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Idaho Politics

Political and legislative news out of Idaho.

Latest from The Spokesman-Review

Allred: Otter ‘reckless’ to cut schools

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Keith Allred is continuing his criticism of Gov. Butch Otter for “irrational pessimism,” saying, “When Otter says we have no choice but to cut education, he’s just factually wrong.” Said Allred, a former Harvard professor and former head of The Common Interest citizen lobby group, “My hope is that the Legislature’s budget writers don’t follow Gov. Otter’s reckless lead. We don’t need to be mortgaging our kids’ future by cutting education.” Click below to read Allred’s full statement; an Otter campaign spokeswoman, Brenda Maynard Walters, didn’t respond to a reporter’s request for comment.

Allred faults Otter for ‘irrational pessimism’

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Keith Allred slammed GOP Gov. Butch Otter today for what he called his “irrational pessimism and recklessness,” saying that in two weeks of travel around the state, he’s heard concerns from people across the political spectrum over Otter’s proposed budget cuts to schools, Idaho Public Television and state parks. You can read Allred’s full release here; I’m awaiting a response from the Otter campaign, but as of 7:30 p.m. Boise time, still haven’t heard back.

Delegation on Idahoans arrested in Haiti: ‘We hope for their return ASAP’

Idaho’s four-member congressional delegation has issued the following statement regarding the arrest of several Idahoans in Haiti on possible child abduction charges; the Idahoans, members of Baptist churches in Meridian and Twin Falls, were attempting to take children from Haiti to the Dominican Republic as part of a church mission:

“Our offices are often asked to intervene to help Idahoans and, while it is not customary to discuss any details because of constituent privacy, family members and church leadership have allowed us to comment on the situation. We are in steady contact with the U.S. State Department and the U.S. offices in Port-au-Prince regarding the holding of the 10 Americans, many of them from Idaho.  We are working with the State Department to monitor the safety of these Idahoans and to make sure they have adequate food, water, medical care and proper housing.  We hope for their return to the United States as quickly as possible.”

Minnick raised more than GOP rivals combined in 1st CD race

Here’s a news item from the Associated Press about the campaign finance reports filed over the weekend in the 1st District congressional race:

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Democratic U.S. Rep. Walt Minnick outraised Republican rivals in Idaho’s 1st Congressional District during the final three months of 2009. According to the Federal Election Commission, Minnick, a first-term House member who represents northern and western Idaho, pulled in about $274,000, luring money from congressional colleagues, political action committees and individuals. Republican Vaughn Ward, a former campaign aide to presidential candidate John McCain, raked in $100,000, including more than $40,000 in checks cashed during the period’s four final days from out-of-state backers and GOP-linked PACs. Meanwhile, state Rep. Raul Labrador, a Republican from Eagle vying against Ward in May’s primary, brought in $33,000 in contributions and added a personal $50,000 loan. Minnick has $816,000 cash on hand after raising nearly $1.3 million total this election cycle. Ward has $207,000 and Labrador has just over $82,000.

Ward launches 18-stop tour of state

GOP congressional candidate Vaughn Ward was enthusiastically endorsed by former Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna, former state Board of Education President Milford Terrell and Canyon County Prosecutor John Bujak at a Statehouse press conference on Tuesday as he kicked off an 18-stop, four-day official announcement tour around the 1st Congressional District. On Tuesday, Ward, a decorated Iraq war veteran, and Kempthorne will make four North Idaho appearances starting at Chic and Chop in Bonners Ferry at 7:30 a.m.  Ward will continue Thursday to St. Maries, Moscow, Lewiston and Grangeville, and will wrap up the tour Friday with numerous stops including a final one in Caldwell.
Ward faces state Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Eagle, in the GOP primary for a chance to take on Democratic Congressman Walt Minnick.     Ward has been traveling the district and campaigning since last spring, and has raised more than $400,000 for his campaign. He said he’s making his official announcement now because after 10 months of meeting with Idahoans and 600 events around the district, he’s convinced his campaign is a go. “I look at Idaho and I see our state being haggled over by politicians who are unaccountable to the people and are more concerned about self-preservation,” Ward said. “It is time to usher in a new era of leaders.” Ward was an aide on then-U.S. Sen. Kempthorne’s staff before he joined the Marines and served in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Kempthorne re-emerges on Idaho political scene, touts Ward for Congress

Former Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne emerged back on the Idaho political scene today, endorsing 1st District congressional candidate Vaughn Ward, introducing Ward at a Statehouse press conference officially announcing his candidacy, and traveling with Ward around the state for two days of Ward’s planned four-day, 18-stop announcement tour. “Eighteen years ago when I was a candidate running for the U.S. Senate, I asked Sen. Jim McClure if he would be my chair,” Kempthorne explained. “He, at the time, had recently left public office. He said, ‘Now that I’m a citizen, I can do this.’ I have never forgotten that. Now that I’m a citizen, I can do this.”

