Latest from The Spokesman-Review
A group launched by former college friends is pitching a 2016 ballot initiative to raise Idaho’s cigarette tax by $1.50 a pack, and use the money to lower tuition at the state’s public colleges and universities.
Bill Moran, a political consultant and 2014 Georgetown University law school graduate who recently moved to Idaho from Arizona, said, “We just started talking about this three to four weeks ago, and we already have about 114 people who have signed up to volunteer to be petition gatherers. That’s before we even did much of a blitz on the campuses.”
It’s a tall order to qualify an initiative for the ballot in Idaho – it requires more than 47,000 signatures, including at least 6 percent of voters in each of 18 legislative districts. The 18-districts requirement passed in 2013; no initiatives have qualified for the ballot since.
But Moran says, “What’s unique about this is the college campuses are strategically located, in a sense, so that you could take up those 18 out of 35 districts.” He said his group, called StopTuitionHikes.com, is seeing “tons of interest.”
Gary Moncrief, emeritus professor of political science at Boise State University and an expert on initiatives, said, “My position on initiatives is it’s an exercise in grass-roots democracy and more power to ‘em if they can do it. But it’s never easy in Idaho.” State lawmakers added the 13 legislative districts requirement in 2013; no initiatives have qualified for the ballot since. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: CALDWELL, Idaho (AP) — An Idaho city may have to redo its school board election after officials found problems with ballots in one district. The Idaho Press-Tribune reports (http://bit.ly/1HxwSIo ) that the Canyon County Elections Office announced Wednesday that there was a problem with five ballots in Tuesday's election. The incumbent was re-elected by only four votes. Canyon County Clerk Chris Yamamoto says five ballots for Caldwell School District Zone 2 elections were incorrectly issued to Zone 1 voters, who did not have an election. In the Zone 2 election, incumbent Thomas Briten received 108 votes and his challenger Toni Waters received 104 votes. Candidates will be allowed to contest the election outcome within 20 days after the Board of County Commissioners canvass election results. That is scheduled to take place Tuesday.
BOISE – Idaho’s GOP establishment scored several key victories this past week after local Republican central committees voted in new delegates who not only support the traditional GOP coalition but also seek to quash tea party influence.
The new appointments will play a critical role in the upcoming GOP convention. Leaders and delegates will vote on a new party chairman and discuss possible changes to the party’s platform and closed primary election policy.
The GOP establishment won key counties in the southern half of the state such as Elmore, Ada, Canyon and Twin Falls. In the northern half, however, tea party leaders and delegates retained most of their seats, including representatives in Kootenai County – the state’s third most populated county.
This means that rifts inside Idaho’s GOP, which have been a major conflict for the past few years, could come to a head at the June convention if delegates are asked to vote on key party changes. More here.
What message should tea party candidates take away from this?
OLYMPIA — It must be time for mid-terms. A pair of political watchdog groups is giving out grades for the states. Washington is passing; Idaho may be headed for summer school.
The Pew Charitable Trust released its biannual ratings on how the states handled elections. They collect so much data — 16 categories on everything from turnout to registration to the ability to look up voting information — they're almost two years behind and are releasing the report for the 2012 presidential election cycle.
Washington ranks 12th, keeping it in the top 25 percent of states for the three cycles the group has measured. Turnout was down slightly from 2008. The organization lists turnout the state's turnout for 2012 at 65 percent, which may sound low if you recall the state listed its turnout at 81.25 percent when all the ballots were counted that year.
That's because Pew and many states figure turnout differently. Washington takes the total number of registered voters, and divides it into the number of ballots cast, which is the normal elections official formula. Pew and some other academics take the total number of people who are eligible to vote, whether registered or not, and divides that bigger number into the ballots cast. About 16 percent of Washington residents who could register aren't, even though it's probably never been easier to sign up. But they're part of the turnout figure.
Idaho's turnout rate is slightly lower at 60.9 percent. (Idaho officials, use the same standard as their Washington counterparts, and they put the number at 74.3 percent.) Almost a fourth — 23 percent — of Idahoans who could register don't, even though they can walk into a polling place on Election Day, show proof of residency, get signed up and be handed a ballot. It ranks 46th overall.
