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Posts tagged: Idaho Debates

Idaho Debates set in nine primary races

The Idaho Debates will feature a series of nine debates in Idaho races in advance of the May 20 primary election, the Idaho Press Club, the League of Women Voters of Idaho and Idaho Public Television announced today. The Idaho Debates have featured face-offs between Idaho election candidates for more than 30 years; this year’s primary debates, broadcast statewide, continue that tradition.

Here are the debate dates and times:

GOP GOVERNOR’s RACE:  May 14, 8 p.m. Gov. Butch Otter is seeking a third term; in the Republican primary, he faces opponents including Senate Majority Caucus Chairman Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian; Harley Brown and Walt Bayes.

SECRETARY OF STATE, GOP: May 13, 7 p.m. Four candidates are facing off in the Republican primary for Secretary of State; the victor will face Democratic Rep. Holli Woodings in November.  

2nd CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT, GOP: May 11, 7 p.m. This GOP primary race features longtime Congressman Mike Simpson and challenger Bryan Smith.

IDAHO SUPREME COURT: May 9, 8 p.m. Justice Joel Horton faces a challenge from Boise attorney Breck Seiniger; the primary election is the final contest in this non-partisan race.

LT. GOVERNOR, GOP: May 9, 8:30 p.m. Idaho Lt. Gov. Brad Little will debate challenger Jim Chmelik.

SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION, GOP: May 8, 8 p.m. Candidates vying in the four-way GOP race for state superintendent of schools will face off; the winner of that primary will face Democrat Jana Jones in the November general election.

STATE CONTROLLER, GOP: May 2, 8 p.m. State Controller Brandon Woolf debates GOP challenger Todd Hatfield.

STATE TREASURER, DEMOCRATS: May 2, 8:30 p.m. Two Democratic candidates for state treasurer, Deborah Silver of Twin Falls and W. Lane Startin of Boise, will face off; the victor in that primary race will face incumbent GOP Treasurer Ron Crane in November.   

ATTORNEY GENERAL, GOP: May 1, 8 p.m. Third-term Attorney General Lawrence Wasden faces Boise attorney C.T. “Chris” Troupis in the GOP primary contest.

That’s nine debates on seven days, all in the month of May, all broadcast statewide on Idaho Public Television. As always, the Idaho Press Club will provide the Idaho reporters who will serve as panelists questioning the candidates; the League of Women Voters will handle time-keeping duties; and Idaho Public TV will provide the moderators and produce and broadcast the debates.

Simpson, LeFavour face off in debate

2nd District GOP Rep. Mike Simpson and his Democratic challenger, state Sen. Nicole LeFavour, debated on live TV last night in the “Idaho Debates.” You can watch the full debate online here. The two clashed over women's issues, from pay inequity to lawmakers' comments about rape. “For many women it’s been a rough year to watch Congress,” LeFavour told Simpson, “and I’m sorry you have participated in that.” He responded, “I’m sorry you feel that way, because it’s absolutely not true.” Idaho Statesman reporter Rocky Barker has a full report on the debate here.

The two also debated deficit reduction, energy funding and the Idaho National Laboratory, jobs, forest fire management and more. Simpson is a seventh-term congressman and former Idaho House speaker who chairs a key House appropriations subcommittee. LeFavour is an outspoken fourth-term state lawmaker who's served two terms in the Idaho House and two in the Senate; click below for a profile of the race by AP reporter John Miller.

Labrador: Raise Social Security retirement age to 70

Here's a link to my full story at on last night's lively debate between Idaho GOP Rep. Raul Labrador and his Democratic challenger, Jimmy Farris. During the face-off, Labrador backed raising the Social Security retirement age to 70, cutting a third of the staff at the Pentagon and banning all abortions other than those to save the life of the mother. Farris differed sharply on the retirement age and abortion, but found common ground with Labrador on trimming military spending. “I think there are a number of places that we would agree and admit that we can find savings,” Farris said. “If Pentagon staff is one of them, I'd certainly like to look at it.”

Labrador said people are living much longer now than they were when Social Security and Medicare were started, and people like himself, at age 44, have to recognize “that I'm going to have a different program than exists today.” Farris disagreed, saying a better way to ensure the solvency of Social Security would be to raise the cap on earnings subject to the Social Security tax.

