May 30, 2010 in Idaho Voices

‘Blue dog’ Minnick ready to take on Labrador

By The Spokesman-Review
 

BOISE - As the 1st District Congressional race shapes up for November, incumbent Congressman Walt Minnick is launching his re-election campaign.

Minnick, a conservative “blue dog” Democrat, faces Republican Raul Labrador in his bid for a second term, after Labrador defeated Vaughn Ward in a bruising GOP primary last week.

Minnick, former CEO of an Idaho timber products firm, said, “I haven’t been a congressman long, but I’ve been a businessman most of my life. I work hard to apply that experience to my work in Congress, and hope that work shows Idaho voters that they made a good investment in electing me.”

Labrador, newly nominated as the GOP candidate, said, “I view Mr. Minnick as an honorable man. … We disagree on a host of issues, but I am committed to having a vigorous debate and running an honorable campaign focused on what is best for America and Idaho.” He said the “people of Idaho deserve that kind of debate.”

After Idaho’s primary election last week, the Rothenberg Political Report, which rates congressional contests nationwide, moved Idaho from “Toss-Up/Tilt Republican” to “Lean Democratic.”

T-Rex country?

GOP gubernatorial candidate Rex Rammell, the former elk rancher and militia movement backer whose campaign trademark this year was a giant inflatable T-Rex he towed behind his brightly decorated campaign RV, took 26 percent of the vote to incumbent Gov. Butch Otter‘s 54.6 percent in the primary, with the remaining challengers in single digits. But in two counties, Rammell beat Otter: Benewah and Idaho counties, and in Boundary County, Otter edged Rammell by just two votes.

In Idaho County, Otter got just 40 percent of the vote to 47 percent for Rammell; in Boundary County, both candidates had 43 percent; and in Benewah County, Rammell made his best showing, winning the GOP primary for governor with 57 percent of the vote, while Otter drew just 34 percent.

So is Benewah County T-Rex country? That’s one possible interpretation. Another: Very few people voted. Rammell got 603 votes there, while Otter had just 358.

Candidate reveals tax problems

P. Tom Sullivan, a former Coeur d’Alene restaurant owner and now a businessman in Tetonia, Idaho, won the Democratic primary last week for a chance to challenge U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo in the fall. The day before the election, Sullivan issued a press release acknowledging that he’s struggling to pay delinquent taxes, after a bank failure erased his business line of credit. “I’ve always been responsible and paid my debts, and I am paying this one,” Sullivan said. “I’m working out of it, like a lot of people.”

Sullivan took 74.6 percent of the vote in the primary, to 25.4 percent for William Bryk, a lawyer from Brooklyn, N.Y. who’s never been to Idaho, but who filed for the seat to ensure Crapo had opposition. Six years ago, Crapo made history when he ran unopposed, but for a write-in challenger, for his second term in the Senate.

The senior vote

The Idaho AARP estimates that three in 10 of Idaho’s primary voters were AARP members; the group has 185,279 members statewide, and seniors traditionally have voted in greater numbers than other age groups.

Just to drive home the point, the AARP released a breakdown of its number of members by legislative district; there are anywhere from 3,770 to 7,337 in each legislative district. Compare those numbers to the vote totals, and many legislative districts saw turnout that fell well below the current number of AARP members in the district.

Examples: District 1, in Bonner and Boundary counties, now has 7,337 AARP members; in the contested primary race for state Senate there, 5,605 people voted. District 3 now has 7,314 AARP members, according to the group; in that district’s contested Senate race, 5,264 people voted.

What’s next for Ward

Unsuccessful GOP congressional candidate Vaughn Ward said after his primary election defeat, “It’s a chess game, politics is.” Asked what he thinks of this chess game now and whether he’d ever like to play it again, Ward said, “We’ll see.”

For now, he said, his future plans involve a camping trip with his family in North Idaho.

Wanted folks can still vote

Wanted? Don’t let it stop you from voting. According to an obscure Idaho law that dates all the way back to 1891, Idaho electors – that’s voters – are “privileged from arrest, except for treason, a felony or breach of the peace, during their attendance at a polling place.”

That means Idahoans wanted for minor crimes can show up to vote without fear that the cops will nab them even as they cast their ballots. However, there’s no restriction on arrests once those folks have finished voting and left the polling place.

Asked the reason for the law, Idaho Code 34-401, a laughing Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa said, “I have no idea. In my 36 years here, it’s never been an issue.” He said, “Maybe we had some scoundrels who they didn’t want to discourage from voting. Who knows?”

Ysursa noted that Idaho’s election laws were revamped in 1970, but the privilege-from-arrest law was kept, while various out-of-date voting restrictions were wiped off the books, like the one that said people who “frequented houses of ill repute” couldn’t vote. A more recent law change repealed the old state law that said liquor by the drink couldn’t be sold while the polls were open.

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