Latest from The Spokesman-Review
Democratic candidate for governor A.J. Balukoff spoke out today against the guns-on-campus bill that Gov. Butch Otter signed into law yesterday, saying, “That’s a solution looking for a problem. It was totally unnecessary, and I think the process to pass that was just as flawed as the bill.” Balukoff, the chairman of the Boise School Board, said, “It was an erosion of local control. … It’s also an unfunded mandate to our colleges and universities, who are already struggling to make ends meet.”
Balukoff’s comments came in response to reporters’ questions as he held a news conference on the Statehouse steps today to note that he and running mate Bert Marley have filed their candidacy papers; Marley, a former Democratic state senator and longtime teacher, is running for lieutenant governor.
“State government continues to focus on issues that polarize and divide people rather than bringing us together,” Balukoff said. “Most of the issues they’ve dealt with in this legislative session will have very little practical impact on most Idahoans, but they take time and energy and resources away from the important issues, education and our economy.”
Balukoff also was asked about the Corrections Corp. of America, which operates Idaho’s largest state prison, but the state is now taking it back over amid scandal and lawsuits. “I’m glad that the FBI is doing an investigation,” Balukoff said. “I think that we’ll be better off running our prisons internally, instead of contracting that out to for-profit companies. It just doesn’t sound right to me to make profit off of a prison system. It’s more than warehousing people. We should be educating, rehabilitating those people so that they can return to society, support their families and be productive members of our communities.”
In addition to Balukoff, Terry Kerr of Idaho Falls filed to run for governor as a Democrat this week, though he’s run for local office as a Republican in the past. GOP candidates who have filed thus far include incumbent Gov. Butch Otter; Senate Majority Caucus Chairman Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian; and perennial office-seeker Harley Brown of Nampa. The filing deadline is tomorrow.
Boise attorney Christ Troupis, who represented the Idaho Republican Party in its successful lawsuit against the state to close the GOP primary, announced his candidacy today for Idaho Attorney General, challenging GOP Attorney General Lawrence Wasden. “I believe the time is right to ensure that Idahoans have a meaningful choice in this year’s election,” Troupis declared on the Statehouse steps to about 40 supporters, who cheered, applauded, and occasionally called out “amen.”
Sen. Monty Pearce, R-New Plymouth, introduced Troupis. “We need some changes there, and he is the answer,” Pearce said. “He’s a constitutional attorney who’s shown his moxie.”
Troupis said he’s changing the spelling of his first name for the campaign from Christ to Chris, which is how his first name always has been pronounced anyway; he'll go by C.T. “Chris” Troupis. “I don’t want the election to be about my name,” he said. Christ, pronounced Chris, is his given name, bestowed by his parents as a shortened version of his Greek father’s first name, Christos. “I’m proud of my name,” Troupis said. “It’s just that ‘Chris’ is a better name to run on.”
Wasden is seeking re-election to a fourth term; he was unopposed when he won his third term in 2010. In 2006, he won his second term with 62 percent of the vote over Democratic challenger Bob Wallace.
Former House Speaker Lawerence Denney, who is running for Secretary of State, was involved in a conflict that sparked accusations of theft, private work done on state time, political retribution, state contracts that benefited his family, undeclared conflict of interest and more – all involving the former employment of his wife, Donna, by a state agency, Idaho Statesman reporter Cynthia Sewell reported in a Sunday story. To make the tale even more interesting, Donna Denney’s former boss was Kim Toryanski, wife of Denney’s GOP Secretary of State rival Mitch Toryanski, and former head of the Idaho Commission on Aging.
Sewell reports that Kim Toryanski told an Idaho State Police detective investigating the case that she resigned her position and went to work for another state agency due to “political pressures, particularly from Speaker Denney and his political allies.” The Denneys referred Sewell’s questions to their attorney, David Leroy.
Idaho Rep. Frank Henderson, R-Post Falls, has joined with two retired senators from his district to form a new PAC that will interview legislative candidates and endorse and support those with the most skill at economic development. Henderson is joining former GOP Sens. Jim Hammond and Dick Compton in the new political action committee, which they’ve dubbed “Job Creators PAC.” The three are filling its coffers with their leftover campaign funds; Henderson, 91, is retiring after his current term in the House.
