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New Ward ad says banning earmarks and bailouts is ‘only way’ to fix federal spending

In a new TV commercial airing across the 1st Congressional District, GOP candidate Vaughn Ward says “the only way to stop reckless spending” by the federal government is to “end government bailouts and ban earmarks.” The campaign ad, Ward’s second of the campaign and the first to hit the North Idaho airwaves in the race, is prompting some discussion, both about how Ward and others would approach congressional earmarks, and about whether ending earmarks and bailouts would really solve the federal budget problem.

“I think it’s a critical way and a very important way - whether it’s the only way I guess is debatable,” said Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan balanced-budget group in Washington, D.C. “From our perspective, those are important areas to tackle, but there are other areas that we’re going to have to look at.” The Concord Coalition, an influential bipartisan balanced-budget advocacy group based in Arlington, Va., takes a different tack. “Bailouts and earmarks are a very, very, very small part of the problem,” said Josh Gordon, policy director for the coalition. “The real federal budget problem is a long-term imbalance between spending and revenue.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com, and watch the new campaign commercial here.

Opposition research a ‘modern campaign reality’

AP reporter John Miller takes a look at the role of opposition research in congressional campaigns and what the campaigns are digging up about their opponents in the 1st District congressional race; click below to read the full story. It was opposition research that enabled the Vaughn Ward campaign to snap back with Congressman Walt Minnick’s past late property tax payments when Ward’s own late payments were reported; such research  “reveals a modern campaign reality,” Miller reports.

Rounding up the primary races…

There’s a lot on the ballot in this spring’s primary election, though the marquee race clearly is the vigorous GOP contest between two rising young Republicans for a chance to challenge 1st District Democratic Rep. Walt Minnick in the 1st Congressional District. Every statewide elected office is up for a vote, as are three of the four seats in the state’s congressional delegation and every seat in the state Legislature, plus county races across the state. In my Handle Extra column yesterday, I took a quick look at the contested primary races this year for U.S. Senate, lieutenant governor and state controller, including the candidacy of former Coeur d’Alene restaurant owner Tom Sullivan in the Democratic primary for Senate and how state Controller Donna Jones’ GOP primary challenger, log home company owner Todd Hatfield, is concerned about the size of state timber sales and whether they’re pushing out smaller firms from bidding; next week’s column will examine contested North Idaho legislative races, the following week’s the Supreme Court race, and the week after, the primary contests for governor. You can read yesterday’s column here.

Also this weekend, Idaho Statesman reporter Rocky Barker looked into claims being raised by two Democratic bloggers about Minnick’s role in Watergate back when he was a Nixon White House aide; you can read the story here, which largely lays to rest any aspersions, in part by finding and interviewing key players from the Watergate days. And the Statesman published its extensive voter guide, with information on candidates for federal, state and Ada County races including the area’s legislative districts; you can see it here.

They don’t mince words…

Here are some samples of what you’ll hear when candidates Vaughn Ward and Raul Labrador appear together on tonight’s “Idaho Reports” program on Idaho Public TV:

Ward: “It’s not about that my wife works in I.T., it’s that Fannie Mae was allowed to do certain things that shouldn’t have happened, and Congress backstopped them all the way.”

Labrador: “What I’ve learned is that if you’re willing to say lies about small things, you’re willing to say lies about big things.”

Ward: “I’m not lying to anybody, and I find offensive that others would say that. That doesn’t matter, that’s just noise in the campaign. What’s important here is accept responsibility, take corrective action and move forward.”

Labrador: “I’m actually an expert in immigration law, I understand what the problem is, it’s a huge issue, I know where it’s broken, I know how to fix it.”

Ward: “If you want to send somebody to Congress who’s going to go fight against this problem, why send someone who defends illegal aliens? I didn’t say it was wrong. I just said that you have a choice.”

The GOP primary ballot for the 1st Congressional District actually will have five names on it, but two, Allan Salzberg and Michael Chadwick, have withdrawn; the other, Harley Brown, is a frequent candidate for various offices who maintains he was called by God to become president of the United States. The winner of the Republican primary will face 1st District Democratic Congressman Walt Minnick in November.

