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Posts tagged: Idaho Debates

Simpson, Stallings clash in final round of the ‘Idaho Debates’

The final round of the “Idaho Debates” last night featured 2nd District GOP Congressman Mike Simpson debating Democratic challenger Richard Stallings, a former 2nd District congressman. The two clashed repeatedly on everything from wilderness to immigration reform to taxes. Stallings said, “This is the worst Congress ever,” while Simpson countered, “Actually, this has been a Congress that has tried to get things done, but we’re divided. The Republicans control the House, the Democrats control the Senate. … The Senate hasn’t actually been doing anything. The House has continued to do our work.”

Stallings told Simpson, “I think it’s great you have Senate to blame.” He called it “criminal” that the Congress hasn’t passed immigration reform or raised the minimum wage. You can watch the full debate online here at Idaho Public Television.

That’s also the place to see all seven of the “Idaho Debates” held in advance of tomorrow’s general election, in races ranging from governor to state treasurer to state superintendent of schools. The debates were co-sponsored by the Idaho Press Club and the League of Women Voters of Idaho and broadcast statewide on Idaho Public Television. If you’re trying to decide how to vote in these races, and want a chance to see the candidates face off directly, it’s must-see TV.

Fact Check: CCA and the governor’s debate

In last night’s heated debate between the three leading candidates for governor of Idaho, there was much back-and-forth over the Corrections Corporation of America and the state’s $1 million settlement with the firm for understaffing the state’s largest prison and over-billing the state. Here’s a fact-check on some of the disputed points the candidates raised:

SETTLEMENT AMOUNT: Gov. Butch Otter said the settlement was for $1.3 million, not $1 million. You can see the settlement here. On Page 1 of the nine-page settlement, under “Release and Discharge,” it says, “In consideration of the sum of ONE MILLION DOLLARS AND 00/100 ($1,000,000), paid by CCA, the receipt and sufficiency of which Releasor acknowledges … Releasor does hereby fully, forever, irrevocably, and unconditionally release, acquit, and forever discharge Releasee from any and all claims … of any kind, whether known or unknown, suspected or unsuspected … arising out of the staffing of the ICC and existing on or before the date of this Settlement Agreement.”

Asked about the $1 million settlement during the debate, Otter said, “No, that was not the amount. … It was well in excess of a million dollars. … In fact, there was a bill outstanding for over $300,000 that was also part of the final negotiations.”

On Feb. 4, 2014, the Idaho State Department of Correction and CCA issued a joint statement announcing the $1 million settlement. “CCA will pay $1 million in compensation to the State of Idaho,” the joint statement said. “Additionally, the State of Idaho has denied CCA an annual inflationary increase in the amount of approximately $350,000.”

BOTTOM LINE: That denial of the inflationary increase isn’t mentioned in the signed settlement, though it may have been a part of the negotiations.

 “OFF THE HOOK”: A.J. Balukoff, the Democratic candidate for the governor, said during the debate, “The governor just admitted he doesn’t know if $1.3 million was a fair settlement or not. It seems like it’s prudent to do the investigation and understand what went on before you let a company off the hook.”

Otter responded, “A.J. knows different. A.J. knows if he’s done his homework, he knows that that contract is not final. That negotiation is not final. … If the FBI comes up with something, then all bets are off.”

“No, they’re not,” Balukoff responded. Otter said, “The criminal can go forward for anything else that’s found out.” Balukoff said, “That agreement and forgiveness of civil penalties does not go away.” Otter snapped back, “That’s not true.”

Balukoff said, “They can go after the people that have committed crimes, they can go after them for criminal, but the settlement for civil damages exonerated them for whatever other damages may be discovered.”

BOTTOM LINE: The exact wording from the settlement is, “The Parties desire to finally and fully resolve all disputed claims arising out of the staffing discrepancies.”

