously disputes the audit finding, contending his office did nothing wrong and made reasonable decisions based on what it knew at the time. “As to the charges of the audit, I maintain and will maintain that they were politically motivated,” Crane said in an interview. “We think there’s an excellent explanation for each one. When voters understand what the real explanation is, they will agree with our position.”
The audit findings have prompted a longtime Twin Falls CPA, Deborah Silver, to challenge Crane in this year’s general election. “I would absolutely follow the auditors’ suggestions, no argument, no excuses,” said Silver, a Democrat who taught accounting at the College of Southern Idaho for five years and has operated a CPA firm with her husband in Twin Falls for nearly three decades. “This is a job that I can do.”
The Spokesman-Review asked David Burgstahler, the Julius A. Roller Professor of Accounting at the University of Washington, to review the audit finding about the fund transfer and Crane’s detailed response. “I found the auditor’s conclusions pretty convincing,” Burgstahler said. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
A.J. Balukoff, the Democratic candidate for governor of Idaho, is matching contributions to his campaign by putting in $3 for every $1 donated this month, Idaho Statesman political columnist Dan Popkey reports today. Balukoff’s pledge is credible because the multimillionaire businessman can afford it – and he said when he announced his candidacy against two-term GOP Gov. Butch Otter that he was willing to dip into his own funds to help finance his campaign.
“I know that pay-to-pay politics will put my opponent at a financial advantage, but I was surprised to find out how slanted it is,” Popkey reported Balukoff said in a fundraising pitch sent out to supporters this week, headed, “Jump in July: TRIPLE MATCH!” Balukoff told Popkey, “I think it’s important that this race be competitive and that we talk about issues. People pay attention when they realize there’s a viable alternative to Gov. Otter.” Popkey’s full report is online here.
Former Canyon County prosecutor John Bujak says he thinks he can win his Libertarian bid for governor of Idaho, and told Idaho Statesman columnist Dan Popkey today, “I represented myself through five criminal trials in the last three years. The establishment didn’t expect me to win, but I did thanks to the voice of the people who served on my juries. The establishment doesn’t expect me to win the governor’s race either. Come November, I guess we will see what the people of Idaho have to say about that.”
Bujak, formerly a Republican, was charged with fraud and theft, but was acquitted three times and juries were unable to reach a verdict two other times. Popkey suggested if Bujak runs strong as a third-party candidate, his run could tip a close race to Democratic challenger A.J. Balukoff over two-term incumbent GOP Gov. Butch Otter.
Bujak responded that he’s not in it as a “spoiler,” but listed factors he said will help him draw votes, including that nearly 60 percent of Idaho voters aren’t affiliated with either party; the “large number of disenfranchised Millennials and Gen X’ers who have not traditionally registered to vote because they have no hope that their vote will make a difference based upon the choices at the polls;” and “the fact that the Republican party in Idaho is currently imploding. How can the Republicans lead Idaho if they cannot even organize and lead their own political party?” You can read Popkey’s full post here.
A week after this year’s primary election, Idaho Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, did something rather unusual: He made a $300 donation to his GOP primary opponent’s campaign. That made Hill the biggest donor to challenger Scott Smith’s campaign other than Smith himself.
Hill, a seventh-term senator and retired CPA, defeated Smith 77.1 percent to 22.9 percent in the primary. Smith raised $1,484 for his campaign, including more than $600 of his own money. Hill raised $45,283 in campaign funds since Jan. 1, spent $24,630, and has $35,531 in his campaign fund; his expenditures included multiple contributions to other GOP campaigns.
“It’s no big deal – I felt like he ran a good campaign,” Hill said of his donation to Smith. “He stayed on the issues. We disagreed on some issues, but he stayed away from attacking characters and integrity.” Hill said after the election, he noticed that Smith had some campaign debt. “I said, well, I can’t take care of all your debt but I’d just like to help if that’s OK, and he said that was great,” Hill said. “He’s just a good guy, he’s a very nice guy.”
He added, “I probably wouldn’t have felt that way if he’d run a mean-spirited campaign, but he didn’t. We went to candidate forums. We definitely had differing opinions on things like the health insurance exchange. … I just thought he did a good campaign, and I believe in the political process. I think competition is good in this regard. It brings the issues to a higher level. People listen to them more than if they’re only hearing one side.”
In addition to the official statement Gov. Butch Otter sent out yesterday lauding the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, Otter also sent out another rather different statement from his campaign – sharply attacking his Democratic opponent, A.J. Balukoff, and suggesting Balukoff “would happily go along with Obama’s attempts to repress religious freedom and individual rights.”