Ward, Labrador clash on ‘Idaho Reports’ tonight

Wow - on tonight’s “Idaho Reports” program on Idaho Public Television - the last show of the season - 1st District GOP congressional candidates Vaughn Ward and Raul Labrador appear together and take questions from a panel on which I join Jim Weatherby, Kevin Richert, Steve Crump and host Thanh Tan - and things get pretty hot. The exchange is the first of three segments of tonight’s half-hour show, which also includes discussion of the upcoming “Idaho Debates,” and Q-&-A with Col. Tim Marsano about the upcoming deployment of the Idaho Army National Guard’s 116th BCT to Iraq. One thing this very interesting and lively exchange between the two candidates makes clear: Their upcoming debate on May 11th, which will air live statewide on Idaho Public TV at 8 p.m. Mountain time, 7 p.m. Pacific, is not to be missed.

 ”Idaho Reports” airs tonight at 8, is rebroadcast Sunday at 11 a.m. Mountain time/10 a.m. Pacific time, and can be viewed online here. The program also will be broadcast on the radio Saturday at 10 a.m. on KISU-FM.

Senator seeking 3rd term backs 2-term limit

U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo has posted his responses to a “Tea Party Boise” candidate survey on his campaign website, including this oddity: Crapo told the group he “strongly agree(s)” with the statement, “I support term limits for Senators (2) and members of the House (3).”

Here’s what’s odd: Crapo is currently seeking election to his third term in the U.S. Senate. If he strongly supports a limit of just two terms, does that mean he opposes his own re-election?

Four file as write-ins for primary

Four candidates have filed as write-ins for the May 25 primary election in time for this week’s deadline, including one for governor and three for seats in the state House. If candidates don’t file as write-ins, then any write-in votes for them don’t count, no matter how many they get. The deadline to file was Tuesday. Here are the write-in candidates:

* Republican Fred Nichols of Nampa filed for governor.
* Democrat David Larsen of Coeur d’Alene filed for the District 5 House seat now held by Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, who is otherwise unopposed.
* Democrat Sheri Burke of Caldwell filed for the District 11 House seat now held by Rep. Carlos Bilbao, R-Emmett, who also has a Republican challenger in the primary and a Libertarian challenger in the general election.
* Republican David G. Bowen of Pocatello filed for the District 30 House seat held by Rep. Elaine Smith, D-Pocatello, who is otherwise unopposed.

Write-in candidates for statewide offices need at least 1,000 votes to become their party’s nominee, though in Nichols’ case, he’d also have to beat the other six GOP candidates already on the ballot, including incumbent Gov. Butch Otter. Write-ins for the Legislature who face no primary opponents needs just 50 voters to write their name in, to qualify as their party’s nominee for the general election.

New Yorker challenging Crapo still hasn’t been here, doesn’t plan to before primary

Brooklyn, N.Y. attorney William Bryk, who’s running in the Democratic primary for the seat now held by GOP U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, still hasn’t been to Idaho - or anywhere west of Buffalo, N.Y, he told Eye on Boise. Nor does he plan to visit between now and the primary election on May 25th.

Why not? “Because, for one thing, at the moment I have a law practice here that’s moderately busy and my clients have paid me some money, and they expect me to be around to do things like show up in court,” Bryk said in a telephone interview. “What I have been doing is responding to questionnaires from all manner of people, most of which seem to deal largely with guns and gay marriage and abortion. … I haven’t heard from a single union or any similar kind of left-of-center or progressive or union group. But one can always hope.”

He’s raised no campaign funds, and all he’s spent is “the $500 that I invested in paying the filing,” Bryk said. So, was it worth it? “Oh, absolutely,” he said. “Because first of all, much to my surprise, the Democrats will have a choice in the primary and one way or another the voters will definitely have a choice come November. That was why I became a candidate in the first place. The absence of opposition, well, that’s not there now, in fact even Sen. Crapo has a primary. So I think to that extent I’ve succeeded.” Bryk added that while he doesn’t know the other candidates, he figures his long-distance campaign helped draw attention to the fact that Crapo went unopposed six years ago but for a write-in challenger.

Tom Sullivan of Tetonia also is running in the Democratic primary, and real estate broker Claude “Skip” Davis III of Weiser is challenging Crapo in the GOP primary.

It’s an inflatable…

It turns out that GOP gubernatorial candidate Rex Rammell’s 16-foot green T-Rex is an inflatable, like the big balloons you see in parades. Asked where he got it, he said, “I don’t know, New York or someplace. We got him online.” The big dinosaur, with its big, pointy teeth and claws, clutches something white in its right paw could perhaps be a submachine gun, or then again could be a movie camera (it’s looking for publicity?). Rammell wasn’t sure what the dinosaur’s holding.