Both states have relatively few mail ballots rejected. Washington got graded down a bit for having almost a third of its military and overseas ballots unreturned, about twice the rate of Idaho. The Gem State got dinged for a high rate of rejection for the military and overseas ballots that did come back.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Public Interest Research Groups released their grades for openness in government, an annual exercise that looks at how easy it is for the public to find out what states are spending their money. The PIRGs look at things like whether the state puts its budgets online, what those web sites show and whether it's easy for the average person to figure out from the information provided what's actually going on.
Washington got a B, up from a B-, for some improvements in its web site, but criticism for a lack of accessible information on aerospace tax credits. Idaho got an F, for spending data that's only searchable by agency and without information on the recipients of development subsidies. California and Alaska also got Fs. You can read the whole report (it's 62 pages long) by clicking here.
Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa today threw his support to Phil McGrane in the four-way GOP race for the office Ysursa will be retiring from at the end of the year. “After 40 years in this office – three terms as secretary and 28 years as a deputy to Pete Cenarrusa – I kinda have an attachment to that place,” Ysursa told a boisterous crowd of more than 60 McGrane supporters gathered in the Statehouse rotunda. “So I’m very concerned and very interested in who my successor is going to be.”
Ysursa said he’s had lots of inquiries from people, “just out on the street, at the golf course, wherever,” as to which of the candidates is best. “In my opinion, the individual who has best demonstrated to me the requisite skills to be secretary of state … without a doubt is Phil McGrane,” Ysursa said to cheers. Ysursa pointed to McGrane’s years of election experience, as chief deputy Ada County clerk, and his legal background as an attorney (Ysursa, too, is an attorney). McGrane, he said, “possesses the competence, the integrity and the character to lead the secretary of state’s office in the future, and that is why I’m endorsing Phil McGrane for secretary of state.”
The other three GOP candidates are former House Speaker Lawerence Denney of Midvale, former Sen. Mitch Toryanski of Boise and former Sen. Evan Frasure of Pocatello. The winner of the GOP contest in May will face Democratic Rep. Holli Woodings of Boise in November; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
McGrane called the endorsement “very significant,” saying, “We’ve had so much trust in that office. … Ben has been the cornerstone of that for many years. You look at secretary of state offices around the country – they don’t have the same reputation that our secretary of state has. So I think it means a lot to the citizens of Idaho. There’s a reason Ben’s the top vote-getter in the state. I look forward to following in his footsteps.”
Several stars from the A&E program “Duck Dynasty” appeared at a fundraiser for Idaho GOP secretary of state candidate Lawerence Denney on Saturday night, and Idaho Statesman reporter John Sowell reports that “several thousand” people attended the event at the Idaho Center, which seats 12,279. You can read Sowell’s full report here; he reports that Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson, 67, clutching a Bible, told the crowd, “When this goes, your freedom goes with it.”
Close to two dozen “Add the Words” protesters protested outside; one counter-protester held a small sign saying, “Phil for President.” Sowell reports that Denney appeared briefly onstage to introduce several Robertson family members, and said he’d known the family for many years; his daughter Stephanie works for their family business, Duck Commander, and Alan Roberts, a minister, married Stephanie and her husband Jason. Last year, Phil Robertson was temporarily suspended from the show after making anti-gay comments in an interview with GQ magazine.
Meanwhile, Holli Woodings, a Democrat who also is running for Idaho secretary of state, sent out an email noting that Denney sold tickets for the campaign event for $47. “Why is that important? Because Idaho’s sunshine law requires candidates to report every contribution over $50,” she wrote. “Contributions under $50 don’t have to be disclosed. That means no one who attends this event will appear on Denney’s sunshine report. So why would someone who wants to be secretary of state – the very person in charge of upholding our sunshine laws – try to skirt the system?” Woodings said, “Denney isn’t technically breaking the law, but let’s face it – he’s definitely violating the spirit of the law.” She invited her supporters to send her $51 contributions – exceeding the reporting limit and requiring that the donations be disclosed.
Denney is in a four-way GOP race for secretary of state, an open post since longtime GOP Secretary of State Ben Ysursa is retiring; the other Republicans running are former state Sen. Evan Frasure, chief deputy Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane, and former Sen. Mitch Toryanski. Woodings is unopposed on the Democratic ticket; the primary is May 20.
GOP lawmakers who voted last year in favor of the state health insurance exchange weren’t more likely to draw primary challenges this year after all, Idaho Statesman reporter Dan Popkey reported on Sunday; he calculated that 36 percent of those who voted “no” drew primary opponents this year – identical to the 36 percent who voted “yes.” “This is the ultimate reality check,” House Speaker Scott Bedke told Popkey.
The numbers give the lie to widespread predictions that the exchange votes would spell trouble for GOP lawmakers in this year’s Republican primary election on May 20. The Idaho Freedom Foundation, a strident opponent of the exchange, targeted a number of “yes” voters with billboards in their districts; in one of those districts, District 27, all three incumbent Republicans are unopposed both in the primary and in the November general election. Popkey’s full report is online here.
Democratic candidate for governor A.J. Balukoff spoke out today against the guns-on-campus bill that Gov. Butch Otter signed into law yesterday, saying, “That’s a solution looking for a problem. It was totally unnecessary, and I think the process to pass that was just as flawed as the bill.” Balukoff, the chairman of the Boise School Board, said, “It was an erosion of local control. … It’s also an unfunded mandate to our colleges and universities, who are already struggling to make ends meet.”
Balukoff’s comments came in response to reporters’ questions as he held a news conference on the Statehouse steps today to note that he and running mate Bert Marley have filed their candidacy papers; Marley, a former Democratic state senator and longtime teacher, is running for lieutenant governor.
“State government continues to focus on issues that polarize and divide people rather than bringing us together,” Balukoff said. “Most of the issues they’ve dealt with in this legislative session will have very little practical impact on most Idahoans, but they take time and energy and resources away from the important issues, education and our economy.”
Balukoff also was asked about the Corrections Corp. of America, which operates Idaho’s largest state prison, but the state is now taking it back over amid scandal and lawsuits. “I’m glad that the FBI is doing an investigation,” Balukoff said. “I think that we’ll be better off running our prisons internally, instead of contracting that out to for-profit companies. It just doesn’t sound right to me to make profit off of a prison system. It’s more than warehousing people. We should be educating, rehabilitating those people so that they can return to society, support their families and be productive members of our communities.”
In addition to Balukoff, Terry Kerr of Idaho Falls filed to run for governor as a Democrat this week, though he’s run for local office as a Republican in the past. GOP candidates who have filed thus far include incumbent Gov. Butch Otter; Senate Majority Caucus Chairman Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian; and perennial office-seeker Harley Brown of Nampa. The filing deadline is tomorrow.
Boise attorney Christ Troupis, who represented the Idaho Republican Party in its successful lawsuit against the state to close the GOP primary, announced his candidacy today for Idaho Attorney General, challenging GOP Attorney General Lawrence Wasden. “I believe the time is right to ensure that Idahoans have a meaningful choice in this year’s election,” Troupis declared on the Statehouse steps to about 40 supporters, who cheered, applauded, and occasionally called out “amen.”
Sen. Monty Pearce, R-New Plymouth, introduced Troupis. “We need some changes there, and he is the answer,” Pearce said. “He’s a constitutional attorney who’s shown his moxie.”
Troupis said he’s changing the spelling of his first name for the campaign from Christ to Chris, which is how his first name always has been pronounced anyway; he'll go by C.T. "Chris" Troupis. “I don’t want the election to be about my name,” he said. Christ, pronounced Chris, is his given name, bestowed by his parents as a shortened version of his Greek father’s first name, Christos. “I’m proud of my name,” Troupis said. “It’s just that ‘Chris’ is a better name to run on.”
Wasden is seeking re-election to a fourth term; he was unopposed when he won his third term in 2010. In 2006, he won his second term with 62 percent of the vote over Democratic challenger Bob Wallace.
