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What happens to Lisa Brown’s $156,000 campaign fund?

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Lisa Brown speaks at ‘campaign kickoff’

State Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown perhaps was too prepared for her reelection bid.

She already had ordered her campaign signs when she made the surprise announcement last week that she would not to seek a new term.

“They’re going to have to get recycled,” Brown, a Democrat, said.

Although Brown had raised more for her campaign as of Wednesday than any other state legislative candidate who represents Spokane County, most of that money has already been spent or will have to be returned. Even so, there likely will be a sizable amount left that Brown can direct to Democratic Party campaign efforts.

Campaign finance reports show Avista Corp. is targeting two longtime North Idaho GOP lawmakers for defeat

Avista Corp. is spending thousands of dollars trying to unseat two longtime North Idaho legislators, throwing its support behind tea party backed challengers in next week’s Republican primary. Being targeted is state Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, who supported unsuccessful efforts to establish a consumer advocate to review utility rate requests, and state Rep. George Eskridge, R-Dover, who advocates greater diversity in Idaho’s energy supply. Avista opposed both proposals.

Campaign finance reports filed with the Idaho Secretary of State shows that Avista has given each incumbent’s challenger $1,000, and has given $15,000 to three political action committees that are funneling money back to the challengers, Danielle Ahrens and Pam Stout, as well as sponsoring independent mailers and advertisements critical of Keough and Eskridge.

Neil Colwell, Idaho lobbyist for Avista, acknowledged that while the utility has supported Keough and Eskridge in the past it now would like to see them replaced, but cautioned against assuming all of the PAC contributions are being used exclusively to try unseating them. “We don’t totally control those PACs or anything,” Colwell said. But one of the three, the Greater Education Movement, reported spending money to support only one candidate since Jan. 1: Ahrens.

“We support candidates that are aligned with the interests of our customers and our company goals,” Colwell said. “And we just think we’re more in alignment with these challengers than the incumbents.” The three PACs are run by Lou Esposito, a highly connected GOP political consultant in Boise who was House Speaker Lawerence Denney’s pick to serve on Idaho’s legislative redistricting commission last year; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Tracing web of PACs funneling money in House leadership fight…

Idaho Statesman reporter Dan Popkey traces the web of interconnecting PACs headed by GOP consultant Lou Esposito in his report today, “Idaho House Leaders Attempt Fratricide,” on the leadership rift laid bare by yesterday's pre-primary campaign finance reports. You can read Popkey's report here (turn off your computer volume first if you don't want the loud video ad blaring out before you read the story). His story highlights an unprecedented open feud in the House GOP leadership, with Majority Leader Mike Moyle on a tear to take down Majority Caucus Chair Ken Roberts, while House Speaker Lawerence Denney claims no knowledge and Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke tells Popkey, “I cannot condone any of these tactics.”

Reports Popkey, “Groundwork is being done by at least four interconnected PACs led by Lou Esposito, Denney’s appointee to the first 2011 redistricting commission. Esposito operates Spartac, a political consulting firm. He also is coordinating with a fifth PAC, Idaho Chooses Life, led by his friend David Ripley. Idaho Chooses Life is targeting some of the same candidates as Esposito’s PACs. The PACs are sending direct mail, identifying voters and turning out the vote.”

White supremacist sheriff candidate hosts cross burning in Bonner County

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: SANDPOINT, Idaho (AP) ― A white power activist campaigning to be the next sheriff in a north Idaho county hosted a cross burning last week with fellow members of the Idaho Ku Klux Klan. Thirty-three-year-old Shaun Winkler is also defending the act, calling it a historic ritual steeped in Christian roots. Winkler has been a member of the Aryan Nations and is a KKK imperial wizard. He is also courting voters in hopes of becoming the next Boundary County sheriff. The Bonner County Daily Bee (http://bit.ly/9XTS85) reports that Winkler let media attend the cross burning ceremony at his Priest River home Friday. Winkler says his ties to white power groups would not influence decisions if elected sheriff. He has framed his campaign around the message of cracking down on drugs and sex offenders.