As I reported on Oct. 17, the settlement agreement itself says all civil claims are settled over the staffing issues, and doesn’t discuss criminal liability. In response to a public records request, the governor’s office provided a Feb. 17, 2014 email exchange between Mark Warbis, a top aide to Otter, and Mark Kubinski, lead deputy attorney general for the Idaho Department of Correction, on that question.

Warbis writes, “Does this release and discharge apply only to civil claims, or could this potentially block the pursuit of criminal claims should they emerge?” Kubinski responds, “The release section only applies to civil claims. The signatories are Division of Purchasing, IDOC and the Board, none of whom have any authority to waive any potential criminal charges. I’m comfortable with the language as drafted.”

 “CONTRACT IS OPENED UP”: During the debate, Libertarian candidate John Bujak said, “I have a little more information as a lawyer, I’ve seen some of the litigation that’s gone through the federal courts related to what was going on there due to the lack of supervision. The state has been exposed to the liability through the lack of supervision to a greater degree. I think the settlement was premature. I don’t think that number was a good number, and I would have liked to see more investigation before any kind of settlement was struck regarding the private prison.”

Otter responded, “A good lawyer would have read the entire contract on the negotiation, and would have found out that at the end, new information on a new subject, the whole contract is opened up. That’s in the contract, John.”

Bujak responded,”As a civil lawyer, whenever you settle a civil case you don't leave open-ended liability. The whole notion is it's risk management. Now, maybe they can be opened up to some additional liability in the criminal context, but there’s no additional civil liability that can be imposed under that contract. That civil liability was simply put to bed for a million bucks.”

Otter retorted, “Not true.”

BOTTOM LINE: There is no provision at the end of the nine-page settlement that matches Otter’s description. Prior to its signatures, it ends with this clause on Page 5: “Effectiveness. This Settlement Agreement shall become effective upon the date of execution by the last Party to execute the Settlement Agreement.”

Watch the full governor’s debate…

The full, 90-minute debate between Idaho GOP Gov. Butch Otter, Democratic challenger A.J. Balukoff and Libertarian challenger John Bujak can be viewed online here. It was a lively and often heated debate that saw the candidates clash on an array of issues as Tuesday's election approaches. The debate, which was broadcast statewide on Idaho Public Television, is part of the “Idaho Debates,” co-sponsored by the Idaho Press Club and the League of Women Voters of Idaho. It was the final debate in the race before the election.

Idaho guv debate most heated yet

Idaho's final gubernatorial debate showcased the most heated exchanges yet between the candidates seeking the seat, the AP reports. GOP Gov. Butch Otter faced off against Democratic candidate A.J. Balukoff and Libertarian candidate John Bujak. The three agreed on little, writes AP reporter Kimberlee Kruesi, and often interrupted the moderator and debate panel to respond to zingers thrown out by their opponents, while discussing education, the economy and same-sex marriage. Click below for the AP's full report.

Also, the Twin Falls Times-News has a full report here on the debate, headlined, “Otter on defensive on CCA in last debate.” Reporter Nathan Brown writes that both Balukoff and Bujak slammed Otter's handling of the private prison matter, including a $1 million settlement with Corrections Corp. of America releasing the company from civil liability for understaffing the state's largest prison and overbilling the state, and his handling of the state's current troubled contract for the Idaho Education Network, a broadband network linking the state's high schools. Otter said he doesn't know if the CCA settlement was fair. “I'll know when the FBI is done investigating,” he said.

A night of lively political debates in Idaho…

Here’s a link to my full story at on tonight’s lieutenant governor debate, the only debate in the race between GOP Lt. Gov. Brad Little and Democratic challenger Bert Marley. In the polite but pointed televised debate, Little and Marley outlined sharply differing views of how Idaho’s faring as it works to recover from a big economic downturn.

The lieutenant governor debate, which ran 30 minutes, followed a heated debate in the governor’s race, in which GOP incumbent Butch Otter, Libertarian John Bujak and Democrat A.J. Balukoff clashed on everything from Idaho’s private prison debacle to education to jobs. Among the interesting moments: Otter referred at one point to his opponents by a combined name: “Balujak.” After Bujak was asked about his legal woes in Canyon County – which resulted in multiple acquittals – he said, “I’m surprised that I get the questions about scandal, with Gov. Otter standing next to me.” Balukoff called for scrapping the troubled contract for the Idaho Education Network: “Undo that contract, rebid it,” he said.