Today, Balukoff responded, saying, “By misrepresenting my views, Otter makes one point very clear: He knows he will lose if he tries to run on his own, terrible record.” Click below to read both the Otter campaign statement and Balukoff’s response.
Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, who is running against 1st District GOP Congressman Raul Labrador, had this statement today on the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, which Labrador praised:
“Today’s Supreme Court decision in Hobby Lobby is extremely disturbing. The message to women from the majority on the court is that their boss can have a say in their personal family planning decisions. Today’s decision allows corporations to deny contraception coverage to female employees because of the corporation’s religious objections. I saw many people from my community in church last Sunday, but I didn’t see a corporation there.
The administration and Congress need to fix this. We know Congressman Labrador won’t be part of the solution, but I'm confident that enough members of Congress care about women's rights to do what the majority of Americans want and protect contraception coverage.”
Unopposed in the Democratic primary, state superintendent candidate Jana Jones enters the general election campaign with a 70-to-1 advantage in cash on hand, reports Kevin Richert of Idaho Education News. While fundraising in the superintendent’s race has been relatively modest on both sides, Jones has more than $20,000 in her campaign account, Richert reports, according to campaign finance reports filed this week. Ybarra, the Republicans’ surprise nominee for state superintendent, enters the general election season with less than $300 on hand.
This week was the deadline for all statewide candidates to file post-primary finance reports. These reports outline fundraising activity during the final runup to the May 20 primaries and in the aftermath of the elections. Jones raised more than $7,800 in the filing period. Ybarra raised only $300 — and $250 came from a single donation, from Idaho Falls Republican Rep. Wendy Horman, a House Education Committee member.
Richert also reports that Gov. Butch Otter has more than $450,000 on hand coming out of the primary; Democratic challenger A.J. Balukoff has less than $40,000. In the race for Secretary of State, Democrat Holli Woodings has $22,000 in her campaign warchest, while Republican Lawerence Denney has barely $3,000. You can read Richert’s full report here, including notable givers in some of these races.
First District Congressman Raul Labrador’s Democratic opponent, state Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, had strong words today about Labrador’s announcement that he’ll run for U.S. House majority leader. “I have to admire Congressman Labrador’s consistency,” Ringo said. “First, he tried to divide Idaho Republicans by backing Russ Fulcher against Gov. Otter and opposing Mike Simpson in his primary. Now he’s trying to divide his party in Washington by running for a post he has no chance of winning and no business holding.”
Labrador actually was neutral in the 2nd District congressional primary race, declining to endorse either candidate, but he made a high-profile endorsement of Fulcher over Otter and campaigned with Fulcher in the final stretch before the election.
Ringo said, “We need a representative who understands the virtue of cooperation, and who would rather get a job done than throw up roadblocks. Far be it from me to complain when Washington, D.C. Republicans want to fight each other, but Idaho needs Congress to get back to work, and Congressman Labrador’s hobby of partisan in-fighting is really getting in the way.”
Widely varying turnout around the state meant that of the six legislative incumbents defeated in the May 20 primary, two were turned out of office by just tiny slices of the electorates in their districts. The lowest-turnout races that dumped incumbents were the defeat of longtime Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, the Senate Education Committee chairman, by activist Mary Souza – in which just 3,440 people cast ballots, 15 percent of registered voters; and the defeat of freshman Rep. Ed Morse, R-Hayden, by Eric Redman, in which 4,736 people voted, 18.5 percent of the registered voters in the district.
Goedde’s districts has 22,545 registered voters; Morse’s has 25,604.
GOP primary voters also ousted longtime Rep. George Eskridge, R-Dover; Senate Resources Chairman Monty Pearce, R-New Plymouth; longtime Rep. Lenore Hardy Barrett, R-Challis; and freshman Rep. Doug Hancey, R-Rexburg. But those races saw considerably higher turnout. Hancey’s race had close to the state average turnout in the race, at 25 percent of registered voters. Barrett’s had 32 percent – 8,356 total ballots cast – in her defeat by rancher Merrill Beyeler; and Pearce’s saw 31.5 percent turnout in his defeat by Abby Lee. BSU professor emeritus Jim Weatherby said both Beyeler and Lee ran strong campaigns in their districts.
In Eskridge’s race, there was 29 percent turnout and a total of 7,166 ballots cast as voters chose tea party challenger Sage Dixon to replace the longtime lawmaker and joint budget committee member. Eskridge noted two factors: Tea party opponents had been organizing and campaigning against the incumbents in his district for months; and the ballot included two hotly contested local levies, one for West Bonner schools that passed by 22 votes, and one to expand the Bonners Ferry library, which failed. “I think a lot of the people that came out in opposition to the levy voted against us,” he said.