Making hay in Eastern Washington

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Jay Inslee spent today in Spokane reminding Eastern Washington voters that he's the only candidate with political and professional experience on both sides of the state's Cascade Curtain.

“Every race needs one candidate who knows how to buck hay,” Inslee joked over coffee at Chairs Coffee house in North Spokane, explaining that he grew hay on part of his property while living and working in the Yakima area for nearly 20 years.

It's both a figurative and literal description of what Inslee is bringing to a tough race pitting him against Attorney General Rob McKenna, a Republican with two successful statewide campaigns under his belt.

“I have an understanding of Eastern Washington's economy,” Inslee said, adding that he's also toured the region's growing aviation industry and its alternative energy companies.

In the weeks ahead, look for Inslee to continue pushing his jobs plan, which he describes as being built around strengthening Washington's middle class families by focusing on key industries and the training needed to supply the workers. McKenna has a competing jobs plan, which both candidates say they're eager to compare and contrast, point by point if necessary.

Idaho Republicans turn on one another

With Idaho's first closed GOP primary just a week away, Idaho Republicans are turning on each other with a ferocity unseen in decades. Campaign finance reports filed Tuesday revealed everything from House Republican leadership money being funneled into efforts to defeat a member of House Republican leadership, to a Coeur d'Alene representative targeting two fellow North Idaho GOP lawmakers for defeat. Endorsements are being given and withdrawn, two Kootenai County GOP groups are clawing at each other's right to invoke the name of Ronald Reagan, and independent groups are mounting their own campaigns, either boosting or bashing various GOP incumbents under names like Free Enterprise PAC and Idaho Prosperity Fund.

“It is a divided party,” said Jim Weatherby, Boise State University emeritus professor of public policy and a longtime watcher of Idaho politics. “Primary battles are always tough. I think it's worse now, though, when the legitimacy of being a Republican is questioned, or one's assertion of being a conservative is questioned.” Steve Shaw, a political scientist at Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, said with Idaho's one-party GOP dominance, “There's nothing else to do so they're really going after each other.” Plus, he said, “They've gotten a lot more bitter or nasty.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Rep. Nonini targets two fellow North Idaho GOP lawmakers for defeat, finance reports show

Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d'Alene, is targeting two fellow North Idaho GOP lawmakers for defeat, campaign finance reports filed today reveal. Nonini's PAC, the Idaho Association for Good Government, donated $1,000 each to the campaigns of Danielle Ahrens, tea party adherent and the GOP primary challenger to Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, and Pam Stout, the GOP primary challenger to Rep. George Eskridge, R-Dover, who also is head of the Sandpoint Tea Party Patriots. Nonini's PAC also donated $8,000 to the “Free Enterprise PAC,” which then sent out fliers in North Idaho targeting Keough, vice-chairwoman of the Legislature's Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, as “the No. 1 big spender in Boise” and touting Ahrens as “an actual Republican.”

Nonini's PAC also donated $1,000 to R. Scott Workman of Preston, the eastern Idaho primary challenger to Sen. John Tippets, R-Bennington; and last week gave $1,000 to the primary challenger of 11-term Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, the Senate Finance chairman.

It also backed two other House members who are running for the Senate, Reps. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, and Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, with $1,000 donations (Nonini also gave Thayn another $500 from his own Senate campaign fund), and gave $1,000 to freshman Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens; while giving $500 each to House incumbents Shannon McMillan, R-Silverton; Joe Palmer, R-Meridian; and Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens.

‘GunPAC’ taps House leadership $$ to target gun shop owner, vets’ advocate, and House leader

Here's the weirdest thing about the now-unfolding House Leadership Victory Fund/GunPAC story: Campaign finance reports show that all the House Leadership Victory Fund's fundraising and spending this year has gone to GunPAC - $10,000, 100 percent of its spending during the period (the leadership fund raised $9,000 during the reporting period). GunPAC has released a list of 40 endorsements in legislative primary races, including the challengers of six incumbents, three in the Senate and three in the House. The three House incumbents: Reps. George Eskridge, R-Dover, and Christy Perry, R-Nampa, and House Majority Caucus Chairman Ken Roberts R-Donnelly.

