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AdWatch: Otter’s final campaign pitch is endorsement from Romney

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has launched a new campaign ad in the final days before the election, featuring former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney endorsing him. Romney urges Idaho voters to “get out and vote,” and says, “What’s happening under Butch Otter ought to happen to every state, and you’re lucky to have this man as your governor.” The ad is running statewide both on TV and radio, Otter’s campaign said, including the Spokane broadcast TV market. Romney’s comments came during a campaign stop for Otter and GOP Sen. Jim Risch in Boise last week; Risch also has a new TV ad out featuring Romney’s endorsement. You can read my full AdWatch story here.

AdWatch: Hockey ad seeks to balance barrage of negative ads in gov’s race

There’s more skating and hockey-playing than political images in the latest ad in Idaho’s governor’s race, as Democratic candidate A.J. Balukoff dons an Idaho Steelheads hockey uniform for his final campaign commercial of the race. “In politics, taking shots at your opponent is just business as usual for some,” Balukoff says in the ad, “but skating around Idaho’s problems with cheap shots won’t get results. … It’s time Idaho families get a fair shot.”

The commercial takes aim at negative ads that have been airing in the race, both from outside groups backing GOP Gov. Butch Otter and from Otter’s campaign, whose latest ad accuses Balukoff of “falsely smearing” Otter over a private prison scandal. It comes as an array of messages from various groups is airing in Idaho, as the race comes down to the wire ahead of Tuesday’s election.

“I think it’s a clever ad, and it addresses the negative advertising that he’s been a recipient of,” said Jim Weatherby, Boise State University professor emeritus and longtime observer of Idaho politics. “It might attract some voters who have tuned out to all the negative ads that are so prominently displayed right now.” You can read my full AdWatch story here at spokesman.com, including a look at controversial radio ads airing in eastern Idaho that claim to be from Balukoff’s campaign, but actually are from an Otter supporter.

AdWatch: New version of RGA anti-Balukoff ad drops debate video clip

The Republican Governors Association launched a new ad targeting A.J. Balukoff, Democratic candidate for governor of Idaho, today, but it’s virtually identical to the group’s earlier anti-Balukoff ads. The main difference between the latest version and the previous one is that it’s dropped a video clip of Balukoff briefly losing his place during his opening remarks at a gubernatorial debate in Coeur d’Alene, which the ad used to suggest Balukoff “needs a script.”

At that debate, GOP Gov. Butch Otter visibly read from prepared remarks during his 2-minute opening comments, while Balukoff spoke largely without looking at his text – except when he lost his place.

The claims in the ad are identical to the RGA’s previous ad, attempting to tie Balukoff – a Mitt Romney supporter – to President Barack Obama, and suggesting he’d raise taxes and restrict gun rights. You can see my fact-check of the claims in my two previous AdWatch stories here and here.

One other small change in the latest RGA ad: A citation to an April editorial from the Idaho State Journal that misstated Balukoff’s position on property taxes has been dropped, in favor of a citation to a 2006 Idaho Statesman article about a voter initiative that sought to raise Idaho’s sales tax from 5 percent to 6 percent to increase school funding. The initiative failed, after the Legislature and then-Gov. Jim Risch raised the tax to 6 percent to reduce property taxes three months before the election on the initiative. You can see the ad online here.

AdWatch: Otter hits back at Balukoff, defends handling of prison scandal

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has launched a new TV ad striking back at Democratic challenger A.J. Balukoff, and defending Otter’s handling of a prison scandal. It’s the first time that Otter’s campaign has directly mentioned Balukoff in one of its ads, though two outside groups have been running ads attacking Balukoff and trying to tie him to President Barack Obama.

“This may be as good of evidence as we have that this may be a closer race than at least one or two polls have indicated recently,” said Jim Weatherby, Boise State University professor emeritus and a longtime observer of Idaho politics. He noted that Otter’s name recognition in the state, as a two-term governor, is close to 100 percent, while Balukoff came into the race virtually unknown outside the Boise area. That would normally prompt a well-known incumbent to avoid giving a little-known challenger any free publicity.