The candidate said he got the idea when a north-central Idaho supporter’s family wrote a song about him, nicknaming him “T-Rex,” that said, “T-Rex is going to take a bite out of the feds when he becomes governor.” Rammell liked it so much he’s now got T-shirts and ballcaps with the image, along with the big, green inflatable he plans to pull behind his campaign RV on a trailer for rallies and parades. “We need a tough governor to stand up to the feds,” Rammell said. “T-Rex represents toughness - he’s got some teeth. That’s me. I kinda like that image.”

Said Rammell, a former elk rancher who’s been making waves lately with his outspoken support of the militia movement and his call for the state to simply ignore federal laws and mandates, said, “Nobody can accuse me of not being outside the box - I run a very unorthodox campaign. I’d be that kind of governor, to be right honest with you.” He’s among four Republicans challenging Gov. Butch Otter in the primary; the others are Ada County Commissioner Sharon Ullman, amateur comedian Ron “Pete” Peterson, and Tamara Wells of Post Falls.

Mansfield signs on as Labrador’s new press secty

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Republican U.S. House candidate Raul Labrador has a new press secretary ahead of the May 25 primary. Dennis Mansfield, a conservative activist and businessman who volunteered on the late Republican U.S. Rep. Helen Chenoweth’s 1st Congressional District primary race in 1994, was asked by Labrador Wednesday to fill the volunteer role. Mansfield, who also helped in 2006 on former U.S. Rep. Bill Sali’s campaign, says he told Labrador he “had the time, so let’s do what we did with Helen, let’s do what we did with Bill.” Labrador faces Vaughn Ward in the GOP primary for the House seat representing western and northern Idaho. The winner will face U.S. Rep. Walt Minnick, an Idaho Democrat, in November. Labrador trails in fundraising, bringing in $35,763 in the latest quarter; Ward had $167,610, while Minnick led with $231,000.

‘Idaho Debates’ kick off Tuesday

Candidates facing off in Idaho’s May 25 election for the Idaho Supreme Court and in primary races for Congress and governor will debate live on statewide television as part of the “Idaho Debates,” starting next Tuesday with the two candidates in a contested race for the Idaho Supreme Court, incumbent Justice Roger Burdick and challenger Judge John Bradbury. The series of debates, sponsored by the Idaho Press Club, the Idaho League of Women Voters and an array of partners and aired live statewide on Idaho Public Television, will be held before a live audience for the first time, in the new Capitol Auditorium in the west wing of the state capitol basement.

Gov. Butch Otter today declined to participate in the gubernatorial debate, which will feature GOP challengers Rex Rammell and Sharon Ullman, and will take place on May 18. Otter, in a letter from his campaign manager, Debbie Field, said he objected to criteria limiting the debate to those candidates who are actively campaigning and would prefer that all those listed on the ballot be present, though at an earlier GOP Lincoln Day event attended by candidates, when Otter was asked by Rammell if he’d debate him, Otter responded with a flat “No.” Click below to read Field’s letter.

GOP candidates for the 2nd District congressional seat, including incumbent Mike Simpson, will debate on May 9th, and  Republican candidates for the 1st District congressional seat, including Raul Labrador and Vaughn Ward, will debate on May 11th.

“The IDAHO DEBATES are the only live televised statewide events that will be broadcast during the primary season,” said host Thanh Tan of Idaho Public TV. “In many instances, these debates serve as the only way Idahoans from all corners of the state can hear from the candidates vying to represent them.” There will be 130 seats in the auditorium available to the public on a first-come, first-served basis. Doors will open May 4 at 7:00 p.m. for the 8 p.m. (Mountain time) Supreme Court debate; cell phones, signs and outbursts such as applause or derisive shouts are prohibited during the debates. Here’s the full schedule:

* Supreme Court, Tuesday May 4th, airs at 8 p.m. Mountain time, 7 p.m. Pacific
* 2nd CD, Sunday, May 9th, 7 p.m.
* 1st CD, Tuesday, May 11th, airs at 8 p.m. Mountain time, 7 p.m. Pacific
* Governor’s race, Tuesday, May 18th, airs at 8 p.m. Mountain time, 7 p.m. Pacific

Idaho’s high court decries campaign claims

The contested race for an Idaho Supreme Court seat has heated up, with the court itself now issuing statements disputing claims from the challenger, Lewiston Judge John Bradbury. The court says it’s part of a protocol adopted last fall for the court to set straight any false claims about the system; Bradbury says they’re after him, while his opponent says he’s deceiving Idahoans about how the courts work. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com

What says ‘serious message’ more than giant dinosaur?

