I attended the health care debate among nine 1st Congressional District candidates, including Demo Cecil Kelly and two Independents. Initial reaction:
*Controller Keith Johnson struck me as the Republican machine candidate, down to his conservative suit, red power tie, and firm handshake. His background in finance and budgeting provide solid credentials for the job. But I can't believe that he thought health care was a luxury.
*Former state senator Sheila Sorensen looks like a middle-age Barbie with bangs, but dressed and spoke well (but in generalities). She's sharp. And she's easily the most liberal of the six Republicans in the race.
*Bill Sali was dressed in brown and orange and seemed bemused or distracted when others were speaking. He has solid credentials on pro-life and 2nd Amendment issues. He has all the right endorsements for religious conservatives, down to his wife sitting by Ron Vieselmyer and his wife. If Sali can't get along within the Idaho Legislature, however, he'll be eaten alive and ignored in Congress.
*Robert Vasquez: A distinguished looking man with a distinguished military background who is obsessed with illegal aliens and tends to bring every topic back around to this issue.
*Skip Brandt: A nice guy who runs a hardware store in the middle of nowhere (Stites) and a respected lawmaker. He has Helen Chenoweth-Hage's endorsement but not a lot of money. He made the most favorable impression on me of the three hardline conservatives.
*Norm Semanko: An insider who knows the issues and spoke well. Attentive. He looks like a young former political aide who's trying to graduate to his boss's former office, which, of course, he is.