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Ybarra defends campaign for Idaho’s top schools job

BOISE – Idaho schools superintendent candidate Sherri Ybarra said she was not worried about her campaign despite facing recent criticism that her public absences could cause her to lose the seat.

Earlier last week, Ybarra, a Republican, declined to speak at a conference in Boise attended by school administrators from throughout Idaho. Her Democratic opponent, Jana Jones, attended the event and won a key endorsement from a Republican superintendent from one of the state’s larger school districts.

The absence contributed to a growing concern that Ybarra’s political profile won’t be enough to win the November election despite being a Republican candidate in a GOP-dominated state.

“I think my track record speaks for itself. We can always do more, but I’m here today and I’m moving forward,” Ybarra said.

Ybarra has drawn attention since her surprise victory in Idaho’s Republican primary in May against three fellow GOP newcomers. She raised just under $3,000 in the primary election, the lowest of all the candidates, and rarely campaigned outside of her small hometown of Mountain Home.

“The emerging narrative has been that she’s not totally engaged with the stakeholders and not meeting with various groups. Now she’s being attacked for not attending this conference,” said Idaho political analyst Jim Weatherby. “Not just from the Democrats but from the perspective from those who she will want to work with.”

However, Ybarra said her support is growing and that she has endorsements from 10 Idaho Republican lawmakers.

She declined to give the names of school administrators who support her, but she said a list would be posted soon on her website. As of Friday, just Senate Pro Tem Brent Hill and the 10 lawmakers who sit on the House Education Committee – including House Speaker Scott Bedke – were on the list.

Jones said she supports Idaho’s Common Core education standards, but she wants to create a bipartisan coalition of educators and lawmakers to review how to implement policy changes.

Jones, an educator from Boise, lost to Superintendent Tom Luna in 2006 by just 11,000 votes.