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Idaho Voices

Minnick’s lead widening, Otter’s shrinking, poll says

Sun., Aug. 22, 2010

BOISE – With the campaign in Idaho’s 1st Congressional District hitting full swing, a new poll out from an independent pollster shows incumbent Walt Minnick with a 23.3-point lead over GOP challenger Raul Labrador.

The poll, taken by GOP pollster Greg Strimple on July 29 for the Idaho Hospital Association, found that if the election were held today, 52.1 percent of respondents would vote for Minnick and 28.8 percent for Labrador. Another 1.9 percent chose “other,” and 17.2 percent were undecided.

That’s more than twice the Minnick lead shown in Labrador’s own poll, which he released a month ago showing Minnick with a 10-point lead.

“I think it’s another example of the support that Walt has and the support that continues to come,” said John Foster, Minnick’s campaign manager. “It’s also an example of the fact that the more people learn about Raul Labrador, the less inclined they are to support him. … This shows great momentum for Walt’s campaign.”

Labrador’s campaign spokeswoman, China Gum, said, “This poll is not consistent with polling that we’ve seen both internally and otherwise. We have major support on the ground and we continue to build momentum. As more and more voters learn how Minnick helps push the Obama/Pelosi agenda, they realize how out of touch he is with their values.”

The poll had a statewide sample of 400 people, but just 200 of those were in the 1st Congressional District, so that means the margin of error for those results is well above the plus or minus 4.9 percent for the poll as a whole. But it’s still pretty interesting.

Also in the poll: GOP Gov. Butch Otter led his Democratic challenger, Keith Allred, by just 10.7 percent, a smaller lead than in other recently published polls, suggesting that race is narrowing. In that race, 3.8 percent preferred “other” and 14 percent said they were undecided. The poll also showed Otter with just 48 percent favorability ratings, with 32.8 percent of respondents saying they viewed him unfavorably and 18 percent with no opinion.

The IHA did its polling because it’s backing a constitutional amendment on the November ballot regarding bonding for hospitals, which is one of three bonding measures lawmakers approved this year for the November ballot. IHA spokeswoman Darryl-Lynn Oakes said the group polls regularly on everything from community hospitals to health care reform; including questions about the “political environment” – including how respondents view certain political races – has “been standard,” she said, “just to see how, when you look at different groups and divide them up, it’s just one more mechanism in addition to geography and other demographics.”

IHA did not release its poll, which it said was for internal use, but a copy of part of it was obtained by The Spokesman-Review.

The poll also found that 56.3 percent of respondents had unfavorable views of Democratic President Barack Obama, with 33.8 percent favorable and 10 percent with no opinion.

Otter: Shipment ‘good for the state’

Here’s what Gov. Butch Otter had to say last week when queried about why he’s been such a strong supporter of the controversial plan for oversized truck shipments on scenic U.S. Highway 12 in north-central Idaho:

“When we first started discussions, we wanted to protect ourselves. … We had satisfied ourselves to some degree. We had finally decided we were going to permit each load.” That way, Otter explained, the state could adjust requirements as needed, based on issues that arise with earlier truckloads, because a new permit would be issued for each load.

Otter characterized the proposals from Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips as similar to other expressions of interest from firms that want to do business in Idaho, many of which come through the state Department of Commerce. “It’s not unusual when somebody says, ‘We have this thing that we’re working on.’ Obviously in this case it was the Port (of Lewiston). It’s not unusual for a company to come forward.”

He said, “Once we expressed interest, it’s with the caveat that … make sure we’re safe, make sure we’re protected. ITD went up there and held three meetings,” he said, which took place in June. Otter wrote a letter to the Port pledging support for the proposal in January 2009. “Obviously it means a lot to the port and a demonstration of our own ability at the port to be able to handle large loads, to be able to handle unique loads,” the governor said.

He added, “If we’re going to see things like this benefiting from a 400-plus mile river and port’s ability to handle it, when can we look forward to hearing about manufacturing these types of things in Lewiston?” The equipment now proposed to be shipped is mostly manufactured in Korea; the first four shipments are of drums manufactured in Japan. Asked if he’s gotten any sign that such manufacturing in Lewiston would be realistic, Otter said, “No, but I’ve asked the question. I want ’em thinking.”

“I see it as potential economic development,” Otter said, “but I also see it as having done everything right as a demonstration that we can do those kinds of things, and that port being 400 miles inland is extremely valuable. … That of course, then, is good for Lewiston, and therefore good for the state.”

Schools to get less

Idaho’s state Land Board has voted unanimously to set distributions from the state’s permanent endowment to public schools and other endowment beneficiaries for next year at this year’s level, less the special, one-time extra distribution of $22 million that schools are getting this year. That means overall distributions will be down 32 percent and public school distributions will be down 41.3 percent, dropping from $53.3 million this year to $31.3 million next year. But setting aside the special $22 million allocation for schools this year, the total distributions would actually rise by 0.6 percent.

Idaho’s endowment fund had a 5 percent gain in July, the first month of the fiscal year.

Betsy Z. Russell can be reached toll-free at (866) 336-2854 or

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