Former House Speaker Lawerence Denney, who is running for Secretary of State, was involved in a conflict that sparked accusations of theft, private work done on state time, political retribution, state contracts that benefited his family, undeclared conflict of interest and more – all involving the former employment of his wife, Donna, by a state agency, Idaho Statesman reporter Cynthia Sewell reported in a Sunday story. To make the tale even more interesting, Donna Denney’s former boss was Kim Toryanski, wife of Denney’s GOP Secretary of State rival Mitch Toryanski, and former head of the Idaho Commission on Aging.
Sewell reports that Kim Toryanski told an Idaho State Police detective investigating the case that she resigned her position and went to work for another state agency due to “political pressures, particularly from Speaker Denney and his political allies.” The Denneys referred Sewell’s questions to their attorney, David Leroy.
Idaho Rep. Frank Henderson, R-Post Falls, has joined with two retired senators from his district to form a new PAC that will interview legislative candidates and endorse and support those with the most skill at economic development. Henderson is joining former GOP Sens. Jim Hammond and Dick Compton in the new political action committee, which they’ve dubbed “Job Creators PAC.” The three are filling its coffers with their leftover campaign funds; Henderson, 91, is retiring after his current term in the House.
“Government does not create jobs, we enable jobs,” said Henderson. “We’ve been there, we’ve done that, and we think we’ll be able to make a good assessment of the potential effectiveness of candidates.” In addition to the three former lawmakers, a dozen other District 3 residents have signed on to help with the effort. Henderson had more than $16,000 left in his campaign fund as of the last reporting period.
Sherri Ybarra, a school administrator from Mountain Home, announced today that she’ll run for state superintendent of schools as a Republican. Ybarra has been an administrator for six years and previously was a classroom teacher for 10. “Education is my focus and passion, proven through my dedication and experience in the profession,” she said.
You can read her full statement here.
Idaho Secretary of State candidate Evan Frasure was “flabbergasted” late Monday when he learned that roughly 2,500 of the 2,859 “likes” on his campaign Facebook fan page were people from Istanbul, Turkey. Pocatello City Councilman Steve Brown, a consultant for Frasure’s campaign, said he didn’t intend to buy overseas “likes” for the fan page.
“We were talking with a group about focusing on Facebook users in Idaho,” Brown said. “And they said, ‘Yeah, let us show you what we can do, we’ll give you a sample.’ And obviously, our demographics were not used in this. So we’re asking them … if we can reverse this, or if we have to delete the page and start over.” Brown added, “Evan’s about ready to bite my head off on this one.”
The big jump in fans for the page happened in the past week and a half, with 18-24 the most common age group and Istanbul, Turkey the most common city among the page’s “likes.” “I don’t want a bunch of names from Turkey, for heaven’s sake – that’s ridiculous,” said Frasure, who said he hadn’t looked at the page in two weeks and admitted he’s “not much of a Facebooker.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
Five-term Idaho Rep. Frank Henderson, R-Post Falls, who is 91, announced today that he won’t seek a sixth term in the upcoming elections, and instead will endorse North Idaho businessman John Chambers, 59, a semi-retired executive at Ground Force Manufacturing, to succeed him in office. Chambers filled in as a substitute for Henderson for the first few weeks of this year’s legislative session after Henderson broke his hip during a vacation mishap in Hawaii.
Henderson is a former Kootenai County commissioner and mayor of Post Falls who’s had a long career in public service; he's also a retired marketing executive and newspaper publisher and a World War II Army veteran. Henderson’s wife, Betty Ann, serves on the Post Falls City Council.
In 2012, Henderson was named chairman of the House Business Committee a day after he celebrated in his 90th birthday; a year earlier, he’d given up his coveted seat on the joint budget committee after five years to focus his legislative work more on economic development. He sponsored key legislation that year to help Idaho aircraft parts businesses that has now led to major expansions in employment by some of those firms in the state.
After celebrating his 90th birthday during the Legislature’s December 2012 organizational session, Henderson said, “My parents said they gave me some durable genes, and that’s what it takes.” He is Idaho's oldest state lawmaker.
Rep. Holli Woodings, D-Boise, announced her candidacy for Idaho Secretary of State today, saying as a self-described “voting geek,” she’ll put her top emphasis on keeping Idaho’s election system open and fair, and “making sure that partisan interests do not have a place in that office.” Woodings, 35, said the day she turned 18, the first thing she did was drive to the post office and register to vote. “I was going to be able to be involved and to have a part in the Democratic process,” she said. “I really am committed to kicking down any barrier that stands between people and the polls.”