Balukoff, a Boise businessman, is the longtime chairman of the Boise school board; Otter served three terms in Congress and 14 years as lieutenant governor before becoming governor.

Otter’s ad is a direct response to a new commercial Balukoff launched last weekend criticizing Otter’s handling of the state’s troubled contract with private prison firm Corrections Corporation of America; both ads are running statewide, including in the Spokane broadcast TV market. CCA, which until July 1 was being paid $29 million a year to operate the state’s largest prison, was at the center of multiple lawsuits, reports of violence so intense that the prison was dubbed “Gladiator School,” and evidence that CCA had fraudulently overbilled the state for thousands of hours of guard duty that were never worked. In early February, the state dropped all claims against CCA in the staffing dispute in exchange for a $1 million payment.

Weatherby said, “I think the question a lot of viewers might have is: What was dishonest in the Balukoff ad? What are they specifically objecting to? And it’s not clear in this ad.” Balukoff’s ad called the settlement with CCA a “sweetheart deal.” Otter's ad doesn't mention the settlement. You can read my full AdWatch story here, along with links to both ads.

AdWatch: In rare move, Idaho Secretary of State candidate hits the airwaves

In an unusual move for an Idaho Secretary of State candidate, Holli Woodings is running a statewide TV commercial touting her candidacy and her commitment to making it easier to vote in Idaho; the ad is airing in the Boise, Idaho Falls, Pocatello and Spokane markets.

While Woodings doesn’t mention her GOP opponent, Lawerence Denney, in the ad, it draws a contrast to his campaign theme of enhancing security in elections; Denney co-sponsored Idaho’s voter photo I.D. law and has called for additional measures to combat potential voter fraud, including using technology to scan voters’ fingerprints or signatures at the polls. In a debate against Woodings on statewide TV, Denney declared, “I will not give up the security of the ballot for convenience.”

In the ad, Woodings, a Democrat, cites the leadership of Idaho’s current and former secretaries of state as “40 years of nonpartisan ethical leadership.” Both current Secretary of State Ben Ysursa and his longtime predecessor, the late Pete Cenarrusa, earned praise from all parties for their handling of the state’s elections, though both are Republicans.

“She’s really trying to win the argument over who is the most qualified candidate to assume the nonpartisan professional service orientation of the Ysursa-Cenarrusa years,” said Jim Weatherby, Boise State University professor emeritus and a longtime observer of Idaho politics. “I think it’s quite an effective ad in introducing her. She doesn’t have the name I.D. that Denney has. … She needs a lot of independents and Republicans to be successful, and this ad could help her.” You can read my full AdWatch story here at spokesman.com, and watch the commercial here.

AdWatch: Gloves come off in guv’s race, with ad rapping Otter over prison scandal

The gloves have come off in Idaho’s governor’s race, with Democratic challenger A.J. Balukoff launching a hard-hitting new ad faulting GOP Gov. Butch Otter’s handling of a scandal involving the state’s largest prison. You can read my full AdWatch story here at spokesman.com; and watch the commercial here; it’s running statewide, including in the Spokane broadcast TV market.

Idaho took over operation of the Idaho Correctional Center this year from private operator Corrections Corporation of America, after multiple lawsuits, reports of violence so intense that the prison was dubbed “Gladiator School,” and evidence that CCA had fraudulently overbilled the state for thousands of hours of guard duty that never were worked.

Otter, an advocate of privatization, made the announcement reluctantly on Jan. 3; on Feb. 4, he announced a settlement in which the state dropped all claims against CCA in the staffing dispute in exchange for a $1 million payment. At the time, the state had been saying for a year that the Idaho State Police was conducting a criminal investigation, but it turned out no investigation ever had been launched. Otter said then that the ISP had determined none was needed; two weeks later, after meeting with Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, Otter reversed his stance and called for a criminal investigation by ISP. In March, the FBI stepped in.

“It fails the smell test badly,” Balukoff said, “and we have to wonder what more will come out when the FBI wraps up its ongoing investigation of this debacle.”

The ad includes actual footage of inmate violence at the prison, notes that CCA is a  major campaign contributor to Otter – the firm has donated $20,000 to his campaigns since 2003 – and calls the settlement a “sweetheart deal.” Jim Weatherby, Boise State University professor emeritus and a longtime observer of Idaho politics, said the ad – the first time Balukoff’s gone negative – could be a “turning point” in the governor’s race.

AdWatch: RGA again goes after Idaho guv hopeful Balukoff

The Republican Governors Association launched a new anti-A.J. Balukoff TV ad in Idaho today, this one using a video clip from the governors’ debate in Coeur d'Alene debate where Balukoff momentarily lost his place in his opening remarks. The ad suggests Balukoff “needs a script,” and repeats several claims from an earlier RGA ad attempting to tie Balukoff, a Democrat, to President Barack Obama, while adding several new ones as well. Balukoff actually voted for Mitt Romney in the last presidential election.

“Tying Balukoff again to Obama and to gun control could be hurtful,” said Jim Weatherby, emeritus professor at Boise State University and a longtime observer of Idaho politics. “Those are two hot-button issues. But as to losing his place in his presentation, that’s pretty shallow stuff.”

The video clip is from Balukoff’s two-minute opening remarks at the Coeur Group’s Oct. 3 debate at the Coeur d’Alene Library. Otter visibly read from prepared remarks during his opening comments, while Balukoff largely spoke without looking at his text – except when he lost his place.

“It’s a rather cheap shot,” said Mike Lanza, spokesman for Balukoff’s campaign. He called the commercial “just a rehash of the same distortions and misrepresentations of A.J.’s positions that we’ve … seen from supporters of Gov. Otter.”

Weatherby said, “In comparative ads, or attack ads, you’re less concerned about what is completely true, and more concerned about what works. And negative ads, people hate, but often are influenced by.” He added, “The difference between the Otter and the Balukoff campaigns is the Otter campaign either has or is benefiting from attack ads, and Balukoff is not using them.”  You can read my full AdWatch story here at spokesman.com.

AdWatch: Otter’s new commercial focuses on education

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter launched his third television campaign ad in southern Idaho over the weekend; focusing largely on education. It is scheduled to go statewide on Tuesday, including the Spokane broadcast TV market. Here’s a look at the ad and its claims:

WHAT IT SAYS: “We’ve made Idaho one of America’s best places to start a small business. And we’re also making it a great state to get a good education. We got $35 million dollars back in the classroom. And we put broadband into every high school. And now I have a 20-point education plan that will fund additional technology and reinvest in our teachers so they’re amongst the best in the nation. Great jobs, great schools. I’m working hard to build a brighter future.”

Narrator: “Butch Otter, governor.”

THE CLAIMS: The claim about being one of the best places to start a small business is a repeat from one of Otter’s earlier commercials, and is based on a Governing Magazine survey of small business owners, in which Idaho was one of three states getting an “A-plus.”

The $35 million claim refers to Otter’s proposal this year – which the Legislature approved as part of the public school budget – to restore $35 million of the $82 million in operating funds that were cut from Idaho’s schools during the recession. “I have committed to replenish classroom dollars and we are poised to continue building on this year’s $35 million investment,” Otter said in a statement today. Otter’s Task Force on Improving Education made 20 recommendations, including a new, more generous teacher pay system tied to a “career ladder” and a new tiered licensing system; improving school technology; and restoring the $82 million in cuts.

Otter launched the Idaho Education Network to bring broadband to every Idaho high school; the state’s contract award to Education Networks of America and CenturyLink, however, has been challenged in court, prompting the federal government to withhold millions in funding for the broadband network that the state has had to replace from its general fund to keep the network operating at Idaho high schools.

“It’s one of the state’s most popular politicians doing his own ad,” said Jim Weatherby, longtime observer of Idaho politics and emeritus professor at Boise State University. “I think that’s effective. Some speculate we have ‘Otter fatigue,’ and maybe that’s true, but I still think he’s a pretty effective spokesperson for his campaign.” 

