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Idaho Politics

Political and legislative news out of Idaho.

Latest from The Spokesman-Review

Allred outraises Otter

The gubernatorial debate is tonight, for the candidates in the contested GOP primary, and there’s some news in the race today: In the most recent quarter, Democratic candidate Keith Allred out-raised incumbent GOP Gov. Butch Otter. According to campaign finance reports filed today, Otter raised $193,339 in contributions from Jan. 1 to May 9, while Allred raised $241,278 in the same time period. Allred said in a news release that 90 percent of his contributions came from Idahoans and that he set a fundraising record for Democratic candidates for governor. “I’m particularly gratified at how many contributors we have from within Idaho,” Allred said. “People from all across the state are saying they support our goal to make Idaho government by, for and of the people.”

Otter, in his own campaign news release, said “thousands of people are stepping forward” to help his re-election campaign. His campaign manager, Debbie Field, said, “That reflects the compelling message that our campaign is able to deliver to voters throughout our state, and the hard work and dedication of our campaign staff and local volunteers in each of Idaho’s 44 counties.”

Among other candidates, Republican Rex Rammell reported raising $55,981 during the fundraising period and spending $43,219, including $1,000 for a giant, green inflatable T-Rex he’s using as a campaign prop; and Republican Sharon Ullman reported raising just $2,333 in the fundraising period, including $1,878 that she donated to her own campaign. Democrat Lee Chaney reported raising $2,100, more than half of it his own money; anti-abortion activist Walter Bayes reported no contributions but putting $22,000 of his own money into his campaign, of which he’s spent $20,610; and wig shop owner Tamara Wells of Post Falls reported no contributions, but spending $2,044 of her own money. Amateur comedian Ron “Pete” Peterson hadn’t filed a report as of today’s deadline.

Minnick campaign: Why would Palin stump for someone who didn’t vote for her?

Democratic Congressman Walt Minnick’s campaign manager, John Foster, had this comment on the news that Sarah Palin will come to Boise on Friday to speak at a rally for GOP hopeful Vaughn Ward: “Can’t understand why she’s coming to campaign for someone who didn’t vote for her.”

The Associated Press reported last Thursday that even though Ward headed the McCain-Palin campaign in Nevada in 2008, he didn’t vote in the 2008 general election. Ward told the AP that he had a hard time breaking away from the campaign to head back to Idaho to vote, and that the window for requesting an absentee ballot had closed by the time he realized he wouldn’t be able to do so.

Ward campaign: Palin visit Friday will ‘attract a lot of attention, a lot of interest’

“Yes, Sarah Palin is coming to Boise on Friday,” confirms Mike Tracy, spokesman for GOP congressional candidate Vaughn Ward’s campaign. “We don’t have all the schedule details finished yet but we’re working on those and details will follow.” Tracy said, “She will attract a lot of attention and a lot of interest from people across the state. We’re working toward a public event; we don’t have that confirmed yet. That’s what we’re working toward.”

AP: Palin coming to Idaho Friday for Ward

Here’s a news item from The Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has agreed to come to Idaho to help generate support for Republican congressional candidate Vaughn Ward. Ward campaign spokesman Mike Tracy told The Associated Press Tuesday that Palin will attend a public campaign rally Friday in Boise. The 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee was an early supporter of Ward’s bid to win the nomination to compete against Democrat Walt Minnick to represent Idaho’s 1st Congressional District. In March, Palin endorsed Ward on her Facebook page. During the 2008 presidential race, Ward served as state director in Nevada in Sen. John McCain’s bid for the White House. Palin was his running mate. Her visit comes five days before primary voters decide whether Ward or state Rep. Raul Labrador is best suited to take on Minnick in November.

Labrador campaign: Ward website issue raises ‘character’ questions

Dennis Mansfield, campaign spokesman for GOP congressional candidate Raul Labrador, said he thinks the latest incident of rival GOP candidate Vaughn Ward’s position statements on his campaign website matching another website’s words raises character issues about Ward. “It is time for people who have endorsed Vaughn Ward to actively consider withdrawing their endorsements. This has gone on too long,” Mansfield said. “There’s a root cause here and the only thing, the only person who’s connected to both plagiarism incidences is the candidate himself. In 30 years of politics, I’ve never seen a candidate melt down like this. Character is an issue.”

Ward takes down new position statements

Mike Tracy, spokesman for the Vaughn Ward campaign, says the campaign has taken down new issue position statements posted this morning, one of which matched another website. “There was something put up without my approval,” Tracy said, “and I’ve made it very clear … that we didn’t want anything up until it had been cleared by me. We have taken those issues down until I have a chance to review everything thoroughly, and I take the responsibility for that at this point.”

