BOISE – The opposition may not be particularly active or well-funded, but Idaho’s senior U.S. senator, Mike Crapo, isn’t going unopposed for re-election this year as he did six years ago.
The Harvard-educated Republican lawyer and former state senator made history by drawing only a token write-in opponent when he sought his second term in the U.S. Senate, but this time, he faces both a GOP challenger in the May 25 primary and two Democrats who are vying for a shot at challenging him in the November general election.
One of the two Democrats is a Brooklyn, N.Y. lawyer who’s never been to Idaho; William Bryk said he just didn’t want to see a U.S. senator go unopposed. But now Bryk is being challenged in the primary by former Coeur d’Alene restaurant owner P. Tom Sullivan, who now lives in Tetonia in eastern Idaho and operates a credit-card processing business.
Bryk can run for the seat as long as he’s a resident of Idaho on the date of the general election – even if he’s never been to the state before that.
Sullivan and wife Kelly, an artist, owned the popular Tubs Cafe along the Centennial Trail in Coeur d’Alene in the late 1990s, when it became a gathering spot and live concert venue. But after a failed sale and a bankruptcy, Sullivan found more success with his credit-card processing business, now based in Driggs, the mountain town on the eastern Idaho border with Wyoming at the foot of Grand Targhee Ski Resort.
Sullivan, 42, said he has no formal education beyond a high school equivalency degree but, in addition to his financial business, now also is a partner in a Teton Valley newspaper and owner of a commercial industrial park in Driggs. He said, “I am running to give the people of Idaho a credible alternative to the status quo,” and wants to “make the federal government responsible and accountable.” It’s his first run for elective office.
Crapo’s Republican challenger is Claude “Skip” Davis III, a real estate broker from Weiser who says he opposes the idea of “career politicians” and pledges if elected to serve only one term in the Senate. Davis also favors term limits, sweeping campaign finance reforms to divide campaign contributions equally among all candidates, and state control on health care reform.
“I want Idahoans to have a choice in 2010,” Davis said. “As a Republican candidate I will afford you that choice.”
Crapo declined to debate Davis in a live statewide debate on Idaho Public Television, saying Davis hasn’t been actively campaigning for the post. But Crapo campaign manager Jake Ball said the incumbent likely will debate before the fall general election.
“Mike approaches every single campaign exactly the same – he asks Idaho voters for their support and he works as hard as he can, no matter who the opponent is or no matter what the perceived political situation might be,” Ball said.
Federal campaign finance records show Crapo raised more than $2 million for his re-election campaign between Jan. 1, 2009 and March 31, 2010, and had $2.8 million on hand at the end of March. By contrast, the records show Bryk, Sullivan and Davis all had reported no campaign fundraising by that date.
Timber sales an issue
Every statewide elected office is up for a vote this year, but other than the governor’s race – which features two Democrats, six Republicans, two independents and a Libertarian – only the races for lieutenant governor and controller are contested in the primary. For lieutenant governor, appointed Lt. Gov. Brad Little faces two little-known challengers in the GOP primary as he seeks a full term. For controller, state Controller Donna Jones faces Todd Hatfield of McCall in the GOP primary as she seeks a second four-year term.
Hatfield is the owner of Hatfield Log Homes in McCall, a former Valley County planning and zoning commission chairman and supports offering smaller timber sales on state endowment lands to permit smaller firms to bid on them.
Jones is the first woman to serve as Idaho state controller, a former six-term state representative from Payette who chaired the House Revenue and Taxation Committee and former executive director of the Idaho Real Estate commission.
The state controller’s duties include managing the state’s payroll and accounting systems and central computer service center, and serving on the state Land Board, which manages state endowment lands.
The winner of the GOP primary for state controller will face Democrat Bruce Robinett in November.
Little seeks full term
In the lieutenant governor’s race, the winner of the GOP primary will face Democrat Eldon Wallace of Boise and Constitution Party candidate Paul Venable of Parma in November.
Little, 56, who was appointed lieutenant governor by Gov. Butch Otter in January 2009 when then-Lt. Gov. Jim Risch was elected to the U.S. Senate, is a rancher and former four-term state senator from Emmett. He says his priority is to promote statewide economic expansion, along with personal responsibility and accountability.
His opponents are Joshua Blessinger, 31, a U.S. Marines veteran and former Coeur d’Alene resident who attends Boise State University and says he was persuaded to run by GOP gubernatorial candidate and amateur comedian Ron “Pete” Peterson; and Steven Dana Pankey, 58, a real estate investor from Shoshone and former Constitution Party candidate for Lincoln County sheriff who said he would have run for governor but he supported Gov. Butch Otter’s legal challenge to federal health care reform, so chose to run for lieutenant governor instead.