“Government does not create jobs, we enable jobs,” said Henderson. “We’ve been there, we’ve done that, and we think we’ll be able to make a good assessment of the potential effectiveness of candidates.” In addition to the three former lawmakers, a dozen other District 3 residents have signed on to help with the effort. Henderson had more than $16,000 left in his campaign fund as of the last reporting period.
Sherri Ybarra, a school administrator from Mountain Home, announced today that she’ll run for state superintendent of schools as a Republican. Ybarra has been an administrator for six years and previously was a classroom teacher for 10. “Education is my focus and passion, proven through my dedication and experience in the profession,” she said.
You can read her full statement here.
Idaho Secretary of State candidate Evan Frasure was “flabbergasted” late Monday when he learned that roughly 2,500 of the 2,859 “likes” on his campaign Facebook fan page were people from Istanbul, Turkey. Pocatello City Councilman Steve Brown, a consultant for Frasure’s campaign, said he didn’t intend to buy overseas “likes” for the fan page.
“We were talking with a group about focusing on Facebook users in Idaho,” Brown said. “And they said, ‘Yeah, let us show you what we can do, we’ll give you a sample.’ And obviously, our demographics were not used in this. So we’re asking them … if we can reverse this, or if we have to delete the page and start over.” Brown added, “Evan’s about ready to bite my head off on this one.”
The big jump in fans for the page happened in the past week and a half, with 18-24 the most common age group and Istanbul, Turkey the most common city among the page’s “likes.” “I don’t want a bunch of names from Turkey, for heaven’s sake – that’s ridiculous,” said Frasure, who said he hadn’t looked at the page in two weeks and admitted he’s “not much of a Facebooker.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
Five-term Idaho Rep. Frank Henderson, R-Post Falls, who is 91, announced today that he won’t seek a sixth term in the upcoming elections, and instead will endorse North Idaho businessman John Chambers, 59, a semi-retired executive at Ground Force Manufacturing, to succeed him in office. Chambers filled in as a substitute for Henderson for the first few weeks of this year’s legislative session after Henderson broke his hip during a vacation mishap in Hawaii.
Henderson is a former Kootenai County commissioner and mayor of Post Falls who’s had a long career in public service; he's also a retired marketing executive and newspaper publisher and a World War II Army veteran. Henderson’s wife, Betty Ann, serves on the Post Falls City Council.
In 2012, Henderson was named chairman of the House Business Committee a day after he celebrated in his 90th birthday; a year earlier, he’d given up his coveted seat on the joint budget committee after five years to focus his legislative work more on economic development. He sponsored key legislation that year to help Idaho aircraft parts businesses that has now led to major expansions in employment by some of those firms in the state.
After celebrating his 90th birthday during the Legislature’s December 2012 organizational session, Henderson said, “My parents said they gave me some durable genes, and that’s what it takes.” He is Idaho's oldest state lawmaker.
Rep. Holli Woodings, D-Boise, announced her candidacy for Idaho Secretary of State today, saying as a self-described “voting geek,” she’ll put her top emphasis on keeping Idaho’s election system open and fair, and “making sure that partisan interests do not have a place in that office.” Woodings, 35, said the day she turned 18, the first thing she did was drive to the post office and register to vote. “I was going to be able to be involved and to have a part in the Democratic process,” she said. “I really am committed to kicking down any barrier that stands between people and the polls.”
Woodings launched her statewide campaign at the Boise office of her husband Ryan’s high-tech firm, MetaGeek, which started up 8 years ago and now employs more than 25 people, making hardware and software tools for managing WiFi networks.
After the legislative session is over, Woodings said, “I’m planning on packing up my 6-month-old in an RV and traveling around, so that he has his normal place to nap every day,” because, she said, as parents know, “naps are sacred.” “We’ll be criss-crossing the state,” she said. After her announcement, which was attended by a small throng of supporters including A.J. Balukoff, Democratic candidate for governor, and state Democratic Party Chairman Larry Kenck, Hollings’ campaign staff presented her with tiny campaign T-shirts for her kids, 3-year-old Mary and little Arthur, whose shirt is a onesie.
Woodings is the first Democrat to jump into the race for the open seat; longtime GOP Secretary of State Ben Ysursa is retiring after his current term. Republicans who already have announced they’re running include former Sen. Evan Frasure of Pocatello, House Speaker Lawerence Denney of Midvale, chief deputy Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane, and former Sen. Mitch Toryanski of Boise.