Woodings launched her statewide campaign at the Boise office of her husband Ryan’s high-tech firm, MetaGeek, which started up 8 years ago and now employs more than 25 people, making hardware and software tools for managing WiFi networks.
After the legislative session is over, Woodings said, “I’m planning on packing up my 6-month-old in an RV and traveling around, so that he has his normal place to nap every day,” because, she said, as parents know, “naps are sacred.” “We’ll be criss-crossing the state,” she said. After her announcement, which was attended by a small throng of supporters including A.J. Balukoff, Democratic candidate for governor, and state Democratic Party Chairman Larry Kenck, Hollings’ campaign staff presented her with tiny campaign T-shirts for her kids, 3-year-old Mary and little Arthur, whose shirt is a onesie.
Woodings is the first Democrat to jump into the race for the open seat; longtime GOP Secretary of State Ben Ysursa is retiring after his current term. Republicans who already have announced they’re running include former Sen. Evan Frasure of Pocatello, House Speaker Lawerence Denney of Midvale, chief deputy Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane, and former Sen. Mitch Toryanski of Boise.
Idaho Senate Education Chairman John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, said he would have supported state schools Supt. Tom Luna for re-election, but he understands Luna’s decision not to seek a third term. “I agree that certainly his efforts so far this legislative session have been characterized as an attempt to enhance his re-electability,” Goedde said. Now, Goedde said, “I think the superintendent is in a position that he can be more forceful in trying to see those (education task force) recommendations move forward.”
Luna has served two terms as state superintendent, the first non-educator ever to be elected to the post; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com. He said he has no particular plans for after he leaves office. “I’ve got a business I can go back to,” he said. “I’m not making this decision today because I know what I’m going to do 11 months from now.”
Idaho state schools Superintendent Tom Luna will not seek a third term, he announced this morning, saying he wants to take politics out of the process of putting into effect bipartisan school reforms recommended by a state task force. “I know it’s the right decision for me, for my family, and I know it’s the right decision for the children of Idaho,” Luna said. “I’ve never avoided a fight. I’ve always done what I thought was right.”
Luna was joined for his announcement by House Speaker Scott Bedke and Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, along with House Education Chairman Reed DeMordaunt and Senate Education Chairman John Goedde, all Republicans, along with Luna’s wife Cindy.
Two other Republican candidates, Randy Jensen of American Falls and John Eynon of Cottonwood, already have announced their candidacies in the GOP primary for superintendent; Democrat Jana Jones, whom Luna narrowly defeated in 2006, also is running for superintendent. Luna said he’s not yet endorsing anyone for the post. “I will tell you that the person I will support is the person who stands up and boldly proclaims their support for all 20 recommendations of the task force and their commitment to get them implemented,” he said.
Luna said, “I’m going to be working hard for the next 11 months, not being distracted with a campaign and everything that goes into that.” He said it was “obvious to me that bipartisan support is fragile,” and people might think anything he does to support the task force recommendations is meant to “give me a leg up in the election. … So I wanted to take that off the table.” He said, "You won't see me on a ballot anywhere in Idaho in this upcoming election."
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter’s latest campaign finance report shows that three billionaire Nevada casino operators who have been leaders in a push for online gaming in Nevada and New Jersey gave $60,000 to Otter’s re-election campaign, Idaho Statesman reporter Dan Popkey reports; his full Sunday story is online here. Popkey reports that the contributions came after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie joined Otter for a campaign fundraiser at the Sun Valley home of one of the casino moguls, Steve Wynn, on Dec. 6; after that lunch fundraiser, Otter and Christie flew to Coeur d’Alene for a larger rally and fundraiser.
Popkey reports that after Christie spoke at the Sun Valley event, Otter said he “had the opportunity to make my pitch,” talking about his policies on state spending, the economy and unemployment. “And the first thing out of some of their mouths was ‘What’s your donation law?’ ” Otter told the Statesman. “I said, ‘$5,000 max, it can come from an individual or a corporation.’ ”
Wynn petitioned New Jersey regulators on Jan. 10 for a license to operate online gaming in New Jersey, Popkey reports. Brothers Frank and Lorenzo Fertittas’ Station Casinos began offering legal online gaming at UltimatePoker.com in April, when Nevada became the first state to sanction the business; the site has since expanded to New Jersey as well.
