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Eye on Boise: Candidate urges donations to school, not campaign

BOISE – Randy Jensen, a middle school principal from American Falls and one of the four Republicans vying for the GOP nomination for state schools superintendent, has a rather unusual campaign message for folks: Don’t donate to my campaign, donate to your local schools instead.

“Hopefully people will look at this and say, ‘This is the kind of superintendent we’d like, one that wants to put money toward kids and not spend money on campaign stuff,’” Jensen said.

He’s not turning away all campaign donations. “If somebody sends me a check, I’m not going to rip it up,” he said. But he’s decided he doesn’t need a lot of campaign funding, and will be reaching out to voters personally and electronically, while encouraging potential donors to take into account Idaho’s generous tax credit for donations to schools.

“In Idaho, if you donate $500, you immediately get a $250 tax credit,” Jensen said. “So that means the most you can pay is $250. But then if you itemize, you save about $160, depending on your tax bracket. So it costs you just about $90.” Jensen said schools can end up with more than five times as much money, if people donate to them instead of candidates. “If I wanted to send a mailer out to the 100,000 people that voted in the last three Republican primaries, that mailer would cost $30,000,” he said. “I would rather have $150,000 go to schools.”

Jensen said even if he doesn’t win his race, his purpose is to help schools. “What most people don’t realize is they can donate $500 to a school and their out-of-pocket expense is typically going to be less than $100.”

He faces John Eynon, Andy Grover, and Sherri Ybarra in the May GOP primary; the victor will face Democrat Jana Jones in November.

Debates set

The Idaho Debates are set, featuring a series of nine debates in Idaho races in advance of the May 20 primary election, broadcast statewide on Idaho Public Television. The Idaho Debates are co-sponsored by the Idaho Press Club and the League of Women Voters; they’re a tradition stretching back more than three decades in Idaho.

Here are the debate dates and times:

GOP governor’s race: May 14, 8 p.m. Gov. Butch Otter is seeking a third term; in the Republican primary, he faces opponents including Senate Majority Caucus Chairman Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian; Harley Brown and Walt Bayes.

Secretary of state, GOP: May 13, 7 p.m. Four candidates are facing off in the Republican primary for secretary of state.

2nd Congressional District, GOP: May 11, 7 p.m. This Southern Idaho GOP primary race features longtime congressman Mike Simpson and challenger Bryan Smith.

Idaho Supreme Court: May 9, 8 p.m. Justice Joel Horton faces a challenge from Boise attorney Breck Seiniger; the primary election is the final contest in this nonpartisan race.

Lieutenant governor, GOP: May 9, 8:30 p.m. Idaho Lt. Gov. Brad Little will debate challenger Jim Chmelik.

Superintendent of public instruction, GOP: May 8, 8 p.m. Candidates vying in the four-way GOP race for state superintendent of schools will face off.

State controller, GOP: May 2, 8 p.m. State Controller Brandon Woolf debates GOP challenger Todd Hatfield.

State treasurer, Democrats: May 2, 8:30 p.m. Two Democratic candidates for state treasurer, Deborah Silver of Twin Falls and W. Lane Startin of Boise, will face off; the victor in that primary race will face incumbent GOP Treasurer Ron Crane in November.

Attorney general, GOP: May 1, 8 p.m. Third-term Attorney General Lawrence Wasden faces Boise attorney C.T. “Chris” Troupis in the GOP primary contest.

Trail to head AARP

Former longtime state Rep. Tom Trail, R-Moscow, has been named the new state president of the Idaho AARP. Trail, who served 16 years in the House and is the former chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, has been an AARP member for 24 years, the seniors group said. He’ll now take on the group’s highest volunteer position.

Staying in the race

A Canyon County legislative candidate whose domestic violence and multiple-bankruptcy record raised eyebrows – he’s unopposed in the GOP primary for the seat now held by longtime Rep. Darrell Bolz, R-Caldwell – has decided to stay in the race. Greg Chaney said he has found God and changed his ways, and he and his third wife now live frugally; he plans to campaign on a platform of family values and fiscal responsibility.

Chaney announced his decision at a county GOP central committee meeting, where he said he feels “very strongly that I have a unique position to carry the conservative voice forward for Canyon County.”

Since news of Chaney’s background surfaced, Brian Bishop, a Harvard-educated attorney in Caldwell, has launched a write-in campaign against him.