Online: You can watch the ad here.

AdWatch: Balukoff’s two latest ads airing statewide, Otter launches new one

Democratic candidate for governor A.J. Balukoff has launched two new TV ads statewide in the past week and a half – including the Spokane broadcast TV market – and GOP Gov. Butch Otter launched a new one over the weekend. I’ll take a look at the claims in Otter’s new ad later, but here’s a look at Balukoff’s commercials and their claims:

School superintendent ad: Starting a week and a half ago, Balukoff began airing an ad featuring Shoshone School District Superintendent Rob Waite; you can see it here. Here’s what Waite says in the ad:

“I’m Rob Waite and I’ve been an educator for 25 years. Let me tell you, we’re shortchanging our students. Under Gov. Otter we’ve fallen to 50th in the nation in what we invest per student. We have trouble holding onto our best teachers and our classrooms are too crowded. Close to 40 school districts in Idaho have gone to a four-day school week. I’ve been a Republican all my adult life. I don’t think I’ve ever voted for a Democrat. But this November I’m voting for A.J. Balukoff. To me it’s about more than politics. It’s about our students and our future.”

THE CLAIMS: Idaho’s ranking for per-pupil funding, from all sources, dropped to 51st in the nation in the latest U.S. Census report, issued in May and covering data from fiscal year 2012. That’s after all states and the District of Columbia. A separate measure of per-pupil spending in specific areas put Idaho 50th, ahead of only Utah. According to the latest tally from the Idaho State Department of Education, 42 Idaho school districts and 11 charter schools have gone to four-day school weeks.

Jim Weatherby, Boise State University emeritus professor and longtime observer of Idaho politics, said, “He’s getting outside Boise, with the Shoshone superintendent, which I think is effective, and he’s obviously trying to reach out to Republicans, having a dyed-in-the-wool Republican endorse him and lay out the case for the difficult condition education is in in this state.”

Otter’s new ad also focuses on education, attempting to paint a sunnier picture.

Movie trailer ad: Balukoff’s newest ad was circulating online earlier, but now has launched on broadcast TV statwide; you can see it here.  A spoof of movie trailers, it opens with a version of the ratings form that appears at the beginning of feature film trailers, but says, “The following PREVIEW has been approved for ALL AUDIENCES. The candidate advertised has been rated G – GOOD LEADERSHIP. All voters admitted.”

In the ad, with dramatic, swelling music and images, a narrator says, “When the good ol’ boy system stops progress and keeps Idaho in last place, there’s A.J. Balukoff – the accountant. A job creator who’s built successful businesses. Balukoff will get our economy moving again. A parent and school board president, Balukoff will fight for the resources students need. Because Idaho’s success is A.J. Balukoff’s only goal.”

THE CLAIMS: This ad makes few claims. Like earlier Balukoff ads, it accurately presents Balukoff’s background as a successful businessman, accountant and former owner of a large CPA firm, and longtime president of the Boise School Board.

“Our feeling was that people tend to tune out traditional political campaign ads as soon as they see it come up on the TV, and aren’t very inspired by them,” said Balukoff campaign spokesman Mike Lanza. “So we wanted to do something that was kind of fun to get people’s attention and make them more aware of A.J. Balukoff. … It was intended as an attention-grabber.”

Weatherby said, “It’s a rather unique ad which stands out a bit, an ad that’s actually somewhat entertaining.” He noted, “Again, no hint at how all this good stuff would be accomplished.” However, he said, “Whatever you can do to attract attention at this point as the campaign noise gets louder will make a difference. It’s kind of a fun ad.”

AdWatch: GOP governors group launches anti-Balukoff attack ad in Idaho

The Republican Governor’s Association launched an attack ad in Idaho on Wednesday against A.J. Balukoff, the Democratic candidate for governor, decrying him as “a typical politician” and “wrong for Idaho.” The description is “very wide of the mark, and a script written by somebody who apparently doesn’t know the state or A.J. Balukoff very well,” said Jim Weatherby, Boise State University professor emeritus and a longtime observer of Idaho politics; you can read my full AdWatch story here at spokesman.com.