Randy Jensen formally announced his candidacy for state Superintendent of Schools today as a Republican; from the state Capitol steps, the longtime middle school principal and former Fulbright scholar said, “I will make decisions based solely on what’s best for kids in Idaho. … Now is the time to have a proven educational leader lead our schools.”
The race is getting crowded; also this week, Cottonwood teacher John Eynon, an outspoken opponent of Common Core standards for student achievement, announced his candidacy in the GOP race. Jana Jones, a Democrat whom current GOP Superintendent Tom Luna narrowly defeated in 2006, is running again. Luna himself hasn’t yet announced whether he’ll seek a third term.
Jensen, 52, has been the principal at William Thomas Middle School for 25 years, after starting there as a teacher. “After 29 years … I still love kids as much as I did the first day,” he said. He introduced one of his former 5th grade students who’s now a Boise dentist.
Jensen holds a master’s and bachelor’s degrees in education from Idaho State University and certification to serve as a school district superintendent. Asked the main thing he’d like to accomplish if elected, he said, “I want the state Department of Education to be a service organization, where we really work closely with local school districts to make them the best they can be. Great schools are not created by federal or state mandates. Great schools are created at the local level.”
A 1968 Olympic gold medalist and famed high jumper will run for the Idaho Legislature this year, Twin Falls Times-News reporter Kimberlee Kruesi reports. At her “On the Agenda” blog, Kruesi reports that Dick Fosbury, a Democrat, will challenge freshman Rep. Steve Miller, R-Fairfield. Fosbury is a retired engineer who is making his first run for state office. But it was his back-first technique at the 1968 Olympics that made his fame; the technique, which became known as the Fosbury Flop, is now the standard in high-jumping, used by all medalists. It earned Fosbury a gold. You can read Kruesi’s full post here.
Idaho County Commissioner Jim Chmelik has filed paperwork with the state to challenge Lt. Gov. Brad Little in the GOP primary, Lewiston Tribune reporter Bill Spence reports; you can see his full post here. Chmelik, 53, is a second-term county commissioner and an outspoken advocate of state takeover of federal lands. “I think we're going down the wrong road and I'm going to stand up and say something about it,” he told Spence.
Meanwhile, Randy Jensen, a longtime middle school principal in American Falls and the 2005 national principal of the year, has filed paperwork to challenge state schools Superintendent Tom Luna in the GOP primary; Jensen, 52, plans an announcement in Boise on Friday. “I think it’s a critical time in education right now in Idaho, and I think I have the leadership skills … to bring everyone together to do good things for kids,” he said.
And today, Idaho Education News reported on another GOP candidate for state superintendent: Cottonwood school teacher John Eynon, an outspoken opponent of the new Idaho Core Standards. Idaho EdNews reporter Kevin Richert reports that Eynon filed paperwork naming a campaign treasurer on Friday, and his campaign website is emblazoned with the slogan, “Common Sense, NOT Common Core.” You can read Richert’s full post here.
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter said he has more than $700,000 in cash to wage a campaign against his Republican primary challenger, state Sen. Russ Fulcher. Otter filed his latest campaign report Tuesday, outlining his 2013 fundraising when he brought in $901,000, largely from business groups. Fulcher hasn't filed his report. Meanwhile, Otter hasn't formally announced he's running for a third term. Among Otter's biggest supporters were trucking lobbyists, cigarette-maker Altria, retailer Wal-Mart and wealthy Emmett rancher Harry Bettis, who gave $7,500. The J.R. Simplot Co., owned by family of Otter's ex-wife, Gay, gave $10,000. Direct-marketing company Melaleuca and its owner, GOP booster Frank VanderSloot, also gave $10,000. Among Otter's biggest expenditures was more than $16,000 to Arena Communications, a Utah company that helps do mailing and other services for Republican politicians.
