May 21, 2012 in Idaho

Candidate who kept campaign quiet nearly lost

By The Spokesman-Review
 

BOISE - A Democratic candidate for Congress in Idaho says he’s learned a lesson, after he didn’t actively campaign during his primary race and ended up with only a five percentage point lead over a mentally ill candidate who’s facing felony charges.

“You can’t take anything for granted,” said Jimmy Farris, a Lewiston native and former NFL football player. “We made a conscious decision not to campaign against her. … We chose not to debate or do anything that would really put her situation kind of in the public or highlight it more than it already was.”

Cynthia Clinkingbeard, a former physician who lost her medical license in 2005 due to issues related to her bipolar disorder, took 47 percent of the vote in Idaho’s Democratic primary last week for the 1st Congressional District, while Farris got 53 percent. He’ll run against first-term GOP Rep. Raul Labrador, who got more than 80 percent of the vote against a little-known opponent in the GOP primary.

Clinkingbeard was arrested in March, shortly after filing to run for Congress, for allegedly pulling a gun on employees at a Staples store; she’s facing three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and one count of use of a deadly weapon in commission of a felony. An Ada County judge has ordered a mental evaluation and set a review in court for June 6.

Clinkingbeard did not campaign after her arrest, and hasn’t spoken publicly.

Farris, who now lives in the Boise area, said he didn’t do “any real campaigning in the northern part of the state especially” during the primary campaign. Clinkingbeard won four of the five northernmost counties in the Idaho Panhandle: Benewah, Bonner, Boundary and Kootenai. She also edged Farris in Canyon and Payette counties.

“I think … it was a mistake on our part, not to really actively campaign as if there was a primary,” Farris said Monday. “I chose to try to protect her privacy as much as possible.”

Turnout in the Democratic primary was low, with few contested races on the ticket; Farris got 5,355 votes to Clinkingbeard’s 4,721.

Jim Weatherby, Boise State University emeritus professor of public policy, said, “Apparently a considerable amount of the voters didn’t know either candidate,” and just picked a name. “There is something to be said for a positive campaign where you’re introducing yourself to the voters, and apparently he didn’t do that either.”

Weatherby said it was unlikely that Republicans sought to make mischief in the Democratic primary by voting for Clinkingbeard. “There was too much action in the Republican primaries,” he said.

Idaho Democratic Party Chairman Larry Grant said, “I would just caution anyone from trying to draw any conclusions from the numbers, because it doesn’t actually make sense.” He noted that Democratic turnout was low, and Democrats allowed independents, third-party members and even Republicans to vote in their primary, while Republicans closed theirs to all but registered Republicans.

“Once we get the data, we’ll be able to tell who voted in which primary, and that will give us the answer,” Grant said.

Farris said he’s heard speculation about crossover voting and other factors, but doesn’t want to weigh in on that without more analysis. “Lesson learned, chalk it up,” he said. “I’ve always been better in the second half anyways, so, made some halftime adjustments, we’re moving forward focusing on Congressman Labrador.”

Labrador had no comment. His campaign spokeswoman, China Gum, said, “We didn’t really pay any attention to anything else that was going on in anybody else’s races.”


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