Otter said Idaho’s never been able to meet its constitutional mandate to adequately fund schools because of the state’s rural nature, and only now with initiatives like the IEN is it beginning to bring more uniformity to education. Balukoff and Bujak both disagreed; Balukoff said Idaho did a pretty good job funding school operations before the 2006 law that shifted funding from property taxes to the sales tax.

Otter said he’d sign a bill to add the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the Idaho Human Rights Act, if lawmakers send it to his desk, but said he’s “not ready to surrender” on same-sex marriage. Bujak said, “At this point the ship has sailed. … You’re just throwing good money after bad.”  Balukoff asked, “Friends, is our state better off under Gov. Otter? The answer is no.”

Meanwhile, the two candidates for state superintendent of schools, Republican Sherri Ybarra and Democrat Jana Jones, met for their final debate – this one organized and run by high school students in Idaho Falls. Idaho Education News reporter Clark Corbin has a full report here.


Candidates draw lots before tonight’s gubernatorial debate

Prior to the start of tonight's final debate in the governor's race, the candidates - Gov. Butch Otter, Libertarian John Bujak and Democrat A.J. Balukoff - drew to determine the order for their opening and closing remarks; Bruce Reichert, executive producer at Idaho Public TV, used his vintage white cowboy hat to hold the lots. Tonight's debate runs 90 minutes and starts at 7 p.m. I'm on the reporter panel, along with Kevin Richert of Idaho Education News and Rocky Barker of the Idaho Statesman; Melissa Davlin of Idaho Public TV is the moderator.

Tonight's gubernatorial debate will be followed by the lieutenant governor debate between incumbent Brad Little and Democratic challenger Bert Marley. Check here later for links to full coverage of both debates. 

Candidates for governor face off in final debate tonight

The final debate in Idaho’s governor’s race is tonight at 7 p.m. on Idaho Public Television. It’s part of the “Idaho Debates,” co-sponsored by the Idaho Press Club and the League of Women Voters of Idaho. Tonight’s debate will run for 90 minutes and feature three candidates: GOP Gov. Butch Otter, who is seeking a third term; Democratic challenger A.J. Balukoff; and Libertarian challenger John Bujak.

After the governor’s debate, the candidates for Idaho lieutenant governor, incumbent Republican Brad Little and Democratic challenger Bert Marley, will face off in a 30-minute debate at 8:30 p.m.

The Idaho Debates conclude on Sunday with the final matchup, between 2nd District Congressman Mike Simpson and Democratic challenger – and former 2nd District congressman – Richard Stallings. That debate will air at 7 p.m.

After they’re broadcast, the Idaho Debates are available for viewing online here. That includes all seven debates – in the races for governor, lieutenant governor, 1st and 2nd District congressional races, state treasurer, Secretary of State, and state superintendent of schools. An eighth debate had been scheduled in the U.S. Senate race between GOP Sen. Jim Risch and Democratic challenger Nels Mitchell, but Risch declined to participate. Risch did agree to a single debate against Mitchell on Boise TV state KTVB; that debate can be seen online here.

More ‘Idaho Debates’ coming up…

The candidates for state superintendent of schools, Democrat Jana Jones and Republican Sherri Ybarra, will face off tomorrow night at 7 as part of the “Idaho Debates,” co-sponsored by the Idaho Press Club and the League of Women Voters of Idaho and broadcast statewide on Idaho Public Television. The “Idaho Debates” then continue with the 2nd Congressional District debate, between GOP Congressman Mike Simpson and Democratic challenger - and former 2nd District congressman - Richard Stallings, on Sunday at 7 p.m.; the lieutenant governor debate between incumbent Brad Little and Democratic challenger Bert Marley at 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 30; and the big one – the governor’s debate – at 7 p.m. on Oct. 30. That debate will feature GOP Gov. Butch Otter, Democratic challenger A.J. Balukoff, and Libertarian challenger John Bujak.