Incumbent Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, won her primary by a 487-vote margin; retiring Rep. Eric Anderson’s race saw a tea party candidate, Heather Scott, victorious in the GOP primary over Stephen Snedden, who’d been endorsed by Gov. Butch Otter. Eskridge said while opponents were highly motivated, he also heard from some of his supporters that they weren’t willing to vote in the primary because they didn’t like being forced to publicly register their party affiliation under the GOP’s closed primary rule. “One said, ‘I refused to sign my name as a Republican, even though that’s what I am,’” he said.
Rep. Lawerence Denney, the Republican candidate for Idaho Secretary of State, sent out a guest opinion today responding to last week’s article from Democratic opponent Holli Woodings ripping Denney for hiring a private attorney with public funds to represent the Legislature’s Federal Lands Interim Committee. Denney calls Wooding’s piece “an insult to the people of Idaho,” and charges that she had her facts wrong.
“My opponent’s statement makes several false claims,” Denney writes. “Chief among them is the charge that I bypassed committee members by hiring private counsel to determine how Idaho could best seek to recover its public lands from the Federal Government. That assertion is patently false and my opponent knows it.” Denney said the decision was made by himself and his co-chairman, Sen. Chuck Winder, along with the speaker of the House and the president pro-tem of the Senate, and that’s what legislative rules required.
He also notes that he wasn’t a party to the lawsuit to close Idaho’s GOP primary; defends his unsuccessful lawsuit to jettison his chosen member on Idaho’s citizen redistricting committee; says “many legal scholars” support pursuing transfer of federal public lands to states; and defends taxpayers’ payment of $100,000 for legal fees to attorney Christ Troupis for the closed-primary lawsuit. “This Democrat does not denigrate the fee claims of the attorneys for the gay marriage proponents against the State, even though the case never even went to trial and their fees are almost $500,000,” Denney writes. “It seems that this Democrat is only critical of Republicans defending their Constitutional rights. Unlike my opponent, I believe that everyone’s constitutional rights are entitled to a proper defense.” Click below for Denney’s full statement.
Rep. Holli Woodings, D-Boise, is ripping her GOP opponent in the Secretary of State's race, Lawerence Denney, for hiring a private attorney with public funds to represent the Legislature's Federal Lands Interim Committee, after he and co-chair Sen. Chuck Winder didn't like the legal advice they got from the Idaho Attorney General's office on the chances for getting federal public lands transferred to the state. “Without consulting other committee members, Winder and Denney hired a private attorney who will be paid $41,000 in taxpayer dollars,” Woodings writes. “The other committee members learned of this decision only after Sen. Winder disclosed the hiring to Montana legislators.” That disclosure is detailed in an AP story here.
“Lawerence Denney has a history of spending public dollars on private lawyers when he’s looking for a specific outcome,” Woodings writes. “Now, with the federal lands committee, we again have Denney using taxpayer dollars to shop around for an attorney who will give him the opinion he wants.” Denney, R-Midvale, is the former speaker of the House; he was deposed as speaker in 2012, and became chairman of the House Resources Committee and co-chair of the land transfer panel. Click below for Woodings' full statement, sent to Idaho news media today; Denney hasn't yet responded to calls seeking his response.
The final numbers are in on Idaho’s May 20 primary election, and they’re virtually unchanged from the unofficial election-night totals. Results certified today by the state Board of Canvassers, which includes Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, center; state Controller Brandon Woolf, left; and state Treasurer Ron Crane, right; show just a 28-vote difference in the total number of votes cast for governor, coming in at 180,948, down just a hair from the election-night total of 180,976. No results changed.
Ysursa said he can remember when there were much bigger swings when the final, official numbers were tallied. Three decades ago, he had to call a legislative candidate to let him know that one county’s results had shifted by 500 votes because of a hand-written 3 that looked like an 8, moving that candidate from winner to loser.
“Like everything else, election-night reporting has become more accurate, more sophisticated,” Ysursa said. “That’s the way we want it. It makes the canvass pretty anti-climactic.” He added, “I commend the county clerks for their diligence. They do a pretty good job.”
One big source of swings long in the past was manual entry of the tallies of paper ballots. “It was just call in and write down,” Ysursa said. Now, most voting systems are automated, though 14 of Idaho’s 44 counties, among the smallest ones, still use paper ballots.
The final, official results show turnout statewide was just 26.12 percent of registered voters, falling slightly below Ysursa’s prediction of 27 percent. “I wish we could get some turnout figures in the 30s and 40s,” he said. The total number of people voting in the election overall was 196,982. “In 1972, we had a primary that turned out 205,000 voters,” Ysursa said.
“Primaries are very, very important and we need to get more turnout in them,” he said. “All elections are important, but people need to understand the importance of these primaries.”