GOP Sen. Jim Risch has posted the following statement on his campaign website, in response to the campaign announcement today from Democratic challenger Nels Mitchell:
“Senator Risch has been working diligently for over five years to reduce the size of the federal government and its intrusion into the daily lives of Idaho citizens. This year Idahoans will once again have a clear choice between Senator Risch’s conservative philosophies or another Democrat who will go to Washington DC to grow the government and help Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi push Obama’s far left agenda during the last 2 years of his presidency.”
Here’s a link to my full story at spokesman.com on Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Nels Mitchell, who today launched his campaign against GOP Sen. Jim Risch. Mitchell said he’d make jobs his top priority, and pledged if elected to serve only one six-year term. “I am not a politician. I have had a successful career, and it is now my turn to step up.” He also said he’d work with Idaho GOP Rep. Mike Simpson on his wilderness proposal for the Boulder-White Clouds mountains, which Risch has opposed; and said like GOP Sen. Mike Crapo, he’d have co-sponsored the reauthorization of the two-decade-old Violence Against Women Act, which Risch voted against last February.
Former U.S. Attorney for Idaho Betty Richardson said she first met Mitchell in high school. He was the student body president at Boise High School and was running for a statewide student leadership position; she was a Lewiston High School student who was running his opponent’s successful campaign. “He impressed me then,” said Richardson, a Democratic activist who’s played a key role in recruiting candidates for the state’s minority party. “I just couldn’t see Risch running unopposed, and I didn’t want to recruit a token candidate,” she said. “Nels came to mind, and fortunately he said ‘yes.’”
Boise attorney Nels Mitchell launched his campaign for the U.S. Senate against Idaho Sen. Jim Risch today, calling Risch an “out of touch” career politician and pledging if elected to serve just one six-year term. “Six years is a long time,” Mitchell said. “I will give the people of Idaho 110 percent for the next six years, and then I intend to return to private life.”
Mitchell, 60, is making his first run for public office. He noted that legendary Idaho Democratic Sen. Frank Church had only run once for the state Legislature before he successfully ran for the U.S. Senate. “When I was growing up here in Boise, Frank Church was my hero,” Mitchell said, noting that Church served as student body president at Boise High School 29 years before Mitchell did the same.
He said jobs will be his top priority, and decried Idaho’s fall to 50th on such measures as average wage and per-capita income. “Someone has not been minding the store, and that someone is Jim Risch,” Mitchell declared. “He’s been much too busy taking junkets and going to the theater.” He also faulted Risch for voting against funding for the Idaho National Laboratory, calling the INL "one of the best employers in the state."
Former Democratic Gov. Cecil Andrus said, “The Democrats have got a good shot this time. Is it going to be easy? No. But when they’ve got the money and the organization, we ought to have the people. He’s an outstanding candidate – look at his resume. Now we’ve got to raise enough money to tell the story.”
Democratic activist and former U.S. Attorney for Idaho Betty Richardson said she first met Mitchell in high school. “He’s cut from the same cloth as Cece Andrus and Frank Church – we can’t do much better,” she said.
Risch, an attorney and former longtime state Senate leader who briefly served as governor, is nearing the end of his first term in the Senate; he announced last April that he’ll run for re-election.
Sen. Russ Fulcher is ripping Gov. Butch Otter’s proposal for a new $2 million wolf control fund. “I don’t know what we need to spend $2 million for,” Fulcher said on the Nate Shelman radio show on KBOI radio this afternoon. Fulcher, who is challenging Otter in the GOP primary, said Otter’s plan would “create another bureaucracy in order to manage this.”
Otter announced the new fund in his State of the State message this week, telling a joint session of the Legislature, “One form of growth we don’t want to encourage is in the wolf population that was imposed on Idaho almost 20 years ago. With your unflinching support, we were able to fight through the opposition of those who would make Idaho into a restricted-use wildlife refuge and take back control of these predators from our federal landlords.”
He said, “We’re hunting them now, and they’re a trophy hunting species. But the population is still growing, and our resources remain at risk.” Otter’s proposed state budget for next year calls for spending $2 million in state general funds, on a one-time basis, to start up the new fund, and then adding contributions each year of $110,000 apiece from hunting licenses and the livestock industry to sustain the fund. “This three-pronged approach will provide the revenue needed to more effectively control Idaho’s burgeoning wolf population and ease the impact on our livestock and wildlife,” Otter said to applause.