Balukoff, a Boise businessman who’s prone to wearing bow ties, has served 17 years as an unpaid, elected member of the Boise School Board, but other than that has never held political office. He’s running against one of Idaho’s longest-serving politicians, GOP Gov. Butch Otter, who’s held public office since the 1970s.

“People complain about negative ads, but they are effective and they do influence people’s votes,” Weatherby said. “This negative ad, however, starts out with a characterization of A.J. Balukoff that I suspect a lot of Idahoans would know is inaccurate. He is far from being a typical politician.” The RGA also is running ads against Democratic candidates for governor in several other states including Hawaii and Kansas.

AdWatch: Balukoff says he’ll take standout school district’s success statewide

The latest TV commercial in Idaho’s governor’s race comes from Democratic candidate A.J. Balukoff, and features a Boise teacher talking about his record as head of the Boise School Board. “A.J. Balukoff made a real difference here. As governor he’ll do that for all of Idaho’s students,” Garfield Elementary School teacher Sonia Galaviz says in the commercial.

“It’s a very positive ad,  in support of Balukoff and his leadership of Boise schools, but it is a Boise perspective, rather than a statewide perspective,” said Jim Weatherby, Boise State University professor emeritus and a longtime observer of Idaho politics. “That will resonate in some areas. In other areas that are somewhat anti-Boise, perhaps not.”

The ad touts well-known distinctions the Boise district has earned for student achievement and for higher rates of high school graduates going on to college. Boise High School has long been ranked one of the best high schools in the nation, and the district’s course offerings, programs and facilities exceed those in many Idaho districts.

That’s in part because the Boise district is a charter school district, one of just three, created before Idaho was a state. As such, it has additional property taxing authority, so its funding is more protected than that of most Idaho school districts. However, its per-pupil spending, while above the state average, ranks just 58th out of Idaho’s 159 Idaho school districts and charter schools. You can read my full AdWatch story here at spokesman.com.

Latest Otter campaign ad credits guv for economic turnaround, avoid specifics…

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter’s latest campaign commercial features a real estate broker crediting the GOP governor with turning around the state’s economy and looking out for “all industries.” “Our governor, Butch Otter, has had a lot to do with us coming out of that downturn,” Eagle, Idaho Realtor Tracy Kasper says in the ad, which shows scenes of home construction, manufacturing, and the sun breaking through the clouds over familiar Idaho scenes. “He had to make some tough choices, we all did. He took a hard stance and had to be a big watchdog for all industries.”

“Those are pretty extravagant claims,” said Jim Weatherby, emeritus professor at Boise State University and a longtime observer of Idaho politics, “with no support in the ad, with no documentation or even a specific example of what he accomplished.” Added Weatherby, “I’m not sure the average voter will understand what he’s talking about. The average voter might say: ‘Well, is he a watchdog for me, too?’”

The commercial, which began airing a week ago in southwestern Idaho, doesn’t cite any examples or hard facts, campaign spokeswoman Kaycee Emery said, because “it was completely opinion and a testimonial piece.”

Weatherby said Otter’s ad, like his previous one that cited selective statistics to try to make the case that Idaho’s economy is “on a roll,” appears designed to leave a positive impression about Otter and the economy. After claims in the previous ad were questioned, Weatherby said, “It’s hard to attack this one because it really doesn’t say much substantively.” You can read my full AdWatch story here at spokesman.com; you can see the ad here.

AdWatch: Otter claims state’s economy is ‘on a roll,’ sites selective measures

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter’s new campaign commercial claims the state’s economy is “on a roll” thanks to his leadership, citing several selected measures. But overall, Idaho’s economy, while growing, has been much slower to recover than most states from the big recession that hit just after Otter took office in 2006.

Idaho saw the third-biggest drop in employment from 2007 to 2014, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts’ “Fiscal 50: State Trends and Analysis” report, a key measure of economic health. Its per-capita personal income ranked next-to-last in 2013, ahead of only Mississippi. Idaho’s unemployment rate in July was 4.8 percent, ranking 13th among states, but unlike Pew's employment figures, that doesn't take into account those who have given up looking for jobs.

Kaycee Emery, Otter campaign spokeswoman, said, “What we’re hearing is there’s a lot of people very positive about where our economy is and where it’s going because the governor has made so many tough decisions.” She said, “The focus of the ad is just to remind people that compared to the rest of the nation, Idaho is on top.”

Jasper LiCalzi, professor of political economy at the College of Idaho, said, “You can find numbers that’ll tell you almost anything. … Is it a flat-out lie, completely wrong? Probably not, but it’s weak information.” You can read my full AdWatch story here at spokesman.com, plus see the ad.

AdWatch: The ‘LiberalAJ’ ad

The harshest political ad on the air in Idaho’s governor’s race goes after Democratic candidate A.J. Balukoff, branding him a “liberal” and attempting to tie him to President Barack Obama. Balukoff, a Boise businessman and longtime chairman of the Boise School Board, says the ad is full of “lies and distortions,” particularly for tying him to Obama – when he was a supporter of Mitt Romney for president.

The Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, a business lobbying group, put out the ad as part of its independent campaign against Balukoff. The group maintains each of its claims is backed up by a citation to a news article or other source. “It’s a critical part of our mission to inform voters about the true positions of someone running for our highest office,” Alex LaBeau, IACI president, said in a statement. The ad is part of a multi-pronged campaign the group is running that also includes a website, LiberalAJ.com, and mailers.

Jim Weatherby, Boise State University professor emeritus and a longtime observer of Idaho politics, said, “Is it over the top? Sure. But a lot of negative advertising is. Are there exaggerations? Yes. I mean, it’s a real stretch to tie a school board president to the president of the United States.” Weatherby said “liberal” is a political “dirty word” in Idaho - and that's why it's used. You can read my full AdWatch story here at spokesman.com. Tomorrow, I'll examine Gov. Butch Otter's new campaign commercial, which began airing today in southern and eastern Idaho but hasn't yet started up north.

AdWatch: Balukoff launches second TV campaign commercial

The newest TV ad to surface in Idaho’s gubernatorial campaign this year is a second one from Democrat A.J. Balukoff, themed around the historic Oregon Trail wagon runs south of Boise. “It’s another good introduction piece, but it doesn’t seem to be much different from the first one,” said Jim Weatherby, professor emeritus of public policy at Boise State University. “He needs to get his name out there and continue to introduce himself, but I think we need to pretty soon hear some more from him in terms of what a Balukoff Administration would look like and how different it might be from an Otter Administration.”

The only promise Balukoff makes in the ad is a general one, to “make quality schools and good jobs a priority.” Otter has been preparing a campaign commercial, though it’s not yet aired. You can see the ad and read my full AdWatch story here at spokesman.com.

AdWatch: Otter touts brand in western-themed campaign commercial

Barely over a week out from the primary election, Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has launched his first TV campaign commercial, showing him in a cowboy hat, riding a horse, and touting tax cuts and how he’s “fought EPA.” “I follow the Code of the West, stay true to your brand and your values,” Otter says in the ad, referring to a cowboy ethics code published in a 2004 book by Wall Street veteran James P. Owen entitled, “Cowboy Ethics: What Wall Street Can Learn from the Code of the West.” The code has 10 points, including, “Live each day with courage,” “When you make a promise, keep it,” “Ride for the brand,” and “Remember that some things aren’t for sale.” You can read my full story here, including an examination of the claims in the ad.

Ad Watch: Latest school reform commercial echoes earlier one

The latest TV commercial in favor of Propositions 1, 2 and 3 comes from “Yes for Idaho Education,” and features a message strikingly similar to that in a September statewide ad from “Parents for Education Reform.” The look is different, with video of teachers and kids in class, and there's different music, but the message is the same; it pulls out a feel-good item from each of the three complex measures and touts it as what the propositions will do. It does add in a jab at the “national teachers union” that was missing from the earlier ad. “It is essentially the same general positive message we’ve had in initial TV, in radio ads, and on our direct mail absentee chase,” said Ken Burgess, spokesman for the “Yes” campaign.

Click below to compare the wording of the new “Yes” ad and the previous ad from PFER, which was the group that placed the ads funded by secret contributions to Education Voters of Idaho; you can read my fact-check story here from Sept. 28, which was headed, “Ad touting school reforms tells just part of story.”

The  new “Yes” ad is running only in the Boise, Twin Falls, and Idaho Falls/Pocatello markets, Burgess said, adding, “We've left the Gov. Otter ad in place for our full run in Spokane.”

Ad Watch: Otter steps forward in latest school reform ad

The latest campaign ad in Idaho's school reform fight features Gov. Butch Otter endorsing Propositions 1, 2 and 3 in a positive, feel-good message. “Education in Idaho is at a crossroads,” the casually dressed governor says in the commercial, which is running statewide, including in the Spokane-Coeur d'Alene market. “This election year we're being asked whether we will keep meaningful education reforms on the books or go back to the old way of doing things.”

The “old way of doing things” refers to Idaho's laws prior to 2011, when lawmakers enacted the reforms that restricted teachers' collective bargaining rights, imposed a new merit-pay bonus system, and required big technology boosts including laptop computers for high school students and a new focus on online learning. “It paints the opposition as being reactionaries, going back to the old ways, which is kind of funny,” said Jim Weatherby, emeritus professor of public policy at Boise State University. “It's a pretty positive message.”

The ad is sponsored by “Yes for Idaho Education,” the official campaign group backing the three measures. Opponents of the laws collected thousands of signatures to force a voter referendum on the laws; a yes vote would keep them, while a no vote would repeal them. Ken Burgess, spokesman for the Yes campaign, said the idea behind the ad was partly to defuse ire aimed against state Superintendent Tom Luna, the author of the laws. “All this issue about these things being called the 'Luna laws' - we just want to remind everybody from a leadership, statesman standpoint that the governor was as much responsible for this stuff certainly as Tom Luna,” Burgess said.  You can read my full story here at spokesman.com, examining the claims in the ad.

Ad Watch: Latest ad charges school reform laws hamper teachers

The latest campaign commercial opposing Idaho's school reform ballot measures draws on a variety of criticisms of the measures to suggest they hamper teachers in doing their jobs. “We want to give your children the best education - but the Luna laws make that harder,” says the ad, which is airing statewide, including in the Spokane-Coeur d'Alene market. The ad cites an array of criticisms of the measures, some directly related to the propositions and others more general, from school funding issues to parent fees.

“You have significant number of undecided, and I expect to some extent, bewildered voters who are trying to sort all of this out,” said Jim Weatherby, emeritus professor at Boise State University. “I think some bewildered voters vote no or don't vote at all. I'm not suggesting that is their intent, but I think it could be an unintended consequence.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Ad Watch: Labrador, NRCC launch new campaign ads in 1st CD race

GOP congressional hopeful Raul Labrador has launched a new ad today, a spot entitled “Family” that doesn’t mention his opponent and shows lots of pictures of his wife and kids. You can watch it here; Labrador’s campaign says it will begin airing this weekend. In the ad, Labrador says, “Becca and I want for our family what you want for yours.  A future without big government watching and taxing our every move.”

Meanwhile, the National Republican Congressional Committee has launched a new ad against incumbent Congressman Walt Minnick in Idaho, showing what appears to be the view from behind the wheel of an out-of-control speeding car. The ad paints Minnick as a clone of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, citing such Democratic proposals as “national energy tax, government takeover of health care,” even though Minnick voted against both the cap-and-trade energy bill and the health care reform bill. “Put the brakes on Pelosi. Replace Walt Minnick,” the NRCC ad says; you can watch it here.

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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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