Debates, debates, debates…

There are more debates on tap: Tonight, 2nd District Congressman Mike Simpson debates Democratic challenger Richard Stallings on Boise TV station KTVB at 7 p.m.; the debate will air live from Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa. Immediately after that, at 8 p.m., the two candidates for state schools superintendent, Republican Sherri Ybarra and Democrat Jana Jones, will face off in the same location and on the same channel.

Tomorrow night at 8:30, the “Idaho Debates” will feature Idaho Treasurer Ron Crane debating his Democratic challenger, Deborah Silver, on Idaho Public Televison; that debate is part of a series co-sponsored by the Idaho Press Club and the League of Women Voters of Idaho.

Debates, debates, debates…

KTVB Channel 7 has two major political debates on tap tonight, both to be broadcast live from Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa. At 7 p.m., 1st Congressional District Rep. Raul Labrador will debate Democratic challenger Shirley Ringo. At 8 p.m., it’s the governor’s race.

The station also has two live debates scheduled tomorrow night: 2nd District Rep. Mike Simpson will debate Democratic challenger Richard Stallings at 7 p.m.; and state school superintendent candidates Jana Jones and Sherri Ybarra will face off at 8 p.m.

On Thursday, the debate between state Treasurer Ron Crane and Democratic challenger Deborah Silver will air statewide on Idaho Public Televison as part of the “Idaho Debates.” It starts at 8:30 p.m.

Labrador, Ringo outline starkly differing positions in debate

Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador and his Democratic challenger, Shirley Ringo, outlined starkly differing positions on issues ranging from same-sex marriage to taxes and spending, as the two faced off in a debate on Idaho Public Television tonight. Labrador, a Republican who is seeking a third term in the district that represents North Idaho, said Idahoans voted in favor of banning same-sex marriage in 2006. “We have to look first at the Constitution. There’s nothing in the Constitution about gay marriage, there’s nothing in the Constitution about traditional marriage,” he said. “So you need to decide whether that’s something that courts should be deciding, or the people should be deciding.”

Ringo, a longtime state representative from Moscow and a retired math teacher, said, “We certainly can’t put ourselves in a situation where the vote of the people overrides the Constitution.” You can read my full story here at

Labrador, Ringo face off on statewide TV tonight

Idaho 1st District Rep. Raul Labrador, who is seeking a third term, will face off with Democratic challenger Shirley Ringo tonight on Idaho Public Television as part of the “Idaho Debates.” The debate starts at 7 p.m. Labrador is an immigration lawyer, former two-term Idaho state lawmaker and tea party favorite; Ringo is a longtime Democratic state representative from Moscow and a retired math teacher. After it airs, the debate will be available to view online at Idaho Public TV. The Idaho Debates are co-sponsored by the Idaho Press Club and the League of Women Voters of Idaho.

Treasurer’s debate reset for next Thursday

The canceled debate in the Idaho state treasurer's race, originally set for tonight as part of the “Idaho Debates” on Idaho Public Television, has been rescheduled for next Thursday at 8:30 p.m. State Treasurer Ron Crane asked for the change, saying he'd lost his voice and couldn't debate tonight. Democratic challenger Deborah Silver reacted with suspicion, saying the cancellation came as Crane was resisting her public records requests for various information from his office, including communications with the state Attorney General. However, she agreed to the new date next week.

The debate will air statewide at 8:30 p.m., as part of a series of debates co-sponsored by the Idaho Press Club and the League of Women Voters of Idaho.

Crane cancels tomorrow’s debate against Silver because he’s lost his voice; it’s being rescheduled

Idaho state Treasurer Ron Crane is pulling out of tomorrow’s scheduled statewide debate on Idaho Public Television because he’s lost his voice, but is working to get it rescheduled for next week. “He’s caught the crud that everybody else has had, and yesterday he was a little froggy but today his voice is practically completely gone,” said Crane’s campaign spokesman, Ken Burgess. He said Crane remains “absolutely committed” to debating his Democratic challenger, Deborah Silver, in the “Idaho Debates,” which are co-sponsored by the Idaho Press Club and the League of Women Voters and broadcast live statewide on Idaho Public TV.

Silver was skeptical. “I think he doesn’t want to answer some questions that we have out there right now,” she said. The first three alternative dates proposed conflict with major campaign events she has scheduled around the state next week, she said. “I’m ready to debate. I’m totally prepared to debate. So we’ll see how this works.”

The two also are scheduled to face off at Boise TV station KTVB on Monday; Burgess said Crane is hopeful he’ll be able to do that one. The treasurer’s debate in the “Idaho Debates” had been scheduled for 8:30 p.m. on Thursday.

Debates, debates, debates…

The two candidates for Idaho Secretary of State, Republican Lawerence Denney and Democrat Holli Woodings, will face off in a live debate tonight on Idaho Public Television; it’s part of the Idaho Debates, co-sponsored by the Idaho Press Club and the League of Women Voters of Idaho and broadcast statewide on Idaho PTV. The hour-long debate will start at 7 p.m.

Also tonight, the sole debate in Idaho’s race for the U.S. Senate this year will air on KTVB-TV in Boise at 9 p.m.; that debate features incumbent GOP Sen. Jim Risch and Democratic challenger Nels Mitchell. After it airs tonight on KTVB Channel 7, re-broadcasts are planned.

Thursday at noon, GOP Gov. Butch Otter will debate Democratic challenger A.J. Balukoff at the Idaho Falls City Club; the City Club of Boise will offer a simulcast for its members in Boise at the Owyhee Plaza.

Then, Thursday night, the candidates for Idaho’s 1st District congressional seat – incumbent GOP Rep. Raul Labrador and Democratic challenger Shirley Ringo – will debate on Idaho Public TV at 7 p.m. as part of the Idaho Debates. At 8:30, the two candidates for Idaho state treasurer, incumbent Ron Crane and Democratic challenger Deborah Silver, also will debate in the Idaho Debates, with the face-off airing statewide on Idaho Public TV.

Crane faces first debate of 16 years in office

Idaho Treasurer Ron Crane will participate in his first series of political debates since he was elected 16 years ago, reports AP reporter Kimberlee Kruesi, as Crane faces Democratic challenger Deborah Silver in November. He was unopposed in the last election in 2010. Longtime Idaho political observer Jim Weatherby told AP reporter Kimberlee Kruesi it's not unusual for incumbents to shy away from sharing the same stage as their opponents, but Crane is unusual for going nearly four terms without participating in either a local or televised debate. Crane's campaign says he didn't duck debates; he just lacked opponents, or lacked opponents who met debate criteria over the years.

Kruesi reports that the state treasurer's position has received more attention since a legislative audit was released in January finding that Crane's office conducted inappropriate money transfers that cost taxpayers millions of dollars beginning in 2008. Crane has repeatedly disputed the audit's findings, but Silver, a longtime CPA from Twin Falls, argues her opponent refuses to comply with all the auditor's recommendations. “I'm looking forward to the debates,” Silver said. “I'm very open to talking about this.”

Full slate of debates in Idaho races to ‘fill in the picture’ for voters

A full slate of political debates stretches before Idaho voters, who are mulling decisions on every statewide office in November; you can read my full story here at The “Idaho Debates,” a tradition in the state of more than three decades’ standing, will feature seven debates broadcast live statewide on Idaho Public Television, co-sponsored by the Idaho Press Club and the League of Women Voters of Idaho. In addition, other groups also are sponsoring candidate forums and debates – including a local debate in Coeur d’Alene in the governor’s race that’s free and open to the public.

“I’m just delighted to see there’s that much activity, and there are a lot of very interesting races, so I hope the public tunes in or follows these debates and forums closely,” said longtime Idaho political observer Jim Weatherby, a professor emeritus at Boise State University. “There’s a lot at stake.”

Weatherby said debates are particularly important for voters who may be exposed to selective messages from candidates through advertising or other means. “It helps fill in the picture as to who these people really are, rather than hiding behind their campaign ads or the websites or brochures that are carefully prepared,” he said. In addition to putting candidates on the spot about their positions on issues and showing them head-to-head with their opponents, he said, debates show “how effectively they can respond to criticism.”

Nels Mitchell, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, decried GOP incumbent Jim Risch’s decision to participate in only one debate, turning down invitations from the Idaho Debates, the City Club of Boise and more. Click below for Mitchell’s full statement.

‘Idaho Debates’ announce fall line-up

The Idaho Debates, a tradition of more than three decades in Idaho, has announced its fall line-up of political debates in advance of the November general election, including debates in an array of the state’s top races. The debates, broadcast live statewide on Idaho Public Television, are co-sponsored by the Idaho Press Club and the League of Women Voters of Idaho. Here’s the schedule:

Oct. 7, 7 p.m.: Idaho Secretary of State debate, featuring Republican Lawerence Denney and Democrat Holli Woodings

Oct. 9, 7 p.m.: 1st Congressional District debate, featuring GOP Rep. Raul Labrador and Democratic challenger Shirley Ringo

Oct. 9, 8:30 p.m.: Idaho state treasurer debate, featuring GOP Treasurer Ron Crane and Democratic challenger Deborah Silver

Oct. 21, 7 p.m.: Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction debate, featuring GOP candidate Sherri Ybarra and Democratic candidate Jana Jones

Oct. 26, 7 p.m.: 2nd Congressional District debate, featuring GOP Rep. Mike Simpson and Democratic challenger Richard Stallings

Oct. 30, 7 p.m.: Idaho governor debate, featuring GOP Gov. Butch Otter, Democratic challenger A.J. Balukoff, and Libertarian candidate John Bujak

Oct. 30, 8:30 p.m.: Idaho lieutenant governor debate, featuring GOP Lt. Gov. Brad Little and Democratic challenger Bert Marley

A debate in the U.S. Senate race had been scheduled for Oct. 12, but was canceled after GOP Sen. Jim Risch declined to participate. Risch’s campaign manager, Melinda Smyser, said in a letter to Idaho Debates organizers, “It has been the senator’s custom to do one debate with his opponent,” and Risch already has agreed to debate Democratic challenger Nels Mitchell on Boise TV station KTVB. The station will provide the debate for re-broadcast by stations elsewhere in the state.

Full disclosure here: As president of the Idaho Press Club, I volunteer on the committee that helps plan and organize the Idaho Debates, which are moderated by Idaho Public Television and feature reporter panelists who are members of the Press Club. The debates are always lively and of interest, and we’re looking forward to them.

Otter announces he’ll take part in four debates

Gov. Butch Otter has announced that he’ll participate in four debates with his general election opponents, including the “Idaho Debates” on Oct. 30 to be broadcast statewide on Idaho Public Television, co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the Idaho Press Club. Otter also will participate in a KTVB NewsChannel 7 debate on Oct. 14 at 8 p.m. in Boise; a City Club of Idaho Falls debate at noon on Oct. 9 in Idaho Falls, to be rebroadcast later on KISU; and a Coeur Group debate Oct 3 in Coeur d’Alene, for which the time and location have not yet been announced.

“I look forward to participating in the debate process and discussing my plans to keep moving Idaho forward,” Otter said in his announcement. “I know that voters have questions, and I look forward to answering those.”

A ‘Moment of Zen’ for election day…

Oh, my. A snippet from last week’s Idaho gubernatorial debate made the “Moment of Zen” that closes out episodes of Jon Stewart’s Daily Show; it aired last night. I guess that’s our moment of Zen for Election Day today. You can watch here.

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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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