He added, “And the Duncan Hunter issue, I can tell you that Vaughn and Duncan have shared a lot of material in the past few months, and share the same ideals and the same values on the Iraq war, and have shared ideas and materials with each other and will continue to do so.”

Full story: Matching words

Here’s a link to my full story at spokesman.com on how congressional candidate Vaughn Ward this morning posted three new issue position statements on his campaign website, and portions of one of them match nearly word-for-word a California congressman’s re-election campaign website. Last night at 7 p.m., Ward campaign spokesman Mike Tracy, asked why the site still had no position statements on it after all were removed on Thursday, said, “We’re working on those and we just want to make sure that everything and every step we take … is absolutely accurate and that there are no issues and no problems with anything that we’re doing. That’s one of the corrective things. So if we take time to do it, it’s going to be because we want to make sure that there are no mistakes.”

The position statements this morning are posted under “issues” in the “Meet Vaughn” section of the campaign website; links that formerly led to position statements under the heading “Fighting for Idaho Values” on the main page still are inactive.

Ward posts new issue statements; one matches another website

Congressional candidate Vaughn Ward has posted three new issue statements on his website - and portions of one of them, on the war in Iraq, match, nearly word-for-word, the national security issue statement of freshman Congressman Duncan D. Hunter, the son of the longtime congressman and former Armed Services Committee chairman Duncan Hunter Sr., who in February came to Idaho to campaign for Ward. Ward and the younger Hunter have much in common; both are Marine veterans who served in combat in Iraq.

The matchup in the wording follows Ward’s removal of all of his issue position statements last week after The Spokesman-Review reported that five of the 10 were identical to statements on other candidates’ or congressmen’s websites, including two that touted specific pending legislation in Congress that Ward said he didn’t necessarily support. New campaign spokesman Mike Tracy, who took over that role from campaign manager Ryan O’Barto, who resigned on Friday, wasn’t immediately available for comment on the new position statements.

Here are the two statements:

From the website of Duncan D. Hunter for Congress:

National Security

Government’s most fundamental responsibility is to protect its citizens. After serving three tours of duty in the Middle East since 9/11/2001, I understand the tremendous threat to our future posed by terrorism and the spread of radical and violent Islamism.  Now, as much as at any time in our history, we need to be vigilant and strong. My platform includes:

   1. Strengthen and maintain our military to keep us safe.
   2. Make sure the men and women serving us in uniform have the best equipment and training available.
   3. Eliminate government red tape and bureaucratic roadblocks that hamper our efforts to obtain new weapons and intelligence technology.

From Idaho congressional candidate Vaughn Ward’s website this morning:

The War in Iraq

My background enables me to be uniquely qualified to help with our government’s most fundamental responsibility - protecting its citizens.

I have served two tours in the Middle East since 9/11 with the CIA and the Marine Corps, witnessing firsthand the threat that terrorists pose to our national security.  Our nation has not been attacked since September 11th.  This is partially attributed to the fact that Al-Qaeda was dealt a serious blow in Afghanistan and Iraq by U.S. and allied forces.  Now, as much as any time in our history, we need to be vigilant, united, and strong.  I support strengthening and maintaining our military and ensuring that the men and women serving us in uniform have the best equipment and training available

Palin visit rumored for Ward, Labrador campaign calls it diversion tactic

Congressional candidate Vaughn Ward’s campaign says it is “just a rumor at this point” that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will come to Idaho on behalf of Ward’s campaign. “We don’t have confirmation of anything at this point,” said Mike Tracy, the new campaign spokesman for the 1st District GOP hopeful. “Right now people are speculating.” Palin endorsed Ward on March 30, along with two other veterans who are seeking congressional seats in Florida and Illinois. At that time, Ward said he expected the former vice presidential candidate to help him with fundraising and probably to visit the state to campaign for him. “She’s an Idahoan,” he said then. “I’m pretty confident we’re going to get her here.”

Ward was Nevada state chairman for the McCain-Palin campaign for five months; in August, her father and father-in-law came to Idaho to stump for Ward. Palin, along with her family, has roots in Idaho, lived in Sandpoint and graduated from the University of Idaho. Tracy said, “If she comes to Idaho for Vaughn that’d be great for him in the election, whether it’s before the primary, before the general, either one.”

Ward is vying against Raul Labrador in the GOP primary for a chance to challenge Democratic Rep. Walt Minnick; Labrador’s campaign issued a press release today saying it was rumored that “the Ward campaign was desperately after Sarah Palin to come in during this last week of the election to rescue his troubled campaign.” Mansfield said in the release, “No doubt she’d be a big deal and divert a lot of attention from questions surrounding Ward’s authenticity. … Idaho conservatives will still be wondering whether Vaughn Ward is what he says he is.” You can click below to read the full Labrador campaign press release.