GunPAC, headed by GOP activist Lou Esposito, claims to be all about promoting gun rights. But of the three House incumbents it's targeting, one, Perry, owns a gun store; and another, Eskridge, is a military veteran who's championed military and gun issues. The third, Roberts, is the treasurer of the very Victory Fund whose money GunPAC is using to try to defeat the three.  

Esposito said, “Basically GunPAC's all about 2nd Amendment and 2nd Amendment rights, but there's also the other parts of it at play. You can't look at that just in a vacuum and say, well, are they just right on the gun issue and wrong on other things where we're losing either personal liberties or we're getting taxed to the point where it's hard to put food on the table and other things.” Esposito said the group's chairman is Stu Carty, and the only other one of its four board members he would name was Gerry Sweet; he also said Sweet wanted to make it clear that he dissented from the decision to target Perry.

Denney, Moyle use House leadership PAC to try to defeat Roberts

Here's a news item from the Associated Press:  BOISE, Idaho (AP) ― Top House Republicans Lawerence Denney and Mike Moyle are trying to oust their own Majority Caucus Chairman Ken Roberts from the Legislature by directing thousands to a political action committee that supports Roberts' opponent in Tuesday's primary. GUNPAC, a pro-2nd Amendment PAC, endorsed Roberts' District 8 foe, John Blattler. Denney, the House speaker, gave GUNPAC $10,000 via a House GOP leadership political action committee he controls. Moyle, the majority leader, chipped in another $5,000. Moyle said Tuesday that Roberts opposes him in leadership, so he's trying to get him ousted. Roberts, who is listed as treasurer of the GOP leadership PAC that Denney is using to unseat him, says he's disappointed, adding he thought House PAC money was to help incumbents in general elections, not knock them off in primaries. Click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.

90% of Sen. Pearce’s campaign spending went for defense attorney for ethics complaint

Sen. Monty Pearce, R-New Plymouth, the Senate Resources chairman, spent $4,400 in campaign funds to pay a prominent Boise defense lawyer to defend him against an ethics complaint that ultimately was dismissed, according to Pearce's latest campaign finance report; you can read the report here. Pearce's payments to Peterson Law Offices made up 90 percent of his campaign spending for the reporting period, which ran from Jan. 1 to April 29; campaign funds generally can be spent for legal defense if it's related to legislative service. Another lawmaker who took advantage of that clause in the previous reporting period was Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, who also tapped campaign funds to pay a lawyer to defend him against ethics complaints in the House.

Pearce, who faces Republican challenger Matthew Faulks of Payette in Tuesday's GOP primary, raised $10,010 in contributions during the period, with his biggest donations including $1,000 each from Idaho Power, Idaho Land PAC and Avista Corp.

Pro-business groups back incumbents with Libertarian-leaning rivals

Since last week, pro-business groups like the Idaho Association of Realtors have pumped some $30,000 into campaigns of Republican incumbents facing libertarian-leaning rivals in the May 15 primary, the Associated Press reports. In northern Idaho, Sen. Shawn Keough, of Sandpoint, and Rep. George Eskridge, of Dover, each banked at least $5,000 from donors including grocers, hospitals, insurers and real estate agents. Others to benefit were Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, of Huston, who faces Maurice Clements, a former Idaho GOP legislator in the 1970s who ran unsuccessfully as a Libertarian in 1988.

Keough told the AP that pro-business groups have aligned themselves with incumbents like her because they're concerned their rivals might have run as Libertarian or even Constitution Party candidates in the past. “The folks that are challenging the incumbents aren't necessarily reflective of Main Street Republican values,” Keough said. “It's indicative of what you've been seeing in terms of the split in the party the last four years.”

John Eaton, the Idaho Association of Realtors top lobbyist, told the AP's John Miller that his group gave Lodge $1,000 last week, on grounds she offers the most consistency for businesses than Clements. “He's the perfect example,” Eaton said. “He wants to legalize pot. That's the kind of stuff that the business community would never support.” Click below for Miller's full report.