Wolf control is a touchy subject; Idaho currently is being sued over its move to hire a professional hunter to exterminate two wolf packs in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, and federal wildlife agencies have lost a chunk of their funding for such efforts to federal budget cuts in recent years.
Fulcher said wolves are “not a trophy species,” they’re a “predator.” He said, “Why wouldn’t we just increase the number of (wolf hunting) tags and let one predator take care of another? … This is an emotional issue in this state. I don’t know why we need another bureaucracy.”
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — In the congressional fundraising horse race, Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson says he outraised challenger Bryan Smith nearly four-to-one in 2013's final quarter. Smith announced Thursday that he raised $111,066 in the fourth quarter. The money will go to his GOP primary election bid against Simpson, with the vote on May 20. Meanwhile, Simpson says he brought in $430,000. In total, Simpson says he raised more than $1.25 million in 2013, with Smith raking in $525,000, including his own money, since joining the race in June. Smith says he's "overwhelmed by the support my campaign has received." Simpson, an eight-term Republican going for his ninth, says he's got $760,000 in cash to pay for campaign materials as he tries to keep his job in the face of Smith's challenge.
A.J. Balukoff, Democratic candidate for governor and chairman of the Boise School Board, has issued a response to GOP Gov. Butch Otter’s State of the State message, focusing on education needs, health care and the economy. “While Gov. Otter’s State of the State Address offers a lot of rhetoric about where Idaho needs to go, what he has actually shown us is the limit of his ability to take us there,” Balukoff says. “To give our kids, our economy and our state the future they deserve we need new leadership and to restore funding and make education a top priority.”
He closes his statement with this comment: “Governor Otter is a good person and a likable man, but it is clear that it is time for a new governor to lead our state.” The full statement is online here.
Jana Jones, a Democrat who narrowly lost to Tom Luna in 2006, announced today that she’s again running for state Superintendent of Public Instruction. “I’ve spent the last 40 years in education in the classroom, in school districts, at the state level, and in both the public and private sectors and I know what it takes to bring everyone to the table to do what’s best for Idaho’s kids,” Jones declared in her announcement, issued today.
Jones, who holds a bachelor’s degree in special education and a doctorate in educational leadership, taught public school and holds state endorsements to serve as a principal, superintendent and special education director, founded a still-prominent early childhood education center in Idaho Falls, headed Gov. Cecil Andrus’ Office for Children, worked at the state Department of Education under three superintendents, including two Republicans and one Democrat, and was chief deputy superintendent to then-Supt. Marilyn Howard. In the 2006 election, Luna defeated Jones, 51.26 percent to 48.74 percent; Luna had lost to Howard four years earlier.
Jones said, “There’s lots of work to do. Budgets and programs have been cut, classrooms are over-crowded, local control has been diminished, and trust has been lost. You have to ask yourself: Do you feel better about our schools today than you did a few years ago? Probably not. I want us to start feeling good about our schools again.”
Luna, a Republican, has not yet announced whether he'll seek a third term as superintendent; he was re-elected in 2010 with 60.5 percent of the vote over Democrat Stan Olson. Last year, Luna's "Students Come First" school reform program was repealed by the state's voters; the key proposal, requiring laptop computers for high school students, changing the school funding system and calling for a new focus on online learning, was rejected by 66.7 percent of voters. The other two pieces of the plan, rolling back teachers' collective bargaining rights and imposing a new merit-pay system, were rejected by 57.3 and 58 percent.
Senate GOP Caucus Chairman Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, who's running against fellow Republican Gov. Butch Otter in the primary, released a statement on both video and audio this afternoon, reacting to the governor's State of the State message. Fulcher said the governor's speech to a joint session of the Legislature today "offers more evidence that he is out of touch with Idaho’s problems," and decried Otter's "tepid leadership." Said Fulcher, "He’s offering more of the same mediocre policies that won’t advance our friends and neighbors on a path toward prosperity and opportunity." Click below for Fulcher's full statement.