Tracy took over spokesman duties Friday from former campaign manager Ryan O’Barto, who resigned after a series of embarrassing revelations for the campaign, including Thursday’s report by The Spokesman-Review that five of 10 issue position statements on Ward’s campaign website were word-for-word identical to statements on other candidates’ and congressmen’s sites. All of Ward’s position statements were removed from the website on Thursday, and though Ward said then that he expected to have new ones up by the end of the day, there still are none on the site. “We’re working on those and we just want to make sure that everything and every step we take … is absolutely accurate and that there are no issues and no problems with anything that we’re doing,” Tracy told Eye on Boise. “That’s one of the corrective things. So if we take time to do it, it’s going to be because we want to make sure that there are no mistakes.”

Next debate: GOP primary race for Guv

The last of the “Idaho Debates” for the May 25 primary election is tomorrow night, when GOP candidates for governor will face off before a live audience, in a debate to be broadcast live statewide on Idaho Public Television. Thus far, incumbent Gov. Butch Otter has declined to attend; candidates scheduled to debate include GOP challengers Rex Rammell and Sharon Ullman. The debate starts at 8 p.m. Boise time; doors open an hour before in the Capitol Auditorium for those who’d like to attend, and close 15 minutes before the start of the debate. There are 130 seats available for the public on a first-come, first-served basis.

The Idaho Debates are sponsored by the Idaho Press  Club and the League of Women Voters, along with co-sponsors including The Associated Press, Boise State Radio, Idaho Allied Dailies, Idaho State Broadcasters Association, The Idaho Statesman, KIVI-TV and KBOI-TV; there’s more info here, and you can click below to read a piece by AP reporter John Miller on the gubernatorial primary race.

A look at 1st District, SupCourt races

Vaughn Ward and Raul Labrador, who are vying for the GOP nomination for Idaho’s 1st District congressional seat, have much in common, though they’re locked in a contentious and sometimes bitter contest for the nod in Idaho’s May 25 primary election. Both are barely past age 40, with photogenic good looks and attractive young families. Both came from modest means and were raised largely by single mothers. Both speak in forceful, idealistic terms about public service when they talk about running for Congress. Both are staking out the conservative end of the political spectrum. My story profiling the race is in Sunday’s Spokesman-Review; here’s a link.

Also coming in Sunday’s S-R, my Handle Extra column takes a look at the contested race for the Idaho Supreme Court between Justice Roger Burdick and 2nd District Judge John Bradbury. Of note: Oddly, in this nonpartisan race, Idaho’s system means that the final decision in the Burdick-Bradbury race will happen in a low-turnout election that’s dominated by each party’s most-committed partisans. Idaho’s primaries typically see less than half the voter turnout of the general election, and the primary turnout has been falling each election for the past decade; in 2008, just 25 percent of registered voters cast votes in the primary, down from 33.4 percent in 2000. Here’s a link.

Big shake-up for Ward campaign…

Here’s a link to my full story at spokesman.com on the big shake-up today in Vaughn Ward’s congressional campaign. Dennis Mansfield, spokesman for rival candidate Raul Labrador’s campaign, said, “I’ve never seen a self-immolation of a political campaign like this in the 30-plus years I’ve run races.” And Mike Tracy just returned my call from earlier today, and said he’s the campaign’s new communications consultant and, for now, the press contact, but he’s not the press secretary. “I will be working with the media,” Tracy said, “for the foreseeable future.”

Boise Tea Party endorses Labrador

Here’s a news item from The Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The leaders of Tea Party Boise are endorsing Republican Raul Labrador in the race for the GOP nomination in Idaho’s 1st Congressional District. The organization, which touts 2,600 members in southwestern Idaho, picked Labrador Friday over his primary rival Vaughn Ward. The endorsement comes 12 days before the primary election to determine which Republican candidate will square off in November against first-term Democrat Walt Minnick. Tea Party officials say Labrador, who has served two terms in the Idaho House of Representatives, better understands the issues facing Idahoans and Americans. The group praised Labrador for having more real world political experience, his record of resisting his own party leaders and is more thoughtful and knowledgeable than Ward.

Ward on radio: ‘He tendered his resignation’

Answering a caller’s question on KBOI radio about the departure of his campaign manager, Ryan O’Barto, congressional candidate Vaughn Ward said, “The campaign manager, he was not fired, he tendered his resignation. It was very hard for me to accept his resignation. He felt it was more of a distraction on the campaign.” Asked by the caller if he’s blaming missteps on campaign staff, Ward said, “Anything that goes wrong on my campaign is my responsibility, just like in the Marine Corps.”