Sali pitches for Hart at CdA fundraiser

Former Idaho Congressman Bill Sali, famous for introducing legislation in the U.S. House to suspend the law of gravity in a bid to highlight his opposition to the minimum wage, will pitch for tax-protesting Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, at a $25-a-head fundraiser in Coeur d'Alene this week, as Hart heads into a hard-fought four-way GOP primary next Tuesday in his bid for a fifth term in the Idaho House. The fundraiser, according to an ad placed on the Coeur d'Alene Press website by Hart's campaign and shown here, also will benefit GOP House candidate Ron Mendive of Coeur d'Alene, who faces fellow Republican Jeff Tyler of Post Falls on Tuesday for the open House seat formerly held by Bob Nonini.

Tyler is a founder of the Reagan Republicans and Pachyderm Club GOP groups, while Mendive is allied with the United Conservatives of North Idaho group, in an increasingly testy divide in Kootenai County's Republican party. That split has become so nasty that one side is attempting to hijack the other's name, Reagan Republicans, by filing legal documents, a move the RR's dubbed “identity theft.” There's more info on that here and here.

Sali is no stranger to intra-party controversy himself. In 2006, then-GOP House Speaker Bruce Newcomb called Sali an “absolute idiot,” and earlier, when now-Congressman Mike Simpson was speaker of the House and Sali was a member, Simpson threatened to throw Sali out of his 3rd-floor speaker's office window; Sali reported the threat to the House sergeant-at-arms. Sali served 16 years in the Idaho House and one term in the U.S. House before losing to a Democrat, Walt Minnick. This year, he hinted he might run for the state House again, but never filed.

The latest campaign finance reports…

Here's why reports are required within 48 hours of last-minute contributions for the final week or so before the election: Because it's after the last campaign finance reporting period, and otherwise, no one would know about any of it until after the election. The pre-primary campaign finance report for Idaho legislative races in the May 15 primary is due on Tuesday, covering the period from Jan. 1 through April 29. Contributions of $1,000 or more after that reporting period, from April 30 to May 13, must be reported with 48-hour reports.

Some candidates already have begun filing their pre-primary reports; you can see them here. Among those whose reports are in: Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, whose nearly $13,000 in contributions included $1,000 from Rep. Bob Nonini's Idaho Association for Good Government PAC, $500 from Lorna Finman and $250 from former state Rep. Jim Clark, R-Hayden Lake; and Vick's challenger, former Sen. Mike Jorgenson, R-Hayden Lake, whose $12,000 in contributions included $1,000 from the Coeur d'Alene Tribe, $1,000 from Avondale Dental Center in Hayden, and $300 from Lake City Ford.

Among today's 48-hour reports, the Northwest Grocery Association PAC donated $1,000 apiece to eight Idaho incumbents: Sens. Keough and Winder; and Reps. Anderson, Eskridge, Moyle, Perry, Rusche and VanderWoude. Four incumbents and one newcomer got $1,000 donations from MIEC PAC, which advocates for tort reform in malpractice claims against doctors: Sens. Keough and Cameron,  Reps. Hagedorn and Thompson, and Ronald Lechelt, a Republican seeking an open House seat in District 33. Micron handed out seven $1,000 donations to Reps. Denney, Hagedorn, and Raybould and Sens. Brackett, Tippets, Davis, and Hill.

Today's latest reports also show that the Idaho Prosperity Fund, affiliated with the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry business lobbying group, has mounted two more independent expenditure campaigns in legislative races: It spent $1,900 on a mailing and advertising in support of District 1 GOP incumbents Anderson, Keough and Eskridge; and $3,500 on a mailing and advertising on behalf of Sen. John Tippets, R-Bennington, who faces a primary challenge from R. Scott Workman of Preston. That's in addition to the group's earlier expenditures on behalf of Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, who's facing off with fellow GOP Sen. Tim Corder of Mountain Home.

IACI tries again to defeat Sen. Corder, after failing in 2008

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) ― The Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry is spending thousands to help its chosen candidate win in a primary between two southern Idaho Republican incumbents. The pro-business group's political action committee reported $5,500 in independent expenditures to support Sen. Bert Brackett of Rogerson over Sen. Tim Corder of Mountain Home. IACI president Alex LaBeau said Friday his group distributed thousands of pro-Brackett flyers featuring praise from Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter. The reason Otter agreed to pitch in to oust Corder appears clear. Corder opposed the governor's coveted $35 million income tax cut during the 2012 session, Brackett supported it. LaBeau says he plans additional expenditures to help Brackett before May 15's primary. In choosing sides, IACI is resurrecting its 2008 fight with Corder. That backfired, however, when Corder won easily.

Much at stake in May 15 primary, and small numbers of partisans could make the calls…

Much is at stake in Idaho's May 15 primary election, from hotly contested county races to every seat in the Legislature, in a state where many of those races will be decided in the Republican primary.

But this year, for the first time ever, no one can vote in the GOP primary unless they register as a Republican – and more than a third of Idaho's voters identify themselves as independents. Add that to primaries that draw very low turnouts that have been dropping for years, redistricting that's added to voter confusion by shifting many into different districts with unfamiliar candidates, and the lack of a presidential primary, since both state parties already handled that with caucuses. “You could have a weak fringe candidate win in a primary like that,” said Jim Weatherby, Boise State University emeritus professor of public policy and longtime Idaho political observer.

Efforts are under way to inform voters and encourage greater turnout, including state-funded billboards, ads and posters, and extra poll-worker training. But if few heed that call, political convulsions could result, potentially sealing the fate of longtime lawmakers or giving an avowed white supremacist a shot at becoming the elected sheriff of Bonner County. You can read my full story here from Sunday's Spokesman-Review.

Ron Paul backers plot to overturn caucus results, using little-noticed precinct races on May 15 ballot

Ron Paul backers have a plan to use state Republican Party rules to overturn the results of this spring's Idaho GOP presidential caucus, reports Idaho Statesman columnist Dan Popkey, and hand Idaho's presidential delegates to Paul instead of Mitt Romney, who won all of them after securing 62 percent support in the caucuses; Paul came in third, behind Rick Santorum. The plan revolves around winning little-noticed precinct committee races across Idaho in the May 15 primary; you can read Popkey's full report here (but first you'll have to wait through a loud advertising video). The Paul camp's machinations have prompted former Idaho Gov. Phil Batt to send out 20,000 postcards to Ada County Republicans, urging them to support precinct committee candidates who will up hold the caucus result and offering his list of endorsees.

Republican, Tim Benn, enters field for Billig’s seat

A Republican has entered the expanding field of candidates to replace state Rep. Andy Billig.

Tim Benn, who co-owns a child day care with his wife in North Spokane, filed paperwork with the state Public Disclosure Commission announcing his run earlier this week, even before Billig announced he wouldn’t run for reelection so he could run for state Senate.

Democrats who have announced that they will run include Marcus Riccelli, Jon Snyder and John Waite.

Benn, 34, has been active this year in lobbying against proposed day care regulations that he says will drive small day cares out of business.

“I decided to run because I believe in small business and I believe in the people of the 3rd Legislative District,” he said. “We’re regulating small businesses out of out of business.”

Benn’s day care is called Little Precious Ones.

The latest last-minute campaign contributions…

Here are today's 48-hour notices of last-minute campaign contributions of $1,000 or more for the May 15 primary in legislative races:  Blue Cross of Idaho gave $1,000 each to Sen. John Tippets, R-Bennington, and Rep. George Eskridge, R-Dover; Micron Technology gave $1,000 to appointed Sen. Jim Rice, R-Caldwell; Simplot Corp. donated $1,000 to House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star; and Tom LeClaire, a candidate in a three-way GOP primary for an open House seat in District 20, reported putting $1,000 of his own money into his campaign.

In addition, The Idaho Realtors PAC reported an independent expenditure of $1,350 on a campaign mailing in support of Robert Anderst of Nampa, who's in a three-way race for an open House seat in District 12; that's on top of the $1,550 the group reported spending in support of the same candidate a day earlier.

Critic of two-party system, John Waite, will run as Democrat

John Waite, who has run several campaigns for state Legislature and City Council as an independent, announced Friday that he will run for the House seat that will be vacated by Andy Billig.

And this time, he'll run as a Democrat.

Waite, 47, is fiscally conservative but socially liberal. He has been a outspoken critic of the two-party system.

He said Friday he's just being realistic by picking a party. He found that when he campaigned as an independent, Republicans assumed he was a Democrat and Democrats assumed he was a Republican.

“We live in a broken, two-party world,” he said. “I still bring an apolitical view to this — real world solutions, not party bickering.”

Waite, who owns two downtown buildings and Merlyn's Comics and Games, said he identifies more with the Democratic Party, which he believes is more realistic about the problems faced by the community.

Parker aide, Ben Oakley, announces bid for Ahern’s House seat

A third Republican candidate has entered the race to replace state Rep. John Ahern.

Ben Oakley, the legislative aide for state Rep. Kevin Parker, filed paperwork earlier this week announcing his bid with the state Public Disclosure Commission.

Oakley joins Republicans Larry Keller, the superintendent of the Cheney School District, and Spokane attorney Jeff Holy. Former state Rep. Dennis Dellwo, a Democrat, also is running. 

Ahern announced last month that he would not seek reelection for his 6th Legislative District seat.

Oakley, 29, worked for Parker's office for three years until he stepped down last week to run for the office.

Senate candidate Nonini backs primary challenger to 11-term GOP Sen. Cameron

Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d'Alene, who's running for the Idaho Senate, has made a last-minute $1,000 campaign donation through his PAC to the primary election challenger of the sitting chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert. That's a form of  political heresy in the Senate that Nonini hopes to join, where past attempts to back challengers to fellow GOP incumbents have brought major sanctions from the Republican caucus. “It's not particularly good form,” Cameron said.

Nonini's Idaho Association for Good Government PAC made the contribution Wednesday to the campaign of Douglas Pickett of Oakley, who is running against Cameron, an 11th-term senator and co-chairman of the Legislature's most powerful committee, the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. Nonini, a fourth-term House member who's making a bid to jump over to the Senate this year, couldn't immediately be reached for comment; his contribution surfaced in the campaign finance reports that are now required to be filed within 48 hours of any last-minute contribution of $1,000 or more. That filing requirement took effect on Monday. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Senator’s taxpayer-funded letter to prospective new district raises eyebrows

Kris Sabo of Sagle was surprised when an official state-funded letter arrived in the mail from Idaho Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, talking about Nuxoll's record and thanking supporters as she seeks re-election. “My gosh, she's from Cottonwood – where the heck is that?” Sabo asked. “If she's using our money to help her campaign to keep her job, that shows disrespect for our money. Nobody's going to pay for me to go out and try to keep my job.”

Sabo currently is in Idaho's legislative District 2, one of the North Idaho Panhandle legislative districts. But redistricting in Idaho will put her in the new District 7 next year, which stretches from southeastern Bonner County all the way south to the Valley County line at the mid-section of the state; Cottonwood is nearly a four-hour drive south of Sagle.

Though state senators can send out taxpayer-funded mailings, up to a $2,000 annual limit, this one's raising eyebrows because Nuxoll sent it to about 1,700 Republicans not only in her current district, but also in the new district she'd represent if she wins another term. “I just approached it as informing people. This is an informational letter,” Nuxoll said. “There might have been one negative comment.” She added that she sent it just to Republicans “because I am a Republican and I had to limit the number of letters going out to keep under my limit by the state.”

Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, says he wishes he'd addressed the old district/new district issue with senators, but since it only comes up every 10 years – when new legislative districts take effect – no one thought of it. “We probably should have discussed it and maybe even got some kind of ruling from the Attorney General's office,” Hill said. “We did not do that.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com, and click below for the full text of Nuxoll's letter.

Medical marijuana initiative snuffed out; backers collected just 5,000 signatures

Here's a news item from the Associated Press:  BOISE, Idaho (AP) ― An effort to get voters to decide whether to legalize medical marijuana in Idaho has been snuffed out. Compassionate Idaho Lindsey Rinehart says the Boise-based group fell far short of the 47,500 signature needed for a ballot initiative this fall. Rinehart tells KTVB-TV (http://bit.ly/Io7NS2) the campaign struggled to overcome challenges for funding and advertising, and ultimately collected only about 5,000 signatures from registered voters. Still, Rinehart says public surveys show support for medical marijuana in Idaho. Leaders of the group intend launch another campaign to get the question before voters in 2014. Idaho is surrounded by states like Washington, Oregon and Montana that have legalized the use of marijuana for medical reasons. Republican Rep. Tom Trail failed again this year to get a bill legalizing medical marijuana approved by lawmakers.

