BOISE - A North Idaho senator’s initial attempt to get his primary challenger tossed off the ballot has failed, but Sen. Mike Jorgenson says he’s not giving up.
Jorgenson, R-Hayden, last week filed a complaint with the Idaho Secretary of State’s office saying that his GOP challenger, Steven Vick of Dalton Gardens, isn’t qualified for the ballot because of a 2006 voter-registration glitch.
Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa said Monday, “He appears to be a registered voter in Idaho for the requisite amount of time, at least one year prior to the election, and that’s where we’re going from here. We’re not going to take any action to remove.”
Jorgenson’s Boise attorney, Jason Risch, said if the complaint is formally rejected, he’ll take it to court. “The senator has requested me to seek that judicial enforcement to preserve the integrity of the process,” Risch said.
Vick said, “I think he’s grasping at straws. I’m not exactly sure even what his complaint is about - I mean, this just doesn’t make sense to me.”
Vick, a former four-term Montana state representative, moved to Idaho in 2004. In 2006, he moved back to Montana, switched back his voter registration, and ran for a seat on the state Public Service Commission. After finishing second in a four-way GOP primary, he decided to move back to Idaho after just a few months, back to the same address. When he went in to update his Idaho voter registration, he was told it was still current; he then voted in Idaho elections from then on. “That was the last time I thought about it until last Friday,” Vick said.
Kootenai County Clerk Dan English said, “This just sounds like a unique set of circumstances, that a guy moved away and then came back to the same spot.” Vick currently is registered in Idaho and not in Montana, English said. “I certainly don’t think our office did anything wrong or improper - I don’t know that anybody did.”
Jorgenson said, “My opponent ran for office in Montana in 2006 with the unquestioned expectation of living there permanently. He didn’t follow procedure in re-registering to vote in Idaho after losing and knows it. He should withdraw immediately, the office of Idaho state senator deserves better.”
It’s not the first time this year Jorgenson has called on a candidate to withdraw. In December, he called on GOP congressional candidate Raul Labrador to withdraw from his congressional campaign because he’s an attorney who handles immigration issues; Jorgenson contended that made him unfit to run. The request was ignored.
Ysursa said his office maintains statewide voter registration records, so it catches candidates who file for office but haven’t been registered for the required time period, which in the case of the state Legislature is one year. Vick met the requirement, he said.
Montana may have failed in its “ministerial duty” to send notice to Idaho when Vick switched his registration in 2006, Ysursa said, but “the bottom line is he was never taken off the Idaho books, he was on the books in Idaho and voted in the ‘08 primary and general elections.”
Ysursa said removing a candidate from the ballot is “something we do not do without very black-and-white, clear-cut evidence … and this one here has some ramifications to it that don’t make it that clear.”
Vick said he was recruited to run against Jorgenson by the two state representatives from Jorgenson’s District 3: Reps. Jim Clark, R-Hayden Lake, and Phil Hart, R-Athol. He said, “They just felt like their district there would be better represented by somebody else than Sen. Jorgenson.”
Jorgenson has clashed with Clark and Hart in the past year, sponsoring legislation designed to open the way for future sales taxes on online sales that Clark made a point of killing in the House; and clashing with Hart over the two lawmakers’ competing versions of bills targeting employment of illegal immigrants.
“We’ve had some disagreements,” Jorgenson said.
In February, when Hart was pushing a dozen different bills ranging from a sweeping tax-reform proposal to raise the sales tax and eliminate income tax, to a measure allowing people to pay their state taxes in silver medallions, Jorgenson was asked for comment. He responded, “You know, the nicest, kindest thing I can say is I have no comment. … Frankly, I’m not going to comment on the volume and the kind of bills he chooses to bring during a very serious time like this.”
Clark, who’s retiring from the Legislature this year after seven terms, said, “Something has to happen. Look how he treats Phil Hart, ‘the best thing I can say about him is nothing’ - he said that in your paper. So what do you expect?”
Vick, who filled in as a substitute for Hart for three days this year, said he backs Hart’s legislative proposals, from the silver medallion bill to states’ rights legislation. He said if elected, his top priorities would be downsizing state government, opposing tax increases and continuing to emphasize states’ rights.