GOP gubernatorial challenger Rex Rammell, who’s campaigned for office in the past by driving a giant, decorated RV around the state that doubles as a rolling campaign billboard, plans to unveil a new gimmick tomorrow: A giant model of a 16-foot tyrannosaurus rex dinosaur, “which will be pulled behind the Rammell for Governor RV throughout Idaho,” the Rammell campaign said in an announcement. The large model will “be used to communicate his states’ rights message about stopping the federal government from usurping state authority,” according to an announcement of tomorrow’s press conference/dinosaur unveiling.

It added, “Pulling a 16-foot green Tyrannosaurus Rex will surely be criticized by the Otter camp and others, but the Rammell campaign thinks the move will draw attention to Dr. Rammell’s serious states’ rights message.”

Ward’s taxes now all paid

Vaughn Ward has paid his property taxes in full on a lot he owns in Valley County, including a late fee of $34. “There are no excuses,” Ward, a GOP candidate for the 1st Congressional District seat, told Eye on Boise. “Within minutes after I found out about it, my wife called over to Valley County and made the payment immediately, this morning.” The move came after Idaho Statesman reporter Dan Popkey reported this morning that taxes on a half-acre undeveloped lot in Cascade owned by Ward and his wife, Kirsten, were overdue this year and also were paid late in 2004, 2006 and 2007.

Ward said “there was some confusion” about the half-year payment and its due date, which was in December, but said, “It’s done, it’s over, and you know, I’m not making any excuses. It is what it is.”

Meanwhile, incumbent Congressman Walt Minnick’s campaign said Minnick may have paid late fees on his property taxes in Ada County in 2001 and 2002. “I haven’t been able to confirm that, but Walt remembers something like that happening,” said campaign spokesman John Foster. “It happened at the end of 2001, beginning of 2002, and he had a different deadline in his head than what was actually on paper. But it hasn’t happened since.” He added, “When people have very busy lives, whether it’s running a company or running for Congress, you occasionally miss things. But as long as folks make it right, I think that’s what voters care about. It sounds like that might have been what happened today, according to the news.”

Ada County Treasurer Cecil Ingram said late property tax payments and the accompanying late fees are “more common than we’d really like.” He said, “The main thing is we are held to the law, and the law says if you don’t pay your taxes, then there’s fees and interest attached to those particular payments. It is quite common.” However, he said, “We don’t turn those delinquencies in to rating bureaus; it doesn’t come out showing that you’ve missed your payment. … It does not affect a credit rating.” When property taxes are three years delinquent, the county moves into a tax deed process to sell the property for back taxes.

Ward files new financial disclosure

Here’s a news item from the Associated Press:  BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Republican U.S. House hopeful Vaughn Ward filed a new financial disclosure with the U.S. House detailing about $110,000 worth of family assets he hadn’t reported last year. U.S. House candidates and members must disclose details about most assets, including from spouses, worth more than $1,000. In Ward’s 2009 disclosure, he listed property in Cascade and a home in Virginia. But he omitted some assets, including those of his wife, Kirsten, saying he believed they were exempt. In Monday’s new report, he detailed her $78,840 Fidelity 401K; stock in her employer, Fannie Mae, worth less than $1,000; and his $31,189 Thrift 401K from his work at the Central Intelligence Agency. Ward’s spokesman, Ryan O’Barto, said lawyers advised him the CIA account is exempt from disclosure, but the campaign reported it in the interest of transparency.

Popkey: Ward’s property taxes overdue

Congressional candidate Vaughn Ward is delinquent on his Valley County property taxes for the fourth time since 2004, Idaho Statesman reporter Dan Popkey reports today at idahostatesman.com. Popkey reports that Ward and his wife, Kirsten, own a half-acre undeveloped lot in Cascade, across a road from Lake Cascade. The lot was assessed at $96,700 for 2009. Ward recorded his deed in 2002 and has said he hopes to build a home there. The first half taxes of $414.22 for 2009 were due Dec. 20 and have not been paid. With penalties and 1 percent monthly interest, the Wards now owe $434.80. The Wards also were late paying their Valley County taxes for tax years 2004, 2006 and 2007, Popkey reports; you can read his full post here.