District 2 GOP candidates challenged to sign tax-paying pledge

Former Idaho Sen. Mike Jorgenson, who's running again for the Senate seat he lost two years ago to an ally of tax-protesting Rep. Phil Hart, has signed and sent to all District 2 GOP candidates a “Republican Principle Pledge” pledging to “obey the law, honor Idaho courts and pay my taxes.” “I hope they all sign it,” said Jorgenson, a Republican from Hayden Lake, who said he was prompted by Hart's continuing tax and legal fights. “Quite frankly, people are so disillusioned with the antics of Phil Hart and the embarrassment that it's caused the county, the state, the party, that I thought it a good thing to make it a commitment to the constituents that the candidates would not have any part of that behavior.”
The pledge, in full, says the candidate promises “to the citizens of Kootenai County to be honest, have integrity, obey the law, honor Idaho courts and pay my taxes.” Fritz Wiedenhoff of Rathdrum, who's among three Republicans challenging Hart in the May 15 primary, said, “I think it's great, I think it's fantastic. I think it encompasses everything we are and we should be, and I'm planning on signing it.” Ed Morse, also a Hart GOP challenger, said he, too, plans to sign the pledge. “I think it may highlight some differences between some of the candidates,” he said. “I pay my taxes, I believe that all public office holders should not only perform lawfully but they should uphold the public trust.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

As May 15 primary approaches in Hart’s district, ‘whole lot of politics going on’ in North Idaho

Tax-protesting state Rep. Phil Hart may be the most controversial lawmaker in North Idaho, and his re-election bid for a fifth term in the state House has drawn a bevy of challengers in the May 15 GOP primary. It’s a far cry from the last election, in which Hart was unopposed both in the primary and on the general election ballot. But an unprecedented 20 percent of the vote went to a write-in challenger in the general election in 2010, after news broke about Hart’s court fights over back taxes and a 1996 timber theft case. He subsequently lost his seat on the House tax committee and gave up a vice chairmanship on the Transportation Committee to avoid House ethics sanctions.

Hart said this year’s campaign is keeping him busy. “I think there’s a lot more interest this year, just because people are paying more attention to politics,” said Hart; you can read my full profile of the race here at spokesman.com. Hart's primary opponents include Ron Vieselmeyer, 71, an outspoken Christian conservative, ordained minister, former state lawmaker and current North Idaho College trustee; longtime Hayden real estate appraiser Ed Morse; and local firefighter Fritz Wiedenhoff. The winner of the four-way race will face Democrat Dan English in November.

Vieselmeyer said issues aren’t as much at stake in this year’s race as people. “It’s either somebody else wins and represents them, or they continue to have Phil Hart representing them,” he said. “And that’s been an uncomfortable situation for a lot of people.”

The district’s other two legislative seats are both held by close allies of Hart whom he recruited to run two years ago, Sen. Steve Vick and Rep. Vito Barbieri, both of Dalton Gardens. Both Vick and Barbieri face challenges in the Republican primary this year as well, and Democratic challengers are standing by to run against the GOP primary winners in November. That’s an anomaly for this district – no Democrat has even run for the Legislature from the district since 2002. Former Sen. Mike Jorgenson, R-Hayden Lake, whom Vick defeated in the primary two years ago to win the seat, is running against Vick; and businessman Mark Fisher is challenging Barbieri.

Fisher echoed Hart about the interest he’s seeing locally in this year’s legislative primary election, which historically has drawn low turnout and little interest. “There’s a whole lot of politics going on up here,” he said.
I also have profiles of the contested primary races in District 3 and District 4 in today's paper.

Two Democrats consider bids for county commission

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Mark Richard announces he won’t seek 3rd term

Former City Councilman Bob Apple and former KREM-TV weatherman Daryl Romeyn are contemplating bids for Spokane County Commission.