Kempthorne said he’s known Ward since he graduated from Boise State University, and went to work on Kempthorne’s Senate campaign 18 years ago. Ward went on to work on Kempthorne’s Senate staff, then joined the Marines and served in combat in both Iraq and Afghanistan, earning the Bronze Star for his service in Fallujah. “I gave him the oath of office when he became a second lieutenant,” Kempthorne said. “We’ve spent so much time together over the last 18 years. … He has such a passion for service.”  

Kempthorne will travel to North Idaho with Ward tonight for several stops tomorrow. He told a cheering crowd in the Capitol rotunda this afternoon, “I saw greatness in that Marine.” He lauded Ward as “a son of Idaho, an American hero, a man who I believe we will elect the congressman from the 1st District.”

It was Kempthorne’s first public political act since he left office as the nation’s Secretary of the Interior under President George W. Bush. He’s also served as governor, U.S. senator and mayor of Boise. Now, he said, he’s serving on corporate boards and advisory boards, and doing business consulting both nationally and internationally on energy, national resources and systems integration, based in both Boise and Washington, D.C.

Ward adds three more stops to 14-stop tour

Congressional candidate Vaughn Ward said today he’s adding three more stops to his planned 14-stop “official announcement tour” next week, in McCall, Fruitland and Weiser, making it a 17-stop tour. Ward and state Rep. Raul Labrador are vying for the GOP nomination in the 1st Congressional District, for a chance to take on Rep. Walt Minnick, a first-term Democrat.

Ward to hit 14 Idaho stops in four days for ‘official announcement tour’

Though he’s been actively campaigning since last spring, Vaughn Ward, GOP candidate for the 1st District congressional seat, has scheduled a 14-stop “Official Ward for Congress Announcement Tour” with “Special Guest Secretary Dirk Kempthorne,” starting next Tuesday in Emmett. He’ll hit Meridian, Boise, Bonners Ferry, Sandpoint, Post Falls, Wallace, St. Maries, Moscow, Lewiston, Grangeville, Wilder, Homedale and Caldwell, all by next Friday, including a Tuesday afternoon press conference with Kempthorne and state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna on the Capitol steps. Ward, an Iraq war veteran and former Kempthorne aide, and state Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Eagle, are vying for a chance to challenge Democratic 1st District Rep. Walt Minnick in November.

Labrador raised $30K in December

State Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Eagle, who’s running in the GOP primary for the 1st District congressional seat, has announced that he raised $30,000 in December, bringing his campaign warchest to a total of $80,000. That’s because he also put in $50,000 of his own money, a move that Labrador said shows he’s serious about the race. “If I am going to ask people to contribute to my campaign – and the larger cause to change how Congress does business – then I should be willing to invest in that effort myself,” he said. He added, “Raising $30,000 in the middle of the holiday season is a tremendous accomplishment for my campaign.

Labrador entered the race Dec. 7, and is facing Vaughn Ward, who’s been actively campaigning and fundraising for months; campaign finance reports in the race are due Jan. 31. Ward announced earlier that he raised more than $100,000 in the quarter ending Dec. 31, 2009. The two are vying to take on Democratic Rep. Walt Minnick.

Candidates tout fundraising numbers

The deadline for filing campaign finance reports that cover the period through Dec. 31 hasn’t yet arrived, but two candidates already are releasing numbers. Keith Allred, Democratic candidate for governor, announced today that in the three weeks since he filed his declaration of candidacy on Dec. 10, 2009, through the close of the period Dec. 31, he raised $130,807. “I am honored and humbled by the support my campaign has received from across the political spectrum in Idaho,” Allred said in a statement. “In spite of, or maybe because of, the tough economic times, people are so excited about a new way of governing that they are eager to contribute.”

Vaughn Ward, a Republican candidate for the 1st District congressional seat, announced today that he raised “over $100,000” during the fourth quarter of 2009, with contributors during the quarter including First Lady Lori Otter and Lt. Gov. Brad Little. “I am very grateful that so many Idahoans have supported our campaign,” Ward said in a statement. “Idahoans from across the district are standing behind my leadership, experience, and vision to put our country back on track.”

Ward is vying against Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Eagle, in the Republican primary for a chance to take on 1st Congressional District Democratic Rep. Walt Minnick. Allred is one of an array of candidates seeking to challenge Republican Gov. Butch Otter; others include Republicans Rex Rammell, Sharon Ullman and Ron “Pete” Peterson; Democrat Lee R. Chaney Sr.; and independents Jana Kemp and “Pro-Life,” who was known as Marvin Richardson before he changed his name to the slogan. Otter hasn’t yet formally announced his candidacy, but has a campaign staff and has indicated he’ll seek re-election.

‘Idaho has swung into positive territory’

Mike Ferguson, chief economist for Gov. Butch Otter, shared some of the most recent data on states’ recovery from the recession with the Legislature’s Joint Economic Outlook committee just now. Though Idaho was hit early and hard by the current recession, it appears to have hit bottom, he said. “Things do look as though they’ve turned a corner,” Ferguson said. “Now, it’ll take time … but the data is what it is, and it’s showing these positive indications. … Idaho has swung into positive territory, according to this measure. … This is that indication that we may well have seen a bottom.”

Some evidence of economic improvement has been seen already, he said, in the high-tech and energy sectors. “There are some positive signs,” Ferguson said. “I wouldn’t start popping champagne corks necessarily, but this is a really, really important development.”

Groups cite government waste

Citizens Against Government Waste and the Idaho Freedom Foundation today unveiled a “2010 Idaho Pork Report,” pointing to ways the two groups said Idaho is wasting state and local taxpayer dollars and could make big savings. Among the suggestions: Cut health and pension benefits for state employees, though the state long has struggled with below-market salaries for state workers; eliminate Medicaid services that aren’t required by federal law; cut pay for the top-paid state employees; and stop funding programs ranging from support for the arts to the Commission on Hispanic Affairs to the Idaho Preferred program at the state Department of Agriculture. The report also calls for changing how Idaho teachers are paid, calling that “the porkiest plan of all” and contending that “Idaho dumps more than $756 million into teacher salaries.”

Wayne Hoffman, head of the foundation, also decried the fact that two state lawmakers who have missed all or part of two recent legislative sessions - one to care for his wife who was dying of cancer, the other for his own treatment for brain cancer - continued to receive state health coverage and pension benefits. The lawmakers both appointed substitutes to serve in their absence. Though changing that policy wouldn’t save any state money, Hoffman said it’s not “good for legislators to be gone for two legislative sessions and remain on the state payroll.”

Senate President Pro-Tem Bob Geddes said he welcomed such a report, though he questioned some of the proposals. “I think there are additional opportunities for us to find some savings and efficiencies in state government - the low-hanging fruit has been picked,” he said. “If they can find us examples where we can be more efficient … sign me up.”

Kemp launches independent campaign

Former GOP state Rep. Jana Kemp launched her independent campaign for governor today, addressing supporters at the Nampa Civic Center and saying she’ll run on “a platform of jobs, education, energy, fairness and responsibility.” Kemp cited a recent national poll showing most Americans don’t have faith in either party’s leaders to solve the nation’s problems. “This is the perfect time for an independent to run for governor in Idaho and the need has never been greater,” Kemp said in a statement. “We know the popularity of the Democratic Party isn’t high in Idaho and the infighting in the Republican party has created a lack of leadership and many pro-business, pro-entrepreneurial and very religious people feel the Republican Party has left them.”

Click below to read her full announcement, from her campaign Web site.

Allred names campaign staff

Keith Allred, Democratic candidate for governor of Idaho, has named former U.S. Attorney for Idaho Betty Richardson as his campaign manager. Richardson heads a Democratic Party candidate recruitment committee that helped persuade Allred, formerly a nonpartisan citizen activist, to become the Democratic standard-bearer. Allred also named these staffers: Shea Andersen, former editor of the Idaho Mountain Express and Boise Weekly, will be his press secretary; Democratic fundraiser Suzanne Gore will be his finance director; former Obama campaign state director Kassie Cerami will be his statewide volunteer coordinator; and Matt Compton, who managed T.J. Thompson’s successful Boise city council campaign last year, will be director of operations.

Allred previously named his campaign’s honorary co-chairs, former Gov. Cecil Andrus and former GOP Sen. Laird Noh; and his treasurer, former state Rep. Margaret Henbest, D-Boise.

Kemp sets campaign launch

Independent gubernatorial candidate Jana Kemp says she’s now collected more than 1,100 verified signatures on her petition for candidacy, and she’s scheduled a press conference for Tuesday, Jan. 5th in Nampa to launch her campaign. It’ll be at 2 p.m. at the Nampa Civic Center. Candidates for governor can either collect more than 1,000 verified voter signatures or pay a $300 fee to get on the ballot. Kemp is a former one-term GOP state representative from Boise.

Otter: Could be others in 1st CD race…

Gov. Butch Otter, a guest co-host on KBOI talk radio this afternoon, was asked by a caller what he thinks of the candidates in the 1st Congressional District GOP primary race. Otter briefly praised both Vaughn Ward and Raul Labrador, and said, “The Republican Party’s got a pretty deep bench when it comes to all the offices.” But he added, “There may not be all the candidates in that race yet that may get in it. … Remember they’ve got until the middle of March in order to get in.”

Rammell: ‘We need God’s help’

GOP gubernatorial candidate Rex Rammell has issued a press release entitled “The Constitution will hang by a thread,” explaining his latest campaign tactic, in which he’s inviting men who are elders in the LDS church to meet with him to discuss prophecy in regard to his run for governor. “Some people, LDS and non-LDS, think it is inappropriate for me to hold such meetings,” Rammell wrote in the release. “I think that is ridiculous. … It would only be appropriate for me to address Joseph Smith’s prophecy with people who believe he was a prophet.”

Rammell is among several announced candidates for governor of Idaho; incumbent GOP Gov. Butch Otter, though he’s not yet formally announced his candidacy, has a re-election campaign up and running, and last week, former nonpartisan citizen activist Keith Allred entered the race as a Democrat. Also running are Republicans Sharon Ullman and Ron “Pete” Peterson; independents Jana Kemp and “Pro-Life;” and Democrat Lee R. Chaney Sr. Click below to read Rammell’s press release, which concludes, “We need God’s help and I am not ashamed to ask for it!”

Impact of run on Common Interest…

Here’s how Democratic gubernatorial candidate Keith Allred responded, in a recent interview, to a question about whether his run on a partisan ticket will destroy The Common Interest, the nonpartisan citizen advocacy organization he’s worked for five years to build:

“If I run and win, I think I have powerfully advanced the vision of The Common Interest, and that’s the reason for running. If I run and lose, then I think I’ve set it back substantially, and I don’t take that lightly - it’s the passion of my life. But I don’t think I’ve ended it. I think there would be ways forward. (He said that might include getting a Republican co-chair, or taking a lesser role in the organization and having others step forward.) “This is a passion that I will follow for the rest of my life.” He added, “I’m not too worried about that, because I intend on winning and showing how to govern this way.”

A different kind of party candidate…

Perhaps the oddest thing about Keith Allred, the newly announced Democratic candidate for governor of Idaho, is that he’s not a Democrat. He’s not a Republican either.    Instead, the 45-year-old former Harvard professor and expert mediator is a passionate advocate for a grand experiment in returning the nation to its founders’ vision of government by the people, in ways that involve ordinary citizens in policy-making and skirt the special interests, including political parties. “I’m turned off by the extremes of both parties,” he said. “As a voter, I have been a committed and proud ticket-splitter all my life.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com; Allred launched his campaign today with an announcement in Twin Falls.

‘Fishy’ or ‘just flat wrong’?

The Idaho Republican Party put out a press release today headed “Allred deceives public,” saying that when it tried to file an IRS complaint against The Common Interest over founder Keith Allred’s email to members informing them he was running for governor, it could find no evidence that The Common Interest had ever obtained IRS nonprofit status in the first place. Jonathan Parker, executive director of the party, said he was trying to find record of “The Common Interest” as a 501c3.

However, The Common Interest Incorporated has had its 501c3 nonprofit status since February, and its other entity, The Common Interest In Action, has had 501c4 nonprofit status since 2004. The c4 status permits some campaign activity. “They’re just flat wrong,” Keith Allred told Eye on Boise. “I don’t speak officially for The Common Interest any more, but as past president I can confirm that the Republican Party is flat wrong. We received our determination letter for The Common Interest Incorporated last winter.”

Parker, who said he’s spent more time than he’d like researching The Common Interest, including reading its state incorporation papers and spending 45 minutes on the phone with someone from the IRS, said, “If that is the case, then I’m back to square one, which is that I believe he violated IRS code, and the Idaho Republican Party will be officially filing a complaint.” Click below to read the full Idaho GOP press release. Parker also noted that he’d learned that Allred had registered his campaign Web site address on Dec. 6th, four days before he filed for office. Between that and questions over nonprofit status, Parker said, “It just seems fishy.”