Here’s the explanation he gave on the radio for the position statements on his website posted for at least the past five months that matched word-for-word statements on an array of other candidates’ and congressmen’s sites: “We’ve made some changes internally on the process. Let me say, the material is right, reflects my viewpoints, they’re GOP talking points, they’re right. … These are things that Idahoans are talking about when I’m out on the campaign trail. … The thoughts are definitely ours.” He made no mention, however, of references in those statements touting two pieces of pending legislation in Congress that Ward subsequently said he hasn’t reviewed and doesn’t necessarily support.

Ward: ‘Some communication issues that I wanted to make stronger’

Vaughn Ward’s campaign hasn’t returned calls today, but Ward just said on KBOI radio that he’s “clarified” that he didn’t fire campaign manager Ryan O’Barto, as reported on Politico.com; the Associated Press is reporting that O’Barto has resigned. Ward said, “To deal with some of our communication issues that I wanted to make stronger, I brought on Mike Tracy, who has a 20-plus year history of dealing with tough races” and has worked on campaigns for “Larry Craig and others.” Ward added, “He’s actually been a volunteer on our campaign for about a year helping us out, and he’s stepped in.” So far, he’s made no mention of replacing O’Barto with senior finance director Al Henderson, who joined his campaign April 29th. O’Barto was serving as both campaign spokesman and campaign manager.

Henderson joined Ward campaign two weeks ago

Al Henderson, whom the Associated Press reports will be Vaughn Ward’s new campaign manager, signed on with Ward’s campaign on April 29 as senior finance director. A Ward press release issued on that date said, “Henderson, a successful, long-time GOP fundraiser, will help the Ward campaign build on their tremendous fundraising success. Last quarter, Ward set an Idaho Republican congressional primary record with total receipts of over $518k from more than 1,100 contributors.” In the press release, Henderson praised Ward as “an honorable man and a true conservative.” Among Idaho GOP campaigns Henderson’s worked on in the past are those of Butch Otter, Steve Symms and Larry Craig; he also was a longtime Craig staffer.

Ward is scheduled to appear on Boise talk radio on Nate Shelman’s program on 670 KBOI at 5 p.m. Boise time - that’s now. In the quarter-hour before that program starts, the station has aired one of rival Raul Labrador’s hard-hitting new radio campaign ads, portraying Ward as beholden to out-of-state contributors.

AP: O’Barto out, Tracy, Henderson in

Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Republican congressional candidate Vaughn Ward’s campaign manager is stepping down — 12 days before the primary and in the wake of a series of political missteps. Ward campaign consultant Mike Tracy confirmed Friday that Ward has accepted the resignation of Ryan O’Barto, who also served as spokesman. Tracy, a press secretary for former Idaho Sen. Larry Craig, told The Associated Press he will begin serving as campaign spokesman. The latest mishap for Ward emerged Thursday when it was reported that position statements on Ward’s website appeared to have been cut and pasted from other GOP candidate websites and writings. O’Barto said the material posted on the website was a technical error. Tracy also said Al Henderson, who managed Craig’s 1990 senate campaign, will be Ward’s new campaign manager.

Allred campaign: New poll suggests ‘dead heat by September’

Why is Democratic gubernatorial candidate Keith Allred happy about the new Rasmussen poll that shows incumbent GOP Gov. Butch Otter at 54 percent support to 32 percent for Allred? “It’s momentum,” said Allred campaign spokesman Shea Andersen. “In seven weeks we gained 10 points. … This is the kind of pace we want to be on. This sort of thing puts us in a dead heat by September.”

An earlier Rasmussen poll, in late March, showed Otter with 60 percent to Allred’s 32 percent, a 32-point lead. Now that’s narrowed to a 22-point lead. Rasmussen characterizes the latest results as showing that Otter “still holds a comfortable lead.”

Press-Tribune: Ward ‘restructuring staff’

The Idaho Press-Tribune reports that congressional candidate Vaughn Ward told its editorial board this morning that he “planned to announce a restructuring of his campaign staff on Saturday.” The paper reported, “While not offering specifics, Ward alluded to major changes and was accompanied by longtime GOP campaign strategist Mike Tracy.” Tracy is a former press secretary for Sen. Larry Craig and former executive director of the Idaho Republican Party; he now operates a communications firm. You can read the Press-Tribune’s full post here.

Politico says Ward’s fired his campaign manager

Politico.com is reporting that Idaho congressional candidate Vaughn Ward has fired his campaign manager and is bringing on a new interim manager plus a “press secretary with experience working in the office of former Idaho Sen. Larry Craig.” You can read Politico’s article here; it cites unnamed sources. So, is it true? My calls both to Ward and to Ryan O’Barto, who’s been his campaign spokesman at least until yesterday, so far today have gone unreturned. The Politico article identifies O’Barto as the fired campaign manager, and says he’s a former aide to Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter.