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Posts tagged: 2014 Idaho election

Idaho state treasurer defends record, calls critical state audits ‘politically motivated’

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.

Balukoff offers 3-1 match for donors to his campaign against Otter

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.

Could Bujak’s Libertarian bid draw enough votes to tip gov’s race from Otter to Balukoff?

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.

Post-primary donation makes Sen. Hill biggest donor to opponent’s campaign

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.”

Otter rips Balukoff over Hobby Lobby ruling, Balukoff responds

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.

Ringo: Hobby Lobby ruling ‘extremely disturbing,’ saw no corporations at church on Sunday

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.”

Jones has 70-to-1 fundraising advantage over Ybarra coming out of primary

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.

Ringo dings Labrador for ‘hobby of partisan in-fighting’

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.”

Varying turnout meant some legislative incumbents were defeated by tiny slices of electorate…

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.

Denney responds to Woodings’ criticisms: ‘An insult to the people of Idaho’

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.

Woodings rips Denney over hiring of private attorney for public lands transfer panel

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 hes 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.

 

Final, official numbers confirm election-night tallies

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.”

GOP candidate Chaney waffles on withdrawing

The GOP House candidate in Canyon County who withdrew prior to the election after his past legal and financial problems came to light – but too late to get his name off the ballot – now says he’s reconsidering his options after tallying more votes than two write-in candidates. Greg Chaney told the Idaho Statesman, “I'm looking at every possible angle at this point. I have reached out to the two write-in candidates and have let them know that I am still considering my options, and I have been in contact with party leadership.”

In April, Chaney said he was suspending his campaign and would “neither actively seek nor accept the Republican nomination.” Statesman reporter Cynthia Sewell has a full report here.

Ybarra: ‘I took a different approach’

Surprise GOP nominee for state schools chief Sherri Ybarra discussed her campaign with Idaho Education News, and said she plans to maintain the grassroots focus and independent approach that she said were key to her May 20 primary victory. “I took a different approach and I got a different result,” Ybarra told Idaho EdNews reporter Kevin Richert. “I made it very clear that I was a different kind of campaigner. And I meant what I said.”

Richert reports that Ybarra has been working with Dan Goicoechea, state Controller Brandon Woolf’s chief deputy and one of Ybarra’s few campaign contributors during the primary; you can read Richert's full report here.

GOP unity short-lived, as Troupis withdraws endorsement of Wasden

Less than a week after the Idaho Republican Party gathered for a “unity” rally on the steps of the state Capitol, where vanquished challengers pledged to support the primary election victors and move forward as a united party, the proclaimed unity already is splintering. Christ Troupis said today that he’s withdrawing his endorsement of GOP Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, to whom he lost the primary, 59 percent to 40 percent – an endorsement Troupis announced at the unity rally. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Troupis said he changed his mind about the endorsement after learning that Democratic nominee Bruce Bistline said he won’t actively campaign, because his differences with Wasden are “fairly nominal,” but that he would have actively campaigned if the GOP nominee had been Troupis, with whom he said his differences are “legion.”

Troupis said, “I’d really like some assurances from Mr. Wasden that he’s not in line with the Democratic candidate for Attorney General. If they’re on the same page, then I feel pretty stupid endorsing basically a Democrat.” He added, “Now, if Mr. Wasden does have differences, significant differences, and he can point those out to me, then I’d be happy to reconsider.” Troupis said, “I’m just wanting to be consistent philosophically with my positions. But as a practical matter, he’s not opposed, so he’s going to win. So everybody will probably just ignore it. It makes me feel better.”

Troupis said, “I don’t think the unity rally was any kind of a sham. We’re trying to support the party. I think I have a different vision for where the party ought to be.”

Race for state schools chief shapes up with agreement on issues, gap in experience

The race for state superintendent of public schools - an open seat in November with the retirement of two-term Superintendent Tom Luna - is shaping up as a contest between minority party experience and majority party inexperience, writes AP reporter Kimberlee Kruesi, after the surprise win of political newcomer Sherri Ybarra in the GOP primary. Ybarra will face Jana Jones in November, former chief deputy to then-Superintendent Marilyn Howard and the Democrat who came within two percentage points of defeating Luna in 2006. Both women support the 20 recommendations of the governor's task force on improving education, now in the first year of a five-year phase-in, which means the contest likely won't focus on competing visions of the overall direction for the state's schools. Click below for the full AP report.

Colbert Report gives its take on Idaho’s gov debate, primary election

The Colbert Report, in its inimitable fashion, gave its full treatment last night to Idaho’s recent gubernatorial debate, also touching on Idaho geography, the outcome of the primary and more. You can watch it here.

Tea party groundswell sweeps away incumbents, as North Idaho bucks state trend

Even as a push from the right to take over the Idaho Republican Party was falling short at the state level, it was succeeding beyond expectations in North Idaho, where two longtime state lawmakers were unceremoniously dumped in Tuesday’s GOP primary. A third was turned out after just one term, and four arch-conservative incumbents whose challengers were endorsed by GOP Gov. Butch Otter cruised to victory in a low-turnout election that saw barely over one in five registered voters cast a ballot. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, the Senate education chairman and seven-term senator who lost to city hall critic Mary Souza, said, “It was real apparent that there were two camps in Kootenai County, and both camps had candidates for most offices, and I guess the camp for the far right was better able to get its supporters to the polls.” Said Rep. Ed Morse, who lost to retired insurance agent Eric Redman, “There was pretty much a tea party groundswell up here in Kootenai County and in Bonner County.”

Results are complete: State controller Woolf edges challenger Hatfield

Finally, after a long night, Idaho's primary election results are complete. Nothing's changed with the final additions; the closest race, between state Controller Brandon Woolf and challenger Todd Hatfield, ended with Woolf winning 50.9 percent to 49.1 percent. That's a difference of 2,440 votes. You can see the full results here, including statewide races, judicial and legislative races. They're unofficial until the final canvass of the votes, but represent the complete results.

Dem candidate for Attorney General drops campaign plans, as Troupis endorses Wasden

Now that Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden has handily defeated GOP primary challenger C.T. “Chris” Troupis, the Democratic candidate for Attorney General, Boise attorney Bruce Bistline, says he no longer plans to actively campaign for the post. “I filed on the last day,” Bistline told Eye on Boise today. “I detest the fact that that kind of a decision, between Troupis and Wasden, could be made during the Republican primary with no alternative for the voters who are not part of the closed Republican primary. And while I would probably never have bothered to run against Wasden, because my differences with him are fairly nominal, my differences with Troupis are legion. I saw no alternative but to file to provide a choice in the general election, in the event that Troupis won the primary.”

Bistline said he doesn’t plan to withdraw, but won’t actively campaign unless something dramatic happens. “If something happened ad Wasden was unable to run and they appointed Troupis to run in his place, I’d be right back in it again,” he said. “So I can’t rule out the possibility that circumstances would draw me back in, but the circumstances which drew me in in the first instance are resolved now.”

Troupis, for his part, today endorsed Wasden. At a Republican unity rally on the steps of the state Capitol, Troupis said, “I want to see him be the next attorney general. We need to have a Republican attorney general in the state of Idaho if we are to preserve our independence and sovereignty.”

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About this blog

Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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