Eye on Boise: Legislative races shaping up; Rammell files to run


BOISE – Bombastic former gubernatorial candidate Rex Rammell has filed to run for the Legislature against freshman Rep. Shannon McMillan, R-Silverton, and that’s just the start of the election news.

We’re now midway through the filing period for Idaho elections, which closes Friday; the first week’s filings revealed Rammell, the veterinarian from Idaho Falls who now lives in Kooskia, taking on McMillan in the sprawling new District 7, which takes in all of Shoshone, Idaho and Clearwater counties along with part of Bonner County.

That face-off will take place during Idaho’s May 15 closed GOP primary, as well another North Idaho contest: Freshman Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, has a primary challenger in Fritz Wiedenhoff, of Rathdrum. There’ll be lots more; the Idaho secretary of state’s office is updating the list on its website,, at least twice a day, at noon and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

In the new District 3, where Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, is jumping over to run for the Senate, Nonini’s neighbor, Jeff Tyler, has filed for his former seat. And in the new District 5, freshman Sen. Dan Schmidt, D-Moscow, faces a challenge in the general election from Barrett Schroeder, the son of the longtime senator Schmidt replaced, Gary Schroeder, R-Moscow.

Former Idaho Supreme Court candidate John Bradbury has filed as a Democrat against newly appointed GOP Lewiston Sen. Dan Johnson; and House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, has drawn a GOP challenger for the general election, Daniel Santiago, of Lewiston.

Statewide, several longtime lawmakers aren’t seeking re-election, including House Tax Chairman Dennis Lake, R-Blackfoot; Senate Minority Leader Edgar Malepeai, D-Pocatello; Sen. Nicole LeFavour, D-Boise; and Senate Judiciary Chairman Denton Darrington, R-Declo.

They can’t get there

GOP lawmakers from far-flung parts of the state are trying to figure out how, or if, they can participate in their local county presidential caucuses on Tuesday; some simply won’t be able to.

Rep. George Eskridge, R-Dover, said even if Wednesday morning legislative meetings were delayed, he still wouldn’t be able to make the trip. “I’d have to take a day and a half,” he said. “I just don’t feel comfortable in leaving my responsibilities here as a legislator.” He added, “I think it should’ve been done on a weekend.”

Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, said she attended her local party presidential caucus four years ago, and it was “really, really fun.”

“I think everyone who can go should go,” she said.

Rep. John Vander Woude, R-Nampa, said lawmakers who can’t make it to their home county’s caucuses are welcome to come to the Ada or Canyon County caucus just for the fun of it – but noted they wouldn’t get to vote.

Double entendre …

The House Resources Committee had a lengthy hearing on legislation to exempt members of the military and veterans from state hunter-ed requirements to get a hunting license. Backers included several military members, along with lawmakers; opponents said serving in the military doesn’t necessarily acquaint people with Idaho’s hunting rules and laws, including things like rules for shooting around cultivated fields and how to identify game species.

Rep. Lenore Barrett, R-Challis, spoke out in favor of the bill, HB 496, saying, “I don’t hunt, and probably never will, but if I were to hunt, I wouldn’t mind having one of those young men cover my backside.” Her comment was followed by an awkward pause, after which Chairman Bert Stevenson, R-Rupert, said, “The chairman would say that the discussion probably has gone far enough on that.” Laughter broke out in the meeting room. The bill then cleared the committee on a divided voice vote; it goes next to the full House.

Suicide hotline fund

Legislative budget writers have approved a Division of Veterans Services budget for next year that includes a $110,000 funding boost to help get a state suicide prevention hotline back up and running. The budget, proposed by Reps. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, and George Eskridge, R-Dover, both veterans, includes $110,000 as “seed money” for a state suicide prevention hotline; that would combine with $50,000 from the Department of Health and Welfare and donations from numerous other sources to get the hotline up and running.

“It is needed – we’ve got one of the highest suicide rates in the country,” Eskridge said.

Hagedorn said, “Veterans have twice the rate of non-veterans. We lose 18 veterans every day to suicide” nationwide. “It’s pretty shocking.”

Idaho’s previous hotline closed at the end of 2006 for lack of funding. Since then, various locally funded hotlines around the country have volunteered to temporarily take Idaho calls; currently, Idaho calls are being answered by a locally funded community hotline in Oregon. Kathie Garrett, chair of the Idaho Council on Suicide Prevention, said the National Guard has agreed to furnish free space to house the hotline, and Mountain States Group has agreed to operate the hotline once funding is secured.

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