Idaho state schools Superintendent Tom Luna will not seek a third term, he announced this morning, saying he wants to take politics out of the process of putting into effect bipartisan school reforms recommended by a state task force. “I know it’s the right decision for me, for my family, and I know it’s the right decision for the children of Idaho,” Luna said. “I’ve never avoided a fight. I’ve always done what I thought was right.”
Luna was joined for his announcement by House Speaker Scott Bedke and Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, along with House Education Chairman Reed DeMordaunt and Senate Education Chairman John Goedde, all Republicans, along with Luna’s wife Cindy.
Two other Republican candidates, Randy Jensen of American Falls and John Eynon of Cottonwood, already have announced their candidacies in the GOP primary for superintendent; Democrat Jana Jones, whom Luna narrowly defeated in 2006, also is running for superintendent. Luna said he’s not yet endorsing anyone for the post. “I will tell you that the person I will support is the person who stands up and boldly proclaims their support for all 20 recommendations of the task force and their commitment to get them implemented,” he said.
Luna said, “I’m going to be working hard for the next 11 months, not being distracted with a campaign and everything that goes into that.” He said it was “obvious to me that bipartisan support is fragile,” and people might think anything he does to support the task force recommendations is meant to “give me a leg up in the election. … So I wanted to take that off the table.” He said, “You won't see me on a ballot anywhere in Idaho in this upcoming election.”
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter’s latest campaign finance report shows that three billionaire Nevada casino operators who have been leaders in a push for online gaming in Nevada and New Jersey gave $60,000 to Otter’s re-election campaign, Idaho Statesman reporter Dan Popkey reports; his full Sunday story is online here. Popkey reports that the contributions came after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie joined Otter for a campaign fundraiser at the Sun Valley home of one of the casino moguls, Steve Wynn, on Dec. 6; after that lunch fundraiser, Otter and Christie flew to Coeur d’Alene for a larger rally and fundraiser.
Popkey reports that after Christie spoke at the Sun Valley event, Otter said he “had the opportunity to make my pitch,” talking about his policies on state spending, the economy and unemployment. “And the first thing out of some of their mouths was ‘What’s your donation law?’ ” Otter told the Statesman. “I said, ‘$5,000 max, it can come from an individual or a corporation.’ ”
Wynn petitioned New Jersey regulators on Jan. 10 for a license to operate online gaming in New Jersey, Popkey reports. Brothers Frank and Lorenzo Fertittas’ Station Casinos began offering legal online gaming at UltimatePoker.com in April, when Nevada became the first state to sanction the business; the site has since expanded to New Jersey as well.
Randy Jensen formally announced his candidacy for state Superintendent of Schools today as a Republican; from the state Capitol steps, the longtime middle school principal and former Fulbright scholar said, “I will make decisions based solely on what’s best for kids in Idaho. … Now is the time to have a proven educational leader lead our schools.”
The race is getting crowded; also this week, Cottonwood teacher John Eynon, an outspoken opponent of Common Core standards for student achievement, announced his candidacy in the GOP race. Jana Jones, a Democrat whom current GOP Superintendent Tom Luna narrowly defeated in 2006, is running again. Luna himself hasn’t yet announced whether he’ll seek a third term.
Jensen, 52, has been the principal at William Thomas Middle School for 25 years, after starting there as a teacher. “After 29 years … I still love kids as much as I did the first day,” he said. He introduced one of his former 5th grade students who’s now a Boise dentist.
Jensen holds a master’s and bachelor’s degrees in education from Idaho State University and certification to serve as a school district superintendent. Asked the main thing he’d like to accomplish if elected, he said, “I want the state Department of Education to be a service organization, where we really work closely with local school districts to make them the best they can be. Great schools are not created by federal or state mandates. Great schools are created at the local level.”
A 1968 Olympic gold medalist and famed high jumper will run for the Idaho Legislature this year, Twin Falls Times-News reporter Kimberlee Kruesi reports. At her “On the Agenda” blog, Kruesi reports that Dick Fosbury, a Democrat, will challenge freshman Rep. Steve Miller, R-Fairfield. Fosbury is a retired engineer who is making his first run for state office. But it was his back-first technique at the 1968 Olympics that made his fame; the technique, which became known as the Fosbury Flop, is now the standard in high-jumping, used by all medalists. It earned Fosbury a gold. You can read Kruesi’s full post here.
