BOISE – Sherri Ybarra, the GOP candidate for Idaho state superintendent of schools, said Thursday that she took “responsibility” for sections of her campaign website that apparently were copied word-for-word from that of Democratic rival Jana Jones, whose campaign website was posted months before Ybarra entered the race.
Ybarra removed most of the wording at issue from her site Thursday after Idaho Education News reported the duplication; Jones told the news outlet she was “shocked.”
“I appreciate my opponent taking responsibility for plagiarizing content from my website, but the fact that it happened at all is troubling,” Jones said in a statement. “Integrity matters in this office, and so does attention to detail. Idahoans have had enough of a superintendent who is not open, transparent, and accountable, and my opponent seems to be cut from the same cloth. I will be a superintendent who will provide leadership Idahoans can trust.”
Ybarra, in a statement, said she was “surprised” to learn of the duplications. “I sent my web managers copy regarding issues and positioning statements. They wrote other copy points on the contact page; however, I take responsibility for final copy content,” she said. “My focus is, and will continue to be, how we best provide a strong future for Idaho’s children. That future begins with the very best education and preparation we can offer them.”
The two are vying to become Idaho’s next state schools chief, as two-term GOP Superintendent Tom Luna retires from the position; they face off in the November general election.
Idaho Education News reported that under the prominent “Join Team Jana” and “Join Team Ybarra” sections of their respective websites, both candidates had posted a nearly identical 46-word paragraph about working together to improve education. The identical wording: “It’s going to take a lot of hard work to have the kind of education system we want for Idaho’s kids. … Parents, students, educators, business leaders, elected officials, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, working together to make it happen.”
A solicitation for comments on the two sites also was nearly identical. Jones’ site says, “Use the optional message box to share your thoughts and ideas with her regarding education in Idaho.” Ybarra’s site said, “Use the optional message box to share your thoughts and ideas with us regarding education in Idaho.” EdNews also pointed out similarities in capitalization, placement of exclamation points and more on the two sites.
Jones told the news outlet she wrote the passages with her campaign spokesman, Robert Allen, before launching her website Jan. 6. She called the duplications “unbelievable.”
It was the second time Ybarra, a political newcomer, has made news for issues with her campaign website; earlier, she listed former GOP primary rival Randy Jensen as a member of her campaign team, though he said he wasn’t endorsing either candidate in the race. After news reports about that, Ybarra removed Jensen’s name from the site.
Idaho state GOP Chairman Steve Yates told the Associated Press on Thursday that the situation is “unfortunate,” but he said he doubted that it would cause much harm to Ybarra’s campaign. “This is plain, vanilla prose,” Yates said. “It is still unclear what, if any, real damage was done.”
Jones is the former chief deputy state superintendent under then-Democratic Superintendent Marilyn Howard; she lost narrowly to Luna in 2006 when he first won the office.
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