Justice Jones responds to Justice Burdick’s challenger

Idaho Supreme Court Justice Jim Jones, who is unopposed for re-election this year, has issued a two-page statement responding to claims made by another judicial candidate, state District Judge John Bradbury, in Bradbury’s campaign against state Supreme Court Justice Roger Burdick.

“The candidate’s materials make inaccurate accusations against the Idaho judiciary,” Jones says in the statement. “As a member of the court, it is appropriate to address these misstatements because they cast the Idaho judiciary in a false light. A candidate for judicial office may put forth whatever proposals he may wish to improve the judicial system, but has no right to make unfounded claims that target the courts.” You can read Jones’ full statement here and see Bradbury’s campaign Web site here.

Statesman: Ward campaign ad gets him in trouble with the Marines

The Idaho Statesman has a front-page article by reporter Dan Popkey today about an ad that congressional candidate Vaughn Ward placed on the “Drudge Report” Web site that got him in trouble with the U.S. Marines, who told Ward the ad violated military regulations about the use of the military uniform in campaigns. The ad features Ward in full combat gear, with the wording, “With your help I will vote to repeal Obamacare! Vaughn Ward for Congress,” accompanied by a button link for contributions headed “I will help! Contribute now!” Popkey reports that after the Marines objected, Ward pulled the ad. Then, Ward sent out a postcard mailing that also featured a prominent photo of him overseas in full combat gear, next to the slogan, “Vaughn Ward - Fighting for Idaho Values.” Some, but not all, of the postcards had a sticker added with a tiny disclaimer noting that the use of his photograph in uniform “does not imply endorsement from the Department of Defense or the Marines.”

You can read Popkey’s full article here; see the postcard mailer and disclaimer here; and read the U.S. Department of Defense directive “Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces” here.

When Ward, a Republican who’s in a face-off with state Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Eagle, in the primary campaign for the 1st District congressional seat now held by Democratic Congressman Walt Minnick, came out with his first TV ad of the campaign, I was surprised to see no reference at all to his military record, which is such a major part of his life story. Instead, that commercial focused on Ward driving and leaning against a pickup truck, talking core values. At the time, Ward’s campaign spokesman, Ryan O’Barto, told me, “While that is a large part of Vaughn’s background, he doesn’t really like to wear it on his sleeve.” Ward served in Iraq and Afghanistan; he earned a Bronze Star with Combat V for Valor.

Another GOP candidate withdraws from 1st District congressional primary

Michael Chadwick of Post Falls has announced he’s withdrawing from the race and endorsing GOP rival Raul Labrador, and also launching a campaign for the U.S. Senate in the 2014 election. That’s when current U.S. Sen. Jim Risch’s term in office ends; Chadwick didn’t say why he’d want to challenge Risch, should Risch seek a second term. Instead, Chadwick spins a conspiracy theory centering around fellow GOP congressional candidate Vaughn Ward, whom Chadwick contends represents “powerful special interest groups in New York City and Washington, D.C.” In a letter published on Chadwick’s campaign Web site, he calls Ward, a Marine and decorated veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, a “protege and surrogate of the military-industrial-intelligence establishment” who will “vote to build up and sustain the Permanent War Machine.”

Chadwick, 60, says on his Web site that he’s a former aide to U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, a BYU grad with a master’s degree in political science, and head of an array of organizations including the “New American Colonies” program, the “Liberty Park USA Foundation,” the online “Alexander Hamilton Institute for International Trade” and the online “James Madison Institute for Republican Government.” Since 1994, he says, “we have been researching and writing papers, monographs and books which are designed to promote the freedom, sovereignty and independence of America.”

Like fellow GOP candidate Allan Salzburg, who withdrew last week from what originally was a five-way Republican primary for a chance to challenge current Democratic Congressman Walt Minnick, Chadwick is withdrawing too late to remove his name from the ballot.

Labrador: Anti-abortion group’s endorsement ‘a big boost to our campaign’

Congressional candidate Raul Labrador is touting his endorsement from “Idaho Chooses Life,” an anti-abortion lobbying group headed by activist David Ripley, which endorsed Labrador after declaring that he, Vaughn Ward and Harley Brown, all running in the GOP primary race for the 1st District congressional seat, “all scored well” on the group’s questionnaire; no other candidates responded to it. Ripley said in a news release, “Our endorsement is meant to honor Raul Labrador’s record and service to Idaho.”

Labrador is a second-term GOP state representative from Eagle. Ward is a decorated veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and a former aide to then-U.S. Sen. Dirk Kempthorne. Brown is a perennial candidate for various offices whose campaign literature states that he’s been called by God to be president of the United States.

The “Idaho Chooses Life” group this year wrote the successful, and controversial, “conscience” legislation that permits any licensed health care provider to refuse to provide any treatment or medication on conscience grounds if it relates to abortion, emergency contraception, stem-cell research or end-of-life care. Gov. Butch Otter allowed the bill to become law without his signature, citing concerns over violating patients’ end-of-life care directives.

Labrador, in a press release this morning, said, “I have always believed that government’s greatest responsibility is defending the sanctity of human life. It is humbling to have my record and values acknowledged by one of Idaho’s leading pro-life groups.” He called the endorsement “a big boost to our campaign.”

AP: Ward financial disclosure incomplete

The Associated Press reports that congressional candidate Vaughn Ward left off his wife’s assets on his required U.S. House of Representatives candidate financial disclosure filing last year; Ward’s campaign called it a simple mistake but said a new, complete disclosure report will be filed. Kirsten Ward has worked for Washington, D.C.-based Fannie Mae since 1999 and supports her husband and their two children while he campaigns; click below to read the full article from AP reporter John Miller.

The week that was…

On Idaho Public Television’s “Idaho Reports” this week, we talk about the week’s developments, from Gov. Butch Otter’s recent hospitalization to election and campaign developments to BSU head football coach Chris Petersen’s new contract. I join commentators Jim Weatherby, Kevin Richert, and Brad Iverson-Long, along with host Thanh Tan, and in a new segment, we all interview a newsmaker, Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, who gives his thoughts on turnout in the upcoming primary election and more. The show airs tonight at 8, is rebroadcast Sunday at 11 a.m. Mountain time/10 a.m. Pacific time, and can be viewed online here. “Idaho Reports” also is broadcast on the radio at 3 p.m. on Saturday on KISU-FM, and 10 a.m. Sunday on KBSX 91.5 FM.

And in politics today…

An article by Dan Popkey in today’s Idaho Statesman - top headline - focuses on how GOP congressional candidate Vaughn Ward has made cutting federal spending a focus of his campaign, but his wife, Kirsten, works as a technology project manager for Washington, D.C.-based Fannie Mae, a big recipient of federal bailout money, and it’s her salary that’s supporting the family while he campaigns full-time this year. You can read Popkey’s full article here; the headline: “Ward’s family supported by bailout.”  

Meanwhile, Tom Sullivan, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, is making a bit of an odd offer - he’d like to debate Claude “Skip” Davis, GOP incumbent Mike Crapo’s primary opponent, since Crapo bowed out of a debate with Davis, a real estate broker from Weiser, and Sullivan’s primary opponent lives in Brooklyn, New York. You can click below to read Sullivan’s press release, and here are links to read blog posts from Popkey and Idaho Statesman editorial page editor Kevin Richert about the dust-up.

Idaho seniors as a voting force…

Idaho seniors have been hit hard by the recession, their incomes are low, their living costs are rising - and they’re very, very likely to vote. That’s the picture that emerges from a new survey commissioned by the AARP Idaho, which described Idahoans over age 50 as “the most powerful vote in Idaho.”

The seniors group is launching statewide voter education efforts that will include asking its members which issues matter most to them, and laying out the candidates’ positions in voter guides for every congressional, statewide and state legislative race this year. Idaho’s primary election is May 25. “What we’re saying is, look, this is the largest voting demographic in the state - you need to be cognizant of the issues that matter the most to them, ” said David Irwin, AARP Idaho spokesman. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com, and see the full survey results here.

First lady to fill in for Guv at Giuliani event tonight

First Lady Lori Otter will fill in for Gov. Butch Otter at his campaign fundraiser tonight, a $1,000-a-plate dinner at Chandler’s Steakhouse with Rudy Giuliani, for which 100 people have registered. “The governor is in good spirits and following doctor’s orders,” Otter’s campaign manager, Debbie Field, told Eye on Boise in an email. “He remains in the hospital and will be unable to attend the Giuliani event tonight, much to his chagrin. The First Lady will attend on his behalf.”

It’s too late now…

GOP congressional candidate Allan Salzburg announced yesterday that he was withdrawing from the 1st Congressional District primary contest, but it turns out it’s too late to take his name off the ballot. Tim Hurst, chief deputy secretary of state, says the deadline for removal from the ballot is 45 days before the election - and that passed on April 10th. The reason: Absentee ballots for military members serving overseas have to go out 45 days before the election. In fact, Hurst said Idaho likely will need to push its deadline back to a bit earlier in future election years, to make sure those ballots that get sent overseas are fully up-to-date.

Nader backer wins Idaho court battle

Here’s why a federal judge yesterday ruled Idaho’s election laws unconstitutional in how they limit independent presidential candidates from making the state ballot: Because the laws require more than 6,500 signatures for an independent presidential candidate to make the ballot, while candidates for statewide office need only 1,000 signatures to qualify; and because they ban non-Idaho residents from collecting signatures in the state. Those restrictions violate the First Amendment, ruled U.S. Magistrate Judge Ron Bush, who wrote that act of circulating a nominating petition “is at its core still among the most basic of the acts of protected speech.” Click below to read the full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone, and you can read the judge’s 34-page decision here.

Jorgenson wants GOP challenger off ballot

A North Idaho senator’s initial attempt to get his primary challenger tossed off the ballot has failed, but Sen. Mike Jorgenson says he’s not giving up. Jorgenson, R-Hayden, last week filed a complaint with the Idaho Secretary of State’s office saying that his GOP challenger, Steven Vick of Dalton Gardens, isn’t qualified for the ballot because of a 2006 voter-registration glitch. Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa said today that Vick meets registration requirements to run; Jorgenson now plans to take his complaint to court. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Vick told Eye on Boise he was recruited to run against Jorgenson by the two state representatives from Jorgenson’s District 3: Reps. Jim Clark, R-Hayden Lake, and Phil Hart, R-Athol. “They just felt like their district there would be better represented by somebody else than Sen. Jorgenson,” said Vick, a former four-term Montana state representative.

Jorgenson has clashed with Clark and Hart in the past year, sponsoring legislation designed to open the way for future sales taxes on online sales that Clark made a point of killing in the House; and clashing with Hart over the two lawmakers’ competing versions of bills targeting employment of illegal immigrants. “We’ve had some disagreements,” Jorgenson said. Clark, who’s retiring from the Legislature this year after seven terms, said, “Something has to happen. Look how he treats Phil Hart, ‘the best thing I can say about him is nothing’ - he said that in your paper. So what do you expect?”

Salzburg withdrawing from 1st CD primary race

Allan Salzburg, one of the five Republicans on the ballot for the 1st District congressional primary race, is withdrawing from the race and throwing his support to both Raul Labrador and Vaughn Ward, the two leading candidates in the primary contest. “Both Raul and Vaughn could do a good job, and they’re different,” said Salzburg, 70, a retired physician and rocket scientist who said he decided to end his campaign because “it was physically terribly demanding.”

Salzburg said he traveled to at least 10 GOP Lincoln Day events around the district in his campaign, and was impressed with both Labrador and Ward. “It was one of the most interesting things I have done in my life, and in many respects productive, I feel, even though I’m pulling out,” he said. “I am concentrating now on promotion of nuclear energy, which was one of my key points.” Others on the ballot in the GOP race are Harley Brown of Idaho City and Michael Chadwick of Post Falls; Democratic incumbent Walt Minnick is unopposed in the primary.

Minnick on CNN: ‘My state supports independent people’

On CNN’s American Morning program this morning, Idaho Congressman Walt Minnick was asked about being the only Democrat endorsed by the national Tea Party Express group. “They’re just ordinary folks who think the government ought to balance this budget. There’s nothing very radical about that so I’m pleased to have their endorsement,” Minnick told CNN. The network reported that the group, which just wrapped up its three-week, 47-city “Just Vote Them Out!” bus tour, listed 13 Democrats on its “Tea Party Targets” list and 13 Republicans plus Minnick on its “Tea Party Heroes” list. Among Republicans named with Minnick on the “Heroes” list were Florida Senate candidate Marco Rubio, Pennsylvania Senate candidate Pat Toomey, Rep. Michele Bachmann and Rep. Joe Wilson.

Said Minnick, “My state supports independent people who do what’s best for our constituents, and good ideas come from both parties.”