Idaho County Commissioner Jim Chmelik has filed paperwork with the state to challenge Lt. Gov. Brad Little in the GOP primary, Lewiston Tribune reporter Bill Spence reports; you can see his full post here. Chmelik, 53, is a second-term county commissioner and an outspoken advocate of state takeover of federal lands. “I think we're going down the wrong road and I'm going to stand up and say something about it,” he told Spence.
Meanwhile, Randy Jensen, a longtime middle school principal in American Falls and the 2005 national principal of the year, has filed paperwork to challenge state schools Superintendent Tom Luna in the GOP primary; Jensen, 52, plans an announcement in Boise on Friday. “I think it’s a critical time in education right now in Idaho, and I think I have the leadership skills … to bring everyone together to do good things for kids,” he said.
And today, Idaho Education News reported on another GOP candidate for state superintendent: Cottonwood school teacher John Eynon, an outspoken opponent of the new Idaho Core Standards. Idaho EdNews reporter Kevin Richert reports that Eynon filed paperwork naming a campaign treasurer on Friday, and his campaign website is emblazoned with the slogan, “Common Sense, NOT Common Core.” You can read Richert’s full post here.
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter said he has more than $700,000 in cash to wage a campaign against his Republican primary challenger, state Sen. Russ Fulcher. Otter filed his latest campaign report Tuesday, outlining his 2013 fundraising when he brought in $901,000, largely from business groups. Fulcher hasn't filed his report. Meanwhile, Otter hasn't formally announced he's running for a third term. Among Otter's biggest supporters were trucking lobbyists, cigarette-maker Altria, retailer Wal-Mart and wealthy Emmett rancher Harry Bettis, who gave $7,500. The J.R. Simplot Co., owned by family of Otter's ex-wife, Gay, gave $10,000. Direct-marketing company Melaleuca and its owner, GOP booster Frank VanderSloot, also gave $10,000. Among Otter's biggest expenditures was more than $16,000 to Arena Communications, a Utah company that helps do mailing and other services for Republican politicians.
Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch are co-sponsoring legislation to let those with a state concealed gun permit carry a concealed weapon in other states, too, as long at the state they’re in allows or doesn’t prohibit concealed carrying of firearms. “Idahoans and law-abiding citizens across the country should not be denied the fundamental right to self-defense while they are traveling or temporarily away from home,” said Crapo. “This bill protects state sovereignty and does not establish national standards for a concealed carry, nor does it veto laws in those states that prohibit concealed carry permits.” Risch said, “Lawful gun owners should not have to face a labyrinth of gun laws the second they cross into another state. This bill will ensure citizens who are able to carry concealed weapons can exercise that right in any state that has also passed a concealed carry law.”
The measure has three other co-sponsors, Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas; John Thune, R-S.D.; and David Vitter, R-La.; you can see the full Crapo-Risch statement here.
GOP Sen. Jim Risch has posted the following statement on his campaign website, in response to the campaign announcement today from Democratic challenger Nels Mitchell:
“Senator Risch has been working diligently for over five years to reduce the size of the federal government and its intrusion into the daily lives of Idaho citizens. This year Idahoans will once again have a clear choice between Senator Risch’s conservative philosophies or another Democrat who will go to Washington DC to grow the government and help Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi push Obama’s far left agenda during the last 2 years of his presidency.”
Here’s a link to my full story at spokesman.com on Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Nels Mitchell, who today launched his campaign against GOP Sen. Jim Risch. Mitchell said he’d make jobs his top priority, and pledged if elected to serve only one six-year term. “I am not a politician. I have had a successful career, and it is now my turn to step up.” He also said he’d work with Idaho GOP Rep. Mike Simpson on his wilderness proposal for the Boulder-White Clouds mountains, which Risch has opposed; and said like GOP Sen. Mike Crapo, he’d have co-sponsored the reauthorization of the two-decade-old Violence Against Women Act, which Risch voted against last February.
Former U.S. Attorney for Idaho Betty Richardson said she first met Mitchell in high school. He was the student body president at Boise High School and was running for a statewide student leadership position; she was a Lewiston High School student who was running his opponent’s successful campaign. “He impressed me then,” said Richardson, a Democratic activist who’s played a key role in recruiting candidates for the state’s minority party. “I just couldn’t see Risch running unopposed, and I didn’t want to recruit a token candidate,” she said. “Nels came to mind, and fortunately he said ‘yes.’”
Gov. Butch Otter has named Patrick McDonald as the new state representative for District 15, replacing the disgraced Rep. Mark Patterson, R-Boise, who resigned. McDonald, a former U.S. marshal and Idaho State Police officer, will serve the remainder of Patterson's term; he'd previously announced he was running for the seat in the May primary. The other two nominees for the seat were Rod Beck and Sam Hoagland; click below for Otter's full announcement. McDonald and his wife, Sarah Jane, who is the Senate sergeant-at-arms, have three sons.
Otter said, “The citizens of District 15 deserve the chance for continuity and someone of unquestioned integrity representing them in the Idaho House. Pat McDonald ably provides those qualities, as well as a lifetime of service and a focus on the public’s safety and well-being. It’s important that he wants to keep serving in the Legislature beyond this term. More importantly, I trust him to serve District 15 and all of Idaho with character, honesty, and great distinction.”
There’s a full house of more than 100 people for today’s first “Politics for Lunch” session sponsored by the Andrus Center at its downtown Boise location; Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis is the featured speaker. His first comment: “Wow. This is a remarkable group of people.” Pulling out his cellphone, he asked, “Do you mind?” and took pictures of the crowd. “My mother will never believe this,” he said. Davis said he’d offer “my prognostications, as modest as they may be,” about the upcoming legislative session. “If you like what I said, I meant it,” he said, “and if you don’t, I was just pulling your leg.”
He said the governor’s announcement of no Medicaid expansion this year likely matches what the result would have been had the expansion gone to either house for a vote. He said he’s “grateful” that the Legislature reconvened its joint Change in Employee Compensation committee this year for the first time since 2008, and said the question now is whether its recommendation of a 2 percent pay boost will be extended to public schools as well as state employees. “It has historically been that it was extended, and frankly I anticipate that that is what the joint committee is likely to do,” Davis said.
He called the criminal justice reinvestment project “one of the additional significant things that we will do this year in the legislative session,” and said, “Those states that have followed some of their more significant recommendations have saved a bucket-load of money. We are hopeful that we will be able to see some of the same positive results.” Tomorrow, an interim committee is scheduled to finalize its report and legislative recommendations; a session for all legislators on the proposals is set for Thursday.
Davis said he expects the Legislature to push hard to enact the recommendations of the education stakeholders task force over the next five years. As far as whether tax cuts will be enacted this year, he said, “I really don’t know the answer to that.”
Boise attorney Nels Mitchell launched his campaign for the U.S. Senate against Idaho Sen. Jim Risch today, calling Risch an “out of touch” career politician and pledging if elected to serve just one six-year term. “Six years is a long time,” Mitchell said. “I will give the people of Idaho 110 percent for the next six years, and then I intend to return to private life.”
Mitchell, 60, is making his first run for public office. He noted that legendary Idaho Democratic Sen. Frank Church had only run once for the state Legislature before he successfully ran for the U.S. Senate. “When I was growing up here in Boise, Frank Church was my hero,” Mitchell said, noting that Church served as student body president at Boise High School 29 years before Mitchell did the same.
He said jobs will be his top priority, and decried Idaho’s fall to 50th on such measures as average wage and per-capita income. “Someone has not been minding the store, and that someone is Jim Risch,” Mitchell declared. “He’s been much too busy taking junkets and going to the theater.” He also faulted Risch for voting against funding for the Idaho National Laboratory, calling the INL “one of the best employers in the state.”
Former Democratic Gov. Cecil Andrus said, “The Democrats have got a good shot this time. Is it going to be easy? No. But when they’ve got the money and the organization, we ought to have the people. He’s an outstanding candidate – look at his resume. Now we’ve got to raise enough money to tell the story.”
Democratic activist and former U.S. Attorney for Idaho Betty Richardson said she first met Mitchell in high school. “He’s cut from the same cloth as Cece Andrus and Frank Church – we can’t do much better,” she said.
Risch, an attorney and former longtime state Senate leader who briefly served as governor, is nearing the end of his first term in the Senate; he announced last April that he’ll run for re-election.