On abortion, Labrador said he opposes making exceptions for victims of rape or incest. “I think life begins at conception, so I believe it's important that we protect life,” he said. Farris said, “This is an issue where we strongly disagree. I do support a woman's right to choose what happens to her body. … I don't think it's the government's place to be making decisions for women about their health care.” You can watch the full debate online at

Otter faces rivals in final debate

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter defended his cuts to education and his track record as governor Thursday night, as he met four rivals in the final debate before Tuesday’s election. “The choice had to be made, because there’s only two ways that you can balance the budget, you either cut the government or you increase the tax load for the citizenry,” Otter declared. “We chose the former.” His Democratic challenger, Keith Allred, strongly disagreed, and peppered Otter with criticisms; also debating were independents Jana Kemp and “Pro-Life” and Libertarian Ted Dunlap. You can read my full story here at

‘If wolves were eating children…’

The candidates for governor have been clashing over water quality monitoring, and now about wolves. “Enough is enough,” Otter declared, defending his decision to end state wolf management. Allred said Otter has been talking for 30 years about pushing back the federal government, but, “What has he ever done that actually accomplished that? … He’s got one tool in his toolkit, and that’s to file federal lawsuits. … We need to be taking destiny into our own hands and using effective tools for beating back federal control, and we need to do that by being able to monitor our own wolf population” to make the case for delisting.

Ted Dunlap said the wolves that were reintroduced into Idaho are “monsters.” Pro-Life said, “When you’re pro-life, you don’t like wolves. … I’m pretty much a vegetarian.” He added, “I think the animals that are in Idaho belong to Idaho. … I don’t think the federal government should have anything to do with that.”

Otter said the state’s spent only $6,000 on its lawsuit over federal health care reform, $1,000 on its brief in the Arizona immigration lawsuit, $1,000 on slickspot peppergrass litigation and $1,000 on the appeal of the federal ruling re-listing wolves. Pro-Life said, “Well if wolves were eating children, I would do something.”

Otter: ‘We’ve had to make some tough decisions’

Gov. Otter was asked how he squares his promise to make Idaho’s government more efficient and customer-focused with the closing of local Health & Welfare offices, the fumbling of paperwork that cost Idaho farmers millions in disaster aid, and other flubs. Otter responded that when he took office, “We had about a $130 million surplus in our budget, we had 2.7 percent unemployment. This last two years things have gotten a little tough and we’ve had to make some tough decisions.” On the farm disaster paperwork, he said, “You’re absolutely right. … We lost that paperwork for a week and that was the last week that we could actually apply for that. So mea culpa, that was our fault. But the $10 million is a stretch. I would agree that there was some loss, no question about it. … We made three different attempts with Vilsack asking for a federal waiver … then I got the delegation involved, they asked for some consideration and a waiver, and we got neither.”

Jana Kemp said, “The key is that in the governor’s office, all communication must be managed effectively. Without that, things fall through the cracks. … The pattern must come to an end. If you want to keep living in the past and mistakes that have been made, you know how to vote.”

Keith Allred said, “Butch Otter wants to blame all of his administration’s problems on the economy and other external circumstances. The one thing that tells you is don’t expect any better performance in the next four years - he thinks the performance of his administration has been fine.” Allred said it “wasn’t the economy” that caused the state’s Health & Welfare billing snafu that left providers unpaid for months, that threatened to kick hundreds of dentists off the state’s Medicaid contract, or made an error with the disaster aid. “We need a governor who can do his homework and get his facts right,” Allred said.

Things getting lively at debate…

Asked what evidence there is that the “doom and gloom forecasts” used to set the state budget were fiscally irresponsible, Keith Allred said, “The last three months of revenue. … We are $14 million ahead of the projections that were made in August.” Jana Kemp put in, “When we were in the Legislature we talked often about how you can’t bet on money that hasn’t come in.” At that, Otter yelled, “Yeah!” and started clapping. “No applause,” cautioned moderator Thanh Tan, to which Otter responded, “You told the audience, not us.”

Allred said, “You can’t spend money that you don’t take in. … Butch Otter said … if money comes in, then at that point we could go ahead and spend it.” Now, he said, “The money is sitting there,” despite cuts in education that have reduced instruction time. “What are you doing to do about it?” he asked Otter. At that point, Pro-Life commented, “I think this is pretty boring and people are probably turning onto the ballgame.”

Otter said, “I’d like to respond to that.” He said Idaho’s exceeding revised projections, but not his budget. Allred said the state’s now exceeding both.

‘What Otter is offering for his economic vision’

Asked about the economy, Gov. Butch Otter noted that a recent USA Today story said Idaho is one of the states leading the nation’s crawl out of the recession, along with energy states, and touted his “Project 60” to increase the state’s gross domestic product. Jana Kemp said as a small business owner, she never received anything from the state about Project 60 until recently. “This is a great place to live - it needs to be a great place to work,” she said.

Keith Allred said the USA Today story paired Idaho with energy states with large fossil-fuel reserves. “What is it about Idaho?” he asked, that put it in that group. “The lion’s share of personal income growth in Idaho was from unemployment, Medicaid, federal welfare and entitlement money. That’s what Butch Otter is offering you for his economic vision - more dependence on the federal government. … I’ve got a better idea.” Allred called for lowering Idaho’s relatively high state personal and corporate income tax rates. “We cannot get this economy going without taking that brake off of it,” he said.

When Pro-Life said government shouldn’t be involved in the economy, Otter responded, “We’re not in the business of picking winners and losers. … In that aspect, you’re absolutely right,” to which Pro-Life responded, “Yeah, I knew that.”

Candidates for guv differ on tapping endowment reserves for schools

Asked whether they’d again dip into the state endowment’s earnings reserve fund to avoid cuts to schools next year, the candidates for governor had varying answers. Otter said it “depends upon the shortfall,” and it’s “going to be hard” to tap that fund again. Kemp said, “The answer is no. … We need to find bigger, broader systemwide solutions.” She advocated phasing out the federal No Child Left Behind program. Allred said he’d tap the fund. “I supported that, I thought it was a good idea,” he said. “It is one of a number of options that we’ll need to keep education whole in the coming year.”

‘This is serious business’

The five candidates are each giving their brief opening statements on why they’re running, with just 30 seconds for each. Among their comments:

Pro-Life: “If you murder babies, that’s pretty darn serious. … This is serious business, this government, and that’s why I run.

Ted Dunlap: “70 percent of the people that could vote in this election are going to stay home. I don’t think they’re lazy.”

Jana Kemp: “As the independent candidate who cannot be owned by anyone, I stand before you tonight to govern Idaho, because the reign of the good old boys must end Tuesday.”

Keith Allred: “Keep the tax burden on Idahoans low and provide a good education for our kids. Right now we’re doing poorly on both.”

Butch Otter: “We had to balance the budget. … We are growing the economy. … I said we were going to push back on the federal government’s constant effort to overtake the state’s sovereignty, and we have done that as well.”

The reporter panel…

Here’s the moderator and reporter panel preparing for the debate - moderator Thanh Tan of Idaho Public Television, and reporters Jessie Bonner of the Associated Press, Scott Logan of KBOI-TV, and Bill Spence of the Lewiston Tribune.

Almost time for the Idaho Debate…

The Capitol Auditorium has been filling up early for tonight’s big debate in the governor’s race, in which all five candidates - Butch Otter, Keith Allred, Jana Kemp, Ted Dunlap, and Pro-Life - will face off. Earlier, Allred supporters held a raucous rally in Capitol Park. As people filed in, Otter supporters stood with signs near the entrance.

Last night’s 1st CD debate…

The Idaho Statesman’s Kevin Richert offers a breakdown here of last night’s 1st CD debate - who won, who lost, and how it went. It’s an interesting take. And here’s some background from the Statesman’s Dan Popkey on the Reagan tax issue that came up during the debate. As one of the reporter panelists, I found it to be a really good and lively debate, with each of the candidates having some fine moments and some low points. Among them: Raul Labrador displayed his formidable rhetorical skills and had the audience, which wasn’t supposed to be demonstrative, laughing out loud at some of his more creative cracks at Walt Minnick. Minnick articulated, for the first time I’ve heard, why he’s a Democrat. And independent Dave Olson pounded this point: “I’m the only independent in the race, period … I’m the only one that’s not obligated to either party.”

If you missed the debate, you can watch it online here.

1st CD debate is tonight…

Tonight is the big debate in the 1st Congressional District race, the sole statewide televised debate of the campaign. It starts at 8 p.m. Mountain time, 7 p.m. Pacific, at the Idaho Capitol Auditorium. In addition to taking place before a live audience, the debate will be broadcast live statewide on Idaho Public Television. It’s part of the “Idaho Debates,” sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the Idaho Press Club; there’s more info here.

Incumbent Congressman Walt Minnick and GOP challenger Raul Labrador got the sparks going when they faced off yesterday on a “town hall” debate on KBOI radio in Boise. In tonight’s debate, I’m on the reporter panel, along with Idaho Statesman reporter Dan Popkey and Associated Press reporter Todd Dvorak. Got suggestions on questions for the candidates? Post ‘em here before 4 p.m. today.

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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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