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Idaho Voices

Eye on Boise: Large voter turnout predicted at Idaho polls

Sun., Oct. 31, 2010

BOISE – It’s election time – grab your ID and head to the polls on Tuesday.

This is the first general election at which Idaho’s new requirement for voters to show photo ID is in effect; those who don’t have it can sign a personal identity affidavit.

Idaho also allows same-day voter registration; that requires both ID and proof of address such as a utility bill. Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Strong voter turnout is expected; Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa is predicting that 63 to 64 percent of registered voters will cast ballots this year, “which would be our highest nonpresidential year turnout since ’94.”

“Candidates and issues make turnout,” Ysursa said, “and I think we’ve got competitive races out there that are driving the turnout.”

Among the many decisions awaiting Idaho voters are whether to keep or replace the state’s governor and members of Congress, four state constitutional amendments, races for an array of county and statewide offices, and votes on every seat in the state Legislature. There’s more information on all of those in our online Voter Guide at 2010-election/.

Here’s a rundown of the contested legislative races in North Idaho:

House District 2A

Idaho’s Legislative District 2 includes Shoshone County, traditionally among the most Democratic counties in the state, but in recent years this district has swung more and more to the GOP. Rep. Mary Lou Shepherd, D-Prichard, the last remaining Democrat representing the district, is seeking a seventh term.

She’s unlike any other Democrat in the Idaho House – often, she’s the only Democrat who votes with the Republicans in split votes. “I felt from the very beginning that I’m there to vote for my district. It doesn’t matter how I feel, it’s how they feel about a subject, and that’s why I vote the way I do,” Shepherd said.

She’s being challenged this year by Shannon McMillan, a former tax preparer who works as an assistant in her son’s law office in Wallace and is the current secretary of the Silver Valley Republican Women.

House District 2B

Rep. Dick Harwood, R-St. Maries, is among the Idaho Legislature’s most conservative voices, pushing legislation to tell the federal government to “back off” and to assert that the federal government can’t regulate in-state gun sales.

As he seeks a sixth term, Harwood’s sticking to that line and says it’s resonating in his North Idaho district, but his Democratic challenger, Jon Ruggles, says he’s hearing a different message.

“It’s jobs, the level of instability, is my son or daughter going to be able to stay in Idaho? What am I going to do if I lose my job?” said Ruggles, chairman of the East Shoshone Hospital District board and Wallace resident who’s known for his work on trails and city projects.

“Really, I’m not hearing ‘let’s go out and sue the federal government,’ which is what Harwood and all those guys want,” Ruggles said. “Let’s spend our money on classes, not courtrooms. When I tell people that, they all nod their heads.”

But Harwood says, “I just feel like it’s my duty to fight back from some of the stuff that the federal government’s been doing to the state and to the people; just some of it’s unbelievable.”

House District 3B

Idaho state Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, was unopposed in his bid for a fourth term until Hayden businessman Howard Griffiths, angered by Hart’s continuing tax problems, filed to run against him as a write-in.

Hart, a former Constitution Party member who defeated the late moderate GOP Rep. Wayne Meyer in 2004, is an outspoken conservative and longtime tax protester who continued his personal fight against back federal and state income taxes while serving on the House tax committee. This year, he introduced legislation to eliminate Idaho’s state income tax on all earned income while bumping up the sales tax, though the bill didn’t advance.

Public records show Hart owes more than $500,000 in state and federal taxes, penalties and interest; he’s in the middle of fighting a state order to pay $53,000. This summer, a special House Ethics Committee cleared him of two ethics charges related to his tax issues, but unanimously recommended he be removed from the tax committee.

“We all pay our taxes, and my feeling is what he did was wrong,” Griffiths said.

Senate, District 4

Coeur d’Alene Sen. John Goedde is the chairman of the Senate Education Committee, and in his bid this year for a fourth term in the Senate, the Republican has drawn no Democratic challenger, but does face an independent, Jeremy Boggess, and a Constitution Party candidate, Ray Writz, on the November ballot.

“Two years ago, I had a really tough race with a very credible Democrat and was able to persevere,” Goedde said. “I think the Democrats chose to focus on other races this year.”

House District 4A

Mike Bullard was the pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Coeur d’Alene, until he retired in 2009 after 35 years as a church pastor. Now he’s running for political office, challenging three-term Rep. Marge Chadderdon, R-Coeur d’Alene.

Bullard said he started the race out of concern over cuts in education, but has increasingly become concerned about jobs and the economy.

Chadderdon says education is “upper-front what I care about,” and she defends her vote to cut school funding this year. “That’s part of the tough vote that we had to make,” she said, “with the revenue not being there and with the unemployment as high as it is in Idaho.”

Bullard said the state could have spared schools from the cuts without raising taxes by collecting taxes already due and re-examining exemptions. “You always look in a business at collecting the receivables that are due to you when you’re in trouble financially, and that has not been done,” he said.

Bullard, who said as a pastor he’s been with hundreds of people who were sick or dying, strongly opposes this year’s “conscience” bill that allows any medical care provider to refuse to provide end-of-life care that violates his or her conscience; Chadderdon voted for it.

House District 4B

An open legislative seat is up for grabs in Coeur d’Alene, with the retirement of four-term Rep. George Sayler, D-Coeur d’Alene; Democrat Paula Marano and Republican Kathy Sims are facing off for the seat.

Marano is close to Sayler, a retired Coeur d’Alene high school government teacher who won respect on both sides of the aisle; she served as his stand-in when he had to miss a week of the legislative session, and he’s endorsed her.

Sims is a former county GOP chairwoman who served in the state Senate for two years after being appointed to replace then-Sen. Jack Riggs, R-Coeur d’Alene, when he was named lieutenant governor. Since then, she’s made waves by campaigning against city redevelopment efforts and dubbing the city’s financial donation toward building the Kroc Center a “criminal conspiracy.”

“I just want to make sure that when they come up with big money-spending projects like this they don’t bypass the voter,” said Sims, who calls herself a “redevelopment watchdog.”

The district has elected both Democrats and Republicans; currently, Sayler joins Goedde and Chadderdon in representing it.

House District 5A

Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, is the chairman of the House Education Committee, and he’s been in the thick of the debate over this year’s unprecedented cuts in public school funding – in fact, Nonini called for deeper cuts.

“I don’t believe that teachers, whether they get a 4 percent pay cut or an 8 percent pay cut, are going to be any less effective,” Nonini said, adding, “they might not be happy about it.”

Nonini recommended 8 percent cuts in state funding for teacher salaries this year; lawmakers approved 4 percent.

He’s facing a challenge in November from Democrat David Larsen, who also challenged Nonini unsuccessfully in the last two legislative elections, in 2008 and 2006. “I think that the typical voter is really tired of extremes at both ends of the spectrum, and I’m running as a moderate Democrat,” Larsen said. “My goal is to try to get people who would be sitting on their hands and choosing not to vote in this election to come out and realize that there are options for them.”

Nonini is the only District 5 lawmaker who’s being challenged this year; Rep. Frank Henderson, R-Post Falls, and Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Coeur d’Alene, are unopposed.

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