Both would run for the seat held by Republican Commissioner Mark Richard. He announced last weekthat he would not seek a third term. Republican Shelly O'Quinn, who works for Greater Spokane Inc., immediately announced her candidacy and earned the endorsements of all three county commissioners.

Apple said on Monday that he is talking to Democrats about running. He ran as a Democrat for state House in 2010 but the party declined to endorse him. He said he would consider running as an independent if the party is not open to his candidacy.

Apple said his bid is dependent on the amount of support he gets before the May 18 filing deadline.

Romeyn appears more certain about running.

“I do plan to run, but it's not in stone,” he said Tuesday.

Romeyn, a former weatherman who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2010, owns a farm in Greenacres. He also owns Green Acres Grown, which sells dried fruits to area grocery stores in the bulk section.

He said he would run as a Democrat, and his top two issues are cutting property taxes and preserving open space.

“That's our biggest problem — getting our property taxes down,” Romeyn said. 

New Idaho election rules cause confusion

The upcoming May primary election will be Idaho's first under the state's new closed-primary and party registration law, and the new rules are causing lots of confusion. Idaho Statesman reporter Cynthia Sewell has a nice how-to article about it here. The upshot: To vote in the primary, you have to register your affiliation with a party – Constitution, Democratic, Libertarian or Republican – or choose unaffiliated. Only those who register as Republicans can vote in the GOP primary. Anyone can vote in the Democratic primary – except those who vote in the Republican primary, because you can only vote in one or the other - and anyone can vote on the nonpartisan offices, which in May are just unopposed judicial races. Whatever choices you make, they'll be public record.

Congressional candidate terms felony charge ‘a fly in the ointment’ to campaign

1st District congressional candidate Cynthia Clinkingbeard, who filed to run in the Democratic primary but then was arrested for aggravated assault on March 16 after pulling a gun on employees at a Staples store, has termed her legal case “a fly in the ointment” to her campaign, reports Idaho Statesman columnist Dan Popkey. He reports that Clinkingbeard, in an email, offered this update on her congressional campaign: “I just got out of the hospital a couple days ago and have not quite caught up with everything yet. My media guy took off for Afghanistan so I am having to start over and gear back up. My legal case is a bit of a fly in the ointment, but I am hoping that will be closer to resolution soon.”

A court-ordered mental health evaluation for the former physician is scheduled for May 4; she is running against former pro football player and Lewiston native Jimmy Farris for a shot a challenging GOP 1st District Rep. Raul Labrador in November. You can read Popkey's full post here.

Gingrich sends cashier’s check to replace bounced one, makes Utah ballot

Utah elections director Mark Thomas confirmed today that his office has received a $500 cashier's check from the Newt Gingrich campaign, in time to make an April 20 deadline to replace an earlier bounced check and qualify Gingrich for the state's June 26 presidential primary election. “They corrected the issue, so at this point we are anticipating him to be on our June 26th ballot,” Thomas told Eye on Boise.

A week and a half ago, Gingrich told ABC News that the bounced check to Utah was “one of those goofy things,” and said it was accidentally written on a bank account that had been closed. Bounced checks also were an issue back in the 1992 election for Gingrich, when an opponent highlighted Gingrich's having bounced 22 checks written on the House bank when he was House minority whip, at the height of the House banking scandal; Gingrich barely won the election.

Thomas said it's not unheard of for candidates to bounce their filing fee checks to the state of Utah, but it's certainly not common. In the six years he's been there, “we've had a couple,” he said, but they were from candidates for local offices, not high-profile state or national races.

Two GOP senators face off for same seat…

Times-News reporter Melissa Davlin today profiles the race between two Senate incumbents from the Magic Valley: Sens. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, and Tim Corder, R-Mountain Home. The two, thrown into the same district by redistricting, say they vote together 95 percent of the time, but there are key differences. You can read Davlin's full report here. Corder is a fourth-term senator, trucking company owner and current chairman of the Senate Local Government & Taxation Committee. Brackett is a second-term senator who earlier served a House term, a rancher, and a member of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee.