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Posts tagged: Idaho Democratic Party

Charges fly, then fizzle in governor’s race

Here’s a link to my full story at spokesman.com on how charges flew – then fizzled – over the weekend as the Idaho Republican Party claimed that the Idaho Democratic Party and Democratic candidate for governor A.J. Balukoff were doing something “shady” involving passing money back and forth that might violate campaign finance laws. The Democrats responded that Balukoff had contracted out his campaign payroll services to the state party, and it was all reported, legal and on the up-and-up.

On Monday morning, the Idaho Secretary of State’s office looked into it and found no violation at all, instead concluding it's just “that time of year.” The state GOP now says it won’t pursue any complaint. Dean Ferguson, executive director of the Idaho Democratic Party, said, “I’m guessing they feel a little silly about it.”

Balukoff, a CPA and millionaire Boise businessman, is challenging Idaho GOP Gov. Butch Otter, a multimillionaire rancher, as he seeks a third term. The race also includes Libertarian candidate John Bujak, Constitution Party candidate Steve Pankey, and two independent candidates, Jill Humble and “Pro-Life,” who legally changed his name from Marvin Richardson.

Idaho GOP backs off from complaint over Balukoff and Dems’ campaign finances

The Idaho Republican Party now says it won’t pursue any campaign finance complaint against A.J. Balukoff, Democratic candidate for governor, or the Idaho Democratic Party over a payroll services contract. “If they can satisfy the Secretary of State and make that clear to them that everything is fine and dandy, then that’s good, and that’s ultimately what the purpose of our press release was about,” said Dave Johnston, Idaho GOP executive director. “We had received this complaint from several concerned people who brought this to our attention.”

He said the questions focused on the post-primary election campaign finance reports filed both by the Idaho Democratic Party and by Balukoff’s campaign, in which payments were shown but the GOP thought it wasn’t clear “what is what, and if it’s a donation or whether it’s a service that is being rendered.” He added, “If the Secretary of State is satisfied, we’re not going to go forward with it.”

Idaho Secretary of State says no violation in Balukoff payroll contract

Idaho Chief Deputy Secretary of State Tim Hurst says there’s no campaign finance violation in the way Democratic gubernatorial candidate A.J. Balukoff has set up his payroll services contract with the Idaho Democratic Party. “We talked to the Democratic Party,” Hurst told Eye on Boise this morning. “The way it’s working is Mr. Balukoff’s campaign actually prepays for the services. So he’s always ahead. There’s no violation of limits.”

Balukoff provides the money up-front, and then the party disburses it for his payroll. “It’s part of the contract that he has with the party,” Hurst said. “I don’t see a violation there.” He added, “It’s just that time of year.”

Of parties, payroll, and politics…

The Idaho Republican Party charged in a press release sent out late Friday night that Democratic candidate for governor A.J. Balukoff may be violating campaign finance laws by the way he handles his campaign payroll. The Idaho Democratic Party responded on Saturday with its own press release, saying the party has a contract with Balukoff’s campaign to manage payroll services and there’s nothing in the deal that violates campaign finance laws. “IDP’s contract has been carefully vetted by CPAs as well as compliance experts. We are fully confident in its legality,” party spokesman Dean Ferguson said in his release.

The GOP release suggests that “Balukoff isn’t paying for his staff,” and instead they are being paid by the party while Balukoff donates funds to the party to cover the costs. Jason Risch, attorney for the Idaho GOP, termed this an “abnormal shuffling of funds” and said he thought it could mean the Democratic Party was exceeding the $10,000 limit on contributions to a candidate, “including in-kind contributions such as paying for a candidate’s staff.”

“The purpose of campaign finance disclosure law is to bring greater transparency in campaign finances so Idahoans may see what candidates and political organizations are doing,” GOP executive director Dave Johnston said in the release. “Engaging in confusing money shuffling schemes that appears to violate campaign finance law also violates the spirit of the law – which is to provide greater transparency.”

Ferguson maintained the payroll contract actually provides greater transparency, is fully reported, and that Republican candidates also have contracted out payroll services for their campaigns.

Both sides also took the opportunity to fire a few shots at each other. The Democrats’ release said, “The statement from the IRP seems to be part of an orchestrated smear campaign launched by Republican career politicians, and their lobbyist infrastructure, because they cannot defend Idaho’s rank as last in income, last in education investment, and 2nd in minimum wage jobs.”

The GOP release said, “Balukoff, being a certified public accountant, should know better. However, he is the same candidate who presided over a school board election in Boise that was riddled with shady practices. Finding shady schemes in his finances reports is not a surprise.”

You can read the Dems’ full release here, and the GOP’s full release here. I’ve contacted both parties for more information this morning and haven’t heard back from either. And yes, ‘tis the season…

Dems kick off state convention with optimism, ready jabs at Republicans

Idaho Democrats kicked off their two-day state convention in Moscow today with optimism, a two-page draft of a platform, and a ready supply of jabs at Republicans, Idaho Education News reporter Kevin Richert reports. Richert is reporting on the convention live this weekend at idahoednews.org.

Today, he reports that the Dems are gathering at a convention center just a short walk from the Kibbie Dome, where the state GOP convention degenerated into chaos six days earlier. Democratic leaders couldn’t resist crowing a bit after they seated all their convention delegates with a single unanimous vote – the very issue that bogged down the GOP confab, as the credentials of various delegations were challenged. “We’ve already accomplished what no one else could,” state Democratic Chairman Larry Kenck said. “Congratulations.” Richert’s full report is online here.

Rendell to keynote Idaho Dems’ state convention next weekend

Ed Rendell, former governor of Pennsylvania and mayor of Philadelphia, former Democratic National Committee chairman and a revered figure in Pennsylvania and in Democratic politics, will give the keynote address at the Idaho Democratic Party’s convention next weekend in Moscow. The Dems will kick off their convention June 20; Rendell will speak at the “Victory Feast” banquet on the evening of the 21st. There’s more info here.

Meanwhile, Republicans are gathering for their state convention – also in Moscow – starting today; this evening’s kickoff event is a dinner speech from Mike Huckabee, with Sen. Rand Paul to give the keynote speech Friday night.

Dems blame ‘failed GOP policies’ for state’s top ranking for minimum-wage workers

Larry Kenck, the new chairman of the Idaho Democratic Party, has issued a statement blaming “years of failed GOP policies” for Idaho’s ranking as the state with the highest percentage of workers earning the minimum wage. “Idaho has suffered from decades of GOP policies that do very little to encourage high-paying businesses to relocate to Idaho or to stay in Idaho,” Kenck declared; you can read his full statement here.

Grant to step down as Idaho Dems chair

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The chairman of the Idaho Democratic Party is stepping down. Larry Grant announced this week this week that he won't seek another term, sending the state's minority party searching for a new leader. Grant was elected to the post in 2011 and in his announcement he touted his efforts to recruit an effective party staff and help field a cast of competitive candidates in the 2012 election. Grant says he didn't achieve all he set out to do, but he says he's proud of the accomplishments during his tenure. His term ends next month. The party will hold an election Feb. 23 during its state central committee meeting. Last year, Democrats held on to their 20 seats in the Idaho House and Senate and helped defeat a package of education laws approved in 2011.

Mayor lauds Boise to Geraldo Rivera at Dems national convention interview

Boise Mayor Dave Bieter does a radio interview with Geraldo Rivera in this photo taken at the Democratic National Convention yesterday by Idaho Rep. Brian Cronin, D-Boise, who along with Bieter is among Idaho's 31 delegates to the national confab. Cronin said Rivera lobbed mostly “softball” questions at Bieter, along with asking about the city's political climate. “He was basically being the PR guy for the city of Boise,” Cronin said. “I think it actually gave the mayor a chance to talk about some of the great things that are going on in the city.”

Cronin, who's attending his first national party convention, said he's sensing a “tremendous amount of energy and enthusiasm” among the crowd. “For me, I think, it's just a really exciting time to be surrounded by people who in general are like-minded but also serious about elections, and about the people we elect to represent us in government.”

Idaho’s delegation to national Democratic Party convention…

Idaho's 31 delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. include five state lawmakers, Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, tribal leaders, a retired mailman, a teacher, an electrician, and the president of Idaho Young Democrats, Morgan Hill, StateImpact Idaho reports today. “There’s a kind of complicated formula, but the majority of the people on the list were elected at the state convention,” Dean Ferguson, the Idaho Democratic Party’s communications director, told StateImpact.  “They had to give speeches to their fellow delegates about why they were best to go.” You can read their report here, which includes a link to the full list of the delegates.

Idaho Dems unveil platform; GOP to craft theirs later this week

Idaho Democrats have unveiled their new party platform, crafted at the party's state convention last weekend; it takes aim at some Republican initiatives that have emerged in the last two years in the Idaho Legislature, the Associated Press reports. Examples: The Dems' new platform rejects closed primary elections, which the Idaho GOP championed; and also rejects government intrusion into personal medical decisions, “unproven educational experimentation” in Idaho's public schools; and the notion that state government has a legal right to nullify federal laws. “I urge everyone to take a careful look at the positions of the Idaho Democrats,” said Eldon Wallace, chairman of the platform committee. “Compare that to the rightward drift of the more radical elements of the GOP that would dramatically change our society and reduce our quality of life.” Click below for a full report from the AP; you can read the party's full platform here. The idaho Republican Party will craft its platform at its state convention, which runs this Thursday through Saturday in Twin Falls.

Dems up their candidate numbers for Legislature

Idaho Democrats recruited more than 90 candidates to run for office this year, and there were nine contested Democratic primary contests across the state last month, Democratic Party Chairman Larry Grant told his party's state convention today. Now, there are 82 Democratic candidates on the ballot for legislative seats.

“Some are placeholders,” Grant acknowledged. “You've got to have placeholders in these elections, because you never know when somebody is going to steal an RV and … crash it, or refuse to pay their taxes,” he said to laughter. But Grant said there are 60 Democratic legislative candidates “running honest, sincere and vigorous races across the state. … That's more candidates than anybody can remember in the state of Idaho … since the '60s.”

Boise State University political scientists Gary Moncrief said, “We've usually got about 40 to 50 seats that are uncontested, just doing the math; a lot of those that are contested are barely contested. So if in fact they're running 60 serious races, I would think that's higher than we've seen in some time.”

In 1990, when the Senate split evenly between Republicans and Democrats, there were more seats in the Legislature, at 126. Democrats only failed to compete in 30 of those races that year. In 1992, which was both a competitive time between the parties and, like this year, a redistricting year, which typically draws more candidates, the Dems left 31 of 105 seats uncontested. This year, according to records at the Idaho Secretary of State's office, Democrats were on the ballot for all but 28 of the seats in the Legislature in the primary, and five more Dems made the ballot as primary election write-ins, for a total of just 23 seats not contested by Democrats in November.

The Democrats begin debating their state party platform late this afternoon; tomorrow, they'll finalize the platform and elect delegates to the national party convention.

Farris to Dems: ‘It’s about bringing people together, not dividing them’

Idaho Democrats are gathered for their state party convention today and tomorrow in Boise, while Idaho Republicans will gather for their state convention next Thursday through Saturday in Twin Falls. At today's Democratic confab, 1st District congressional candidate Jimmy Farris was the luncheon speaker, drawing an enthusiastic response from a crowd of about 100. Farris, a former NFL football player and Lewiston native, was wearing his Super Bowl ring, and led off by thanking his “team,” as he  introduced his campaign staffers. Farris looks younger than his 34 years, and has an unmistakably athletic bearing, particularly when he doffed his jacket and worked the crowd.

“I've accomplished a lot and learned a lot and sacrificed a lot, and ultimately I'm running because I care a lot, I want to make a difference,” he said earnestly before his speech. “Don't let the young face fool ya.”

He shared stories from his NFL days, decried the current state of things in Idaho from school funding to unemployment to crumbling infrastructure to high numbers of uninsured, and said his experience has been rooted in “working with people from different backgrounds and being able to work together” to solve problems. He also painted freshman GOP Rep. Raul Labrador, the incumbent, as a promoter of “division and gridlock.” Said Farris, “That's what this campaign is all about. It's about bringing people together, not dividing them. It's about being part of a team, not a … one-man show.”

Farris acknowledged he has a “tough campaign” ahead of him, challenging a sitting congressman from a Republican state who's become a tea party favorite in the nation's capital. “I say here today it's time we put Congressman Raul Labrador on waivers,” Farris declared. “Let's give him a two-year head start on his run for governor.” Among those in the audience was former state Sen. Mary Lou Reed, D-Coeur d'Alene, who called Farris “refreshingly strong” and “a very smart guy.”

Idaho Dems plan presidential caucuses Saturday across the state

Idaho Democrats will caucus on Saturday morning to select their presidential delegates, and they're inviting folks to join them at the gatherings in each Idaho county. At locations from Mugsy's Tavern in Bonners Ferry to the Morrison Center in Boise, Dems will gather at 10 a.m. local time - meaning the doors will close then, so those who want to participate should arrive before that hour; you can read my full story here in today's Spokesman-Review.

“People who turn out are people that are excited to be Democrats, they're excited to have a Democratic president to support, and this is their chance to do it,” said state party spokesman Dean Ferguson. “I'd expect quite a bit of enthusiasm.” Ada County Democratic Chair Colleen Fellows said, “This will be an exciting up-beat rally atmosphere.”

Any qualified voter who lives in the county and will be 18 by the November election can participate; participants also must sign a pledge form stating that they're a member of the Democratic Party and declaring either support for President Obama or that they're uncommitted. Many of the caucuses around the state, including those in Ada and Kootenai counties, will include the showing of the new Obama documentary, “The Road We Have Traveled.”

Four years ago, roughly 22,000 participated in Idaho's Democratic presidential caucuses and threw the state's support to Barack Obama over rival Hillary Clinton by a two-thirds margin; this time, President Obama is unopposed. Sally Boynton Brown, state party executive director, said, “Lack of competition means these events will not offer the drama or draw the crowds of 2008, but the caucuses are important gatherings for party members who want a say in the party's state and national platforms.” For more information, go to idahodems.org.

Dems vote 70-0 to keep party primary open

The Idaho Democratic Party, at its fall state central committee meeting over the weekend in Sun Valley, voted to keep its primary election open to all voters, rather than closing it to anyone but registered party members as Idaho Republicans have opted to do. “Not a single person on our state central committee was interested in disenfranchising voters,” said Democratic Party Chairman Larry Grant.  “The Democratic Party welcomes everyone that has been thrown out of the Republican Party by the extremists trying to purify their ranks by closing their primary.”

House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, said, “Our Democratic legislators represent everyone in their districts, not just the Democrats but Republicans and independents as well, so our election process should reflect that.” Saturday's central committee vote was 70-0. Idaho's next primary election is May 15, 2012.

Grant: ‘Another Repub goes unpunished’

Idaho Democratic Party Chairman Larry Grant has issued a news release slamming the recent decision by Ada County Prosecutor Greg Bower to forgo prosecuting former state Tax Commission Chairman Royce Chigbrow because statute of limitations had expired. “It is outrageous that Chigbrow won’t be called to account for his wrong doings,” Grant wrote. “If Republican leadership had acted when they first were told of concerns about Chigbrow’s behavior, maybe it wouldn’t have been too late to hold him accountable.  This is just another case of the Republican Party turning a blind eye to unethical, and in this case, criminal behavior.”

He pointed to recent ethics questions involving state Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, and state Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, and said, “It's time the Republican Party holds their leaders accountable.” You can read his full release here.

Idaho Dems choose Grant as new party chair

The Idaho Democratic Party announced today that its central committee has elected Larry Grant as it new state party chairman. Grant, a former congressional candidate and former vice president and general counsel for Micron Technology, is from Payette. Click below for the Democrats' full announcement.

Roll Call: ‘Idaho’s Minnick says he’s done for good’

The Capitol Hill newspaper “Roll Call” reports today that Idaho Congressman Walt Minnick says he’s “gone for good” from elective politics. “I think I’m done with elective politics,” he told the newspaper.  “I’m not sure what I’m going to do, but I think it’s time for somebody else.” The article examines the dismal elective record of Democrats in Idaho in the past three decades, and the Idaho party’s future prospects, perhaps with conservative, well-funded Democratic candidates like Minnick. “I might’ve fit the profile of a winner, but it was a bad year,” Minnick told Roll Call before one of his last votes in Congress. “It was a big wave, and I was on a low island.” You can read the full article here.

Roark to let Hansen go, Dems say they’ll ‘try some new things’

Idaho Democratic Party Chairman Keith Roark has decided not to reappoint party Executive Director Jim Hansen when Hansen’s term ends Dec. 31, though Roark insists he doesn’t blame Hansen for the GOP sweep in the Nov. 2 election. “There is a need for some new direction, some new approaches,” Roark said. “Obviously with the Democratic Party in the situation that it’s in, looking forward, we’re going to have to try some new things that have not been tried before.”

 

Hansen, a former three-term Democratic state lawmaker from Boise and the son of former Idaho Congressman Orval Hansen, headed United Vision for Idaho for 13 years before he took the party post in 2008; there, he was recognized with a prestigious $100,000 leadership award from the Ford Foundation in 2005. When Hansen became the party’s executive director in 2008, Roark, in a press release, called him “one of Idaho’s best known and most experienced community leaders.”

 

Roark, who has served as party chairman for three years, said he’s not sure himself if he’ll seek another term in February. “I think our biggest failure has been the failure to develop and articulate a message that clearly reflects what we stand for, and consequently we have found ourselves in a position where we are defined by the Republicans, rather than by members of the Democratic Party, and that’s a significant shortcoming on our part,” Roark said. “We’ve had a very difficult time creating an identity and a message for Idaho Democrats that is separate and distinct from the national Democratic Party. That’s a challenge.”

 

Roark added, “Jim has worked extremely hard,” and said no individual could have fixed the problem. “We’ve got to look forward, and that means some new names, some new faces and some new personalities with different ideas than those that we pursued for the last three years,” Roark said; click below to read his full message to the party’s central committee about the move.

Rusche op-ed: Dems continue to lag in Idaho, despite gains elsewhere

Idaho House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, in an op-ed piece, notes recent Democratic gains throughout the West. “Yet the Democratic brand continues to lag across much of Idaho,” he writes. “We know that our fellow Idahoans will not shift long-held voting patterns unless they have compelling reasons to do so. So here’s my best shot at telling you what Idaho Democrats stand for.” Click here to read his full article.

Rusche suggests that Idaho Democrats are misunderstood, and that if voters knew more about them, they’d vote for more of them.

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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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