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Idaho schools superintendent candidate Ybarra removes plagiarized content from website

BOISE – The Republican candidate for Idaho superintendent of schools removed passages from her campaign website Thursday that apparently were copied word for word from the website of her Democratic opponent.

Sherri Ybarra, the GOP candidate, said she takes responsibility for the incident, which was first reported by Idaho Education News.

Her Democratic rival Jana Jones, whose campaign website was posted months before Ybarra entered the race, said in a statement, “I appreciate my opponent taking responsibility for plagiarizing content from my website, but the fact that it happened at all is troubling.”

Ybarra said in a statement 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.”

The two are vying to become Idaho’s next 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 paragraph that read: “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, and Idaho Education News pointed out further similarities in capitalization, placement of exclamation points and other things between 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 GOP Chairman Steve Yates told the Associated Press on Thursday that the situation is “unfortunate” but 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. She lost narrowly to Luna in 2006, when he first won the office.