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Former Democratic 1st District congressional candidate Jimmy Farris announced today that he's running for a seat in the Idaho Legislature, seeking to fill House seat that will open when Rep. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, shifts to a run for the Senate as Sen. Les Bock, D-Boise, retires. “This district has had incredible representation over the years, and it’s important that we maintain that strong leadership with a representative who will continue to focus on the needs and interests of not only District 16, but the entire state of Idaho,” Farris said in a statement. Farris, a Lewiston native and former NFL football player, took 30.8 percent of the vote in his run against GOP Rep. Raul Labrador in 2012; it was his first run for office. Click below for his full announcement.
Burgoyne said he's planning a formal announcement of his Senate run early next week, but said, “It's not a secret.”
Idaho's 2nd District congressional race is back in the national news this morning, as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launches ads backing Congressman Mike Simpson and two West Virginia Republicans; the AP reports that business groups are increasingly stepping up to back pro-business Republicans against tea party backed challengers. Simpson faces a challenge from Idaho Falls attorney Bryan Smith, who's being backed by the Club for Growth, the same national group that promoted former GOP Idaho Congressman Bill Sali when he won a multi-way primary before serving a single term in Idaho's 1st District congressional seat.
In response to the news of the Chamber's pro-Simpson ad, the Club For Growth sent out a press release this morning headed, “Mike Simpson's Pro-Bailout, Pro-Obama Stimulus Pro-Debt Allies Try to Save His Flailing Candidacy,” sharply criticizing the Chamber. Simpson is an eighth-term Republican congressman, a dentist, and the former speaker of the Idaho House; click below for the national AP story about the U.S Chamber's move.
Gov. Butch Otter's re-election campaign released this statement today in response to the announcement from A.J. Balukoff that he'll run for Idaho governor as a Democrat:
“While others campaign and consider their options, Governor Otter is busy governing and continuing to position Idaho at the forefront of growth, job creation and freedom. He’s staying focused on the proper role of government while defending Idaho’s independence, addressing our workforce needs and creating economic opportunity for all Idahoans. That said, the Governor looks forward to discussing with voters the implications of a Democrat working to advance the Obama administration’s big-government priorities here in Idaho.”
You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
Former longtime Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus, as enthusiastic as he was about Democratic gubernatorial candidate A.J. Balukoff’s run at his announcement today, cautioned that he isn’t endorsing until after the primary. “We might have another Democrat come out – who knows?” he said. “I did that once before and got burned, as you know.” Andrus was a prominent backer of longtime friend Wally Hedrick when he announced his Democratic candidacy for state superintendent of schools in 1998, but Hedrick ended up losing the primary to Marilyn Howard – who went on to serve two terms in the statewide post.
Andrus was looking pleased today, despite the chilly weather. “We’ve got a Senate race that’s going to be interesting, too,” he said. “There are some discussions going on.” The senator whose term is up next year in 2014? GOP Sen. Jim Risch. Said Andrus, “The top of our ticket will look a lot better than it has for some period of time.”
Boise School Board Chairman A.J. Balukoff launched his Democratic campaign for governor of Idaho today, saying two decades of one-party GOP rule in Idaho have hurt the state’s education system and economy and created a “pay-to-play culture that leaves regular Idahoans on the outside looking in.” The 67-year-old businessman said, “I’m running for governor because I believe Idaho can do better.”
About 80 supporters gathered for Balukoff’s announcement outside Boise’s Hillcrest Elementary School in the sharp chill of an early-winter morning; a group of Balukoff’s grandkids – he has 30 – held signs including, “Grandpa for Governor.” Former four-term Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus was among those in the crowd. “He’s extremely well-qualified and would be an excellent candidate,” Andrus said of Balukoff. “He’s a successful businessman in his own right.”
Asked if he thought Balukoff – who’s never run for an office higher than school board – could beat two-term GOP Gov. Butch Otter, Andrus said, “Yes, he can beat Butch Otter,” but he added, “Butch may not be the candidate,” noting that Otter faces a challenge in the GOP primary from state Sen. Russ Fulcher. “We’ve had surprises before,” said Andrus with a chuckle, “I was elected.”
Said Balukoff, “We’ve had 20 years of one-party rule in this state, but I have a sense that the people of Idaho are ready for a change.” A businessman and retired CPA, Balukoff, who holds an accounting degree from Brigham Young University, is a major figure in the ownership groups of the Grove Hotel, the Idaho Steelheads hockey team, Century Link Arena, downtown office buildings and more. He also serves on the boards of the Boise Public Library, St. Luke’s Regional Medical Center, the Esther Simplot Performing Arts Academy, and Ballet Idaho, and is the former bishop of his LDS church ward.
He said education is a top issue for him; he’s served on the Boise School Board since 1997. That board took a high-profile position against the “Students Come First” school reform laws, which voters rejected last year. Balukoff said he backs the 20 recommendations of Otter’s education stakeholders task force, but said that approach should have been tried much earlier – instead of Students Come First. Plus, he said, “I don’t think it goes far enough. … It didn’t address early childhood education, and it didn’t address higher education needs in our state.”
Mike Lanza, a Boise parent who helped organize the successful campaign to overturn the school reform measures, said, “I’m certainly glad to see a candidate with a strong emphasis on education.” Others at the announcement included Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, who introduced Balukoff; and former state schools Superintendent Marilyn Howard, whom Bieter noted, saying, “We miss you, Marilyn.”
Balukoff said he’s making plans to travel around the state and meet with Idahoans, but hasn’t yet set a schedule. He said initial reaction to his run has been supportive from both Democrats and Republicans, “people I know in my neighborhood, at church, things like that.” He said, “I am independent-minded and have a track record of solving problems and building success.”
Longtime Boise School Board member A.J. Balukoff, a businessman, retired CPA and community volunteer, has scheduled an announcement for tomorrow morning on his decision regarding a possible run for governor as a Democrat. Balukoff, who first announced in July that he was looking at possibly challenging GOP Gov. Butch Otter and said he’d decide by the end of the year, will hold a public announcement at 11 a.m. at Boise’s Hillcrest Elementary School.
Balukoff has served on the Boise School Board since 1997; the board came out strongly against the voter-rejected “Students Come First” school reform laws pushed by state schools Superintendent Tom Luna and backed by Otter. He holds an accounting degree from BYU, and has lived in Boise since 1982, where he’s operated a large CPA firm and a chain of athletic clubs, and is now part of the ownership groups of the Grove Hotel, the Idaho Steelheads hockey team, Century Link Arena, downtown office buildings and more. He and his wife Susie have eight children and 26 grandchildren.
State Sen. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, has decided against making a run for Idaho Secretary of State, and instead will seek another term in his District 14 Senate seat. Hagedorn, 57, made the announcement this morning on Twitter, Facebook, and “all my social media,” he said. “For me, social media is a critical connection.” He noted, “My 83-year-old dad is also on social media. … Everyone is becoming connected.”
Hagedorn, a retired Navy man who served three terms in the House before moving to the Senate in 2012, said he decided to stay in the Senate because of the challenging array of issues he’s able to address there. “I started thinking about all of the different things that we do in the Legislature, from potholes, the prisons, to health and welfare,” he said. “To try and live and work in that environment and solve the issues that we face is something that challenges me mentally and something that I enjoy.”
There’s already a crowded field in the GOP race for Secretary of State, now that longtime Secretary of State Ben Ysursa has announced he won’t seek another term. Former House Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, entered the race even before Ysursa withdrew. Also looking at possible runs are former state Sen. Mitch Toryanski, R-Boise; chief deputy Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane; and Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene. And that’s just on the GOP side. Idaho’s primary election is in May. Click below to read Hagedorn's full statement.
In his Johnson Post blog, Marc Johnson offers an interesting take today on the historical parallels between this year, when two-term Gov. Butch Otter faces a primary challenge from a member of an insurgent wing of the Idaho Republican Party, state Sen. Russ Fulcher, to 1966, when popular three-term GOP Gov. Robert E. Smylie faced a similar challenge – and unexpectedly lost to Don Samuelson. “The politics of Idaho just became a lot more interesting,” Johnson writes, “and, while it should be said emphatically that Butch Otter has many, many significant advantages as he goes for a third term as governor – a solid conservative record, a winning personality, a polished retail approach to politics, lots of money, and the advantages of incumbency – once in a while history does rhyme.”
Johnson also notes that the eventual outcome of the 1966 political upheaval in Idaho was a 1970 election that began 24 straight years of Democratic control of the Idaho governorship, with the election of Cecil Andrus, “a political phenomenon that seemed unimaginable four decades ago, but that happened in no small part because of the turmoil fostered by the primary defeat of an Idaho governor who seemed unbeatable until he wasn’t.” You can read Johnson’s full piece here.
State Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, launched his campaign for governor today, flying from Meridian to Coeur d'Alene to Idaho Falls to announce that he'll run against GOP Gov. Butch Otter in Idaho's May primary. Otter is a second-term governor who's seeking a third term and earlier served three terms in Congress and 14 years as the state's lieutenant governor; Fulcher is a fifth-term state senator who's taken exception to Otter's move to establish a state-based health insurance exchange, rather than letting the federal government run Idaho's exchange. Fulcher, shown here greeting supporters in Idaho Falls, said his first priority would be “reversing Gov. Otter's efforts to implement Obamacare here in Idaho,” and added, “I also believe our state is going down the wrong path in areas of education and the adoption of other federal programs.”
Otter, who is finishing up a state trade mission to Russia, had no immediate comment, nor did his campaign manager, Jayson Ronk, who told the Associated Press, “The governor has a campaign plan in place that we intend to execute.” Click below for a full report from the AP.
GOP Sen. Russ Fulcher of Meridian has scheduled announcements in Meridian, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls on Saturday to announce his “decision about a potential gubernatorial bid,” after several weeks of traveling the state to gauge support. Fulcher said he’s reached his decision “after much prayerful consideration;” you can see his full announcement schedule here.
As Idaho Statesman political columnist Dan Popkey noted this morning, “Fulcher, who isn’t made of money, surely wouldn’t be flying around the state to say he’s decided not to run. Despite Otter’s likely financial advantage and incumbency, Fulcher’s in.”
Fulcher, currently the Senate GOP caucus chair, is a fifth-term senator and a commercial real estate agent who worked in high tech for 24 years, including 15 years at Micron Technology and nine years as vice president of sales and marketing for Preco Electronics; he grew up on a Meridian dairy farm, and holds a bachelor’s degree and an MBA from Boise State University.
Fulcher’s announcement comes as Otter, the second-term Republican governor, is gone on a nine-day trade mission to Russia.
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson's bid for a ninth term got an assist Monday when former presidential candidate Mitt Romney released an endorsement letter. Simpson faces challenger Bryan Smith in next May's Republican primary election. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, lauded Simpson as a “stalwart conservative leader,” accusing what he called “outside” groups of interfering in the race by backing Smith. Smith has won the conservative group Club for Growth's support in his bid to unseat Simpson. Like Romney, Smith and Simpson come from Mormon backgrounds. One flashpoint in this internal GOP duel has centered on which candidate likes President Obama's health care overhaul the least. Smith accuses Simpson of not trying hard enough to repeal it, while Romney described Simpson as a lawmaker who has “fought to repeal Obamacare.”
Here’s a link to my Sunday column on the crowd forming to run in the GOP primary for Secretary of State, now that longtime Secretary of State Ben Ysursa has announced he’ll retire rather than seek another term in 2014.
Those expressing interest so far include former House Speaker Lawerence Denney, who announced even before Ysursa bowed out; Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, an attorney and freshman representative who notes there’s currently no one from North Idaho among Idaho’s top state elected officials; former Sen. Mitch Toryanski, R-Boise, an attorney, West Point grad and retired Army colonel who’s traveling the state this week to gauge support; chief deputy Ada County clerk Phil McGrane, an attorney and elections specialist who touts his work for transparency; and Sen. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, a three-term state representative and first-term senator who’s a retired Navy man and an advocate for wounded veterans.
Add another name to the list of those pondering a possible run for Idaho Secretary of State now that longtime Secretary of State Ben Ysursa has announced he’ll retire after his current term: Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene. “It’s definitely intriguing,” said Malek, a first-term state representative and former deputy Kootenai County prosecutor. He said supporters have been urging him to run, and part of the appeal is the chance to get someone from North Idaho into the ranks of Idaho’s top state elected officials – currently there are none. “It’s an extremely important position, and I do think I would bring a qualified skill set to it as well,” Malek said.
He listed his law degree; his legislative and electoral experience; his work running an urban renewal agency in Post Falls before he went to law school; and his work with corporations as an attorney; Malek also served as North Idaho regional director for then-Gov. Jim Risch. But the 32-year-old also admitted he’s torn. “I do love where I’m at,” he said. “I have the best constituents in the world, and a job I love back in my home district. … I’m watching to see how the candidates shake out.” Malek is currently director of legal affairs for Heritage Health/Dirne Community Health Center in Coeur d’Alene. A newlywed, he holds degrees from the College of Idaho and the University of Idaho College of Law.
Others who already have expressed interest in the 2014 race from the GOP side are former House Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, who announced his candidacy even before Ysursa bowed out; former state Sen. Mitch Toryanski, R-Boise; current chief deputy Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane; and current Sen. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian. I’ll have a full rundown in my Sunday column this week.
“I expected some folks to enter into it, and it should be a lively primary,” Ysursa said. “Once the whole field is settled, we’ll see. I’m sure the Democrats will try to run some folks too.” Ysursa, the state’s chief elections offer, said with a grin, “I’ll put ‘em all on the ballot.”
Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa announced this afternoon that he’s decided not to seek a fourth term as Idaho Secretary of State, choosing instead to retire; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com. Here is Ysursa’s full statement:
“After careful thought and deliberation, I have decided not to seek reelection as Secretary of State, and will retire from public office at the completion of my third term in January 2015. It has been a distinct honor and privilege to serve the great people of the State of Idaho as Secretary of State and as Deputy Secretary of State for the last four decades but it is time to step down. I would note that my term does not end until 2015 and there are many important issues to face in 2014 pertaining to elections and Land Board issues which will be the focus of my attention. My office has a tradition of fairness, efficiency, and service which will continue throughout the rest of my term. I again thank the people of Idaho for having afforded me the privilege and opportunity to serve them as Secretary of State.”
In yesterday’s city elections across the state, some longtime mayors were defeated – including Nancy Chaney of Moscow and Tom Dale of Nampa – while others, including Brian Blad of Pocatello and Garret Nancolas of Caldwell, were easily re-elected. Boise voters narrowly rejected two bond measures for parks and fire, exceeding 60 percent in favor but falling short of the two-thirds mark, while re-electing three incumbents to the City Council. Coeur d’Alene voters rejected a slate of hard-line conservatives, instead electing candidates for mayor and council who were backed by Balance North Idaho, a PAC credited with helping moderates retake the Coeur d’Alene School Board last May; local business owner Steve Widmyer easily beat longtime City Hall critic Mary Souza for mayor.
In Post Falls, in a race between two city councilors for mayor, Ron Jacobson defeated Kerri Thoreson 60-40; meanwhile, incumbent councilwoman Betty Ann Henderson, who is married to Rep. Frank Henderson, R-Post Falls, won re-election over two challengers.
The race for an open mayor’s seat in Idaho Falls was won by Rebecca Casper, the Post Register reports, who defeated three other candidates, including second-place finisher Sharon Parry, who will retain her seat on the City Council. Blackfoot is headed to a runoff Dec. 3 after Paul Loomis and Dan Cravens led a six-way race for mayor, but none had a majority.
The Lewiston Tribune reports that Lewiston Mayor Kevin Poole and Councilman Dennis Ohrtman were defeated, as four new council members were elected in a race with a 26.6 percent turnout. Among them: An 18-year-old LCSC student. Bill Lambert, a Safeway manager, defeated longtime Moscow Mayor Nancy Chaney.
The Twin Falls Times-News reports that Filer Mayor Robert Templeman was defeated by City Councilman Richard Dunn; Jerome Mayor John Shine was defeated by David Davis; and Burley Mayor Terry Greenman appeared headed toward a defeat by challenger Merlin Smedley.
In Pocatello, the Idaho State Journal reports, a rematch between Mayor Brian Blad and former Mayor Roger Chase had a lopsided result, with Blad winning 66.4 percent to Chase’s 27.7 percent, four years after Blad first defeated Chase in a close race. Other close races around the state included Dale’s loss to Henry in Nampa; final, unofficial results showed just 113 votes separating the two, leaving Henry with 44.89 percent to Dale’s 43.45 percent.
Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, who’s on a “listening tour” around Idaho as part of exploring whether to challenge GOP Gov. Butch Otter in the May primary election, said during a recent stop in Pocatello that the Legislature has not yet addressed the state’s new Common Core standards for public school student achievement; his comment was reported in the Idaho State Journal. But reporter Kevin Richert of Idaho Education News notes this morning that the record shows otherwise: The Education committees in the House and Senate approved the standards in January of 2011. Fulcher served on the Senate Education Committee at the time, and still does; you can read Richert’s full report here.
A look back at the Senate Ed minutes from 2011 shows that when the Common Core standards were brought to the panel on Jan. 19, 2011, there was a lengthy presentation, first from state schools Superintendent Tom Luna, who told the senators that 41 states helped develop the standards with the idea that it had to be a state-led effort, not a federal mandate; followed by aide Luci Willits, who described the standards and their development in detail, even giving an example of a standard for sixth-graders.
“Ms. Willits said the State Department of Education does not have rulemaking authority in Idaho,” the minutes state. “Although in other states the Superintendent can dictate standards changes, in Idaho they have to go through the Legislature.” The standards were presented as administrative rules, for legislative approval.
Fulcher was among the senators on the committee who asked questions about the standards during the presentation; he then asked that the vote on them be put off until a future meeting. Five days later, on Jan. 24, 2011, the Senate committee, including Fulcher, approved the rules unanimously.
Billboards bashing Idaho legislators for their votes on a state insurance exchange have begun popping up in their legislative districts. Idaho Freedom Foundation chief Wayne Hoffman says the signs are part of his group’s lobbying campaign to get Idaho’s exchange repealed in the legislative session that starts in January, but others say the effort appears aimed at Idaho’s upcoming 2014 elections, in which every seat in the Idaho Legislature will be on the ballot.
“That looks a lot more like campaigning than lobbying to me,” said Jim Weatherby, Boise State University professor emeritus and a longtime observer of Idaho politics. “It’s not a traditional way of lobbying the Legislature to use billboards – in fact, I’m hard-pressed to give an example of that.” Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley, who is among those targeted by name on the signs, said he views his local billboard – which is right near the hospital where he practices medicine – as an “effort to try to gin up a political opponent” for him in May’s GOP primary. “I think that’s what it’s designed to do, to be very blunt about it,” he said. “It’s political advertising.”
Hoffman, whose organization, a tax-exempt charity, is prohibited by law from engaging in campaigning, said, “We don’t get involved in elections – this has nothing to do with elections. It has to do with public policy.” He added, “They are a vehicle for lobbying lawmakers as well as the general public on an issue that will be before the Legislature in the 2014 legislative session.” Wood countered, “They push that envelope all the time.”
Two of the billboards have gone up so far; Hoffman said more are in the works. The first, in Burley, targets Wood, House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley; and Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert. The second, in Mountain Home, names Rep. Rich Wills, R-Glenns Ferry, and Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
Former Idaho House Speaker Lawerence Denney, whose pension benefits would soar by more than seven times if he wins his bid for Secretary of State, personally killed legislation last year designed to end the costly special treatment for longtime legislators who land high-paying government posts at the end of their careers. “He’s the one that made sure the bill died,” said former state Rep. Dennis Lake, R-Blackfoot, the bill’s sponsor.
Idaho legislators, who are currently paid $16,438 a year, qualify for only modest pension benefits under the Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho, or PERSI, because of their low salaries; based on his nine terms in the House, Denney, 65, would get about $500 a month per life. But a quirk in the law means that if Denney were to serve one four-year term as Secretary of State after his years of legislative service, his benefit would rise to more than $3,600 per month. That’s because PERSI sets retirement pensions based on the highest-paid 42 months of state employment. The current salary for the Idaho Secretary of State, by law, is $99,450 a year.
Denney acknowledged that he directed a committee chairman to scuttle Lake’s bill in 2012. “We have a citizens commission that sets legislative compensation,” he said. “And they are the ones that should be dealing with all of that, in my opinion. … That was passed to take the politics out of it, and if we get involved, we’re putting the politics back into it.” However, the chair of that citizens commission, Boise attorney Debora Kristensen, said the commission never was asked to look at the issue – and she doesn’t think it’s within their purview.
Lake, who retired from the Legislature after the 2012 session, said he still thinks Idaho should eliminate the pension perk for former lawmakers. “It’s absolutely wrong for a legislator to be able to accumulate time as a legislator, and then collect their pension as a high-paid executive,” he said. “That’s wrong.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
If former House Speaker Lawerence Denney were to serve one four-year term as Secretary of State after his many years of legislative service, his state retirement pension, for life, would rise from roughly $500 a month to more than $3,600 a month. That’s because the Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho sets retirement pensions based on the highest-paid 42 months of state employment – and state legislators, who now make a little over $16,000 a year, who move up to higher-paid, year-round jobs at the end of their careers can count all those lower-paid years of legislative service for retirement. The current salary for the Idaho Secretary of State, by law, is $99,450 a year.
Then-Rep. Dennis Lake, R-Blackfoot, proposed legislation in 2012 to end that pension-boosting perk for state legislators, saying legislative service should be counted only as part-time employment in retirement calculations, but it was blocked by then-Speaker Denney. Lake retired from the Legislature after that year’s session.
Denney, 65, wouldn’t be the first to take advantage of the perk, which has boosted the retirement of every longtime state lawmaker who ended his or her career in a higher-paid, full-time state job. Denney’s announcement today, however, brings new attention to the perk; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
After Idaho Sen. Russ Fulcher told Eye on Boise this week that he’s not “on the same page” as Gov. Butch Otter on education, Idaho EdNews reporter Kevin Richert analyzed Fulcher’s legislative record on the issue – and found that it mirrored Otter’s position nearly exactly. “Fulcher’s voting record shows that he was in line with Otter on every major education issue of 2013,” Richert reported; you can read his full report here. Fulcher is considering challenging Otter in the GOP primary in May.
Former House Speaker Lawerence Denney, now a GOP state representative from Midvale, is flying around the state today in a neighbor’s Cessna 182, making stops to announce his run for Idaho Secretary of State in Idaho Falls, Boise and Coeur d’Alene. But he sent no advance notice to the press of the announcement tour, nor did he post notice of it on his campaign website or the Idaho Republican Party’s online events calendar. In fact, Denney’s campaign website still says he’s Speaker of the House, a position from which he was ousted by his own caucus in 2012, and the most recent news item posted on the site as of this afternoon, from October of 2012, urges a yes vote on Propositions 1, 2 and 3 in the November 2012 election – the election in which voters overwhelmingly rejected all three propositions, repealing state schools Superintendent Tom Luna’s “Students Come First” reform laws.
The Secretary of State is responsible for some of the most closely watched websites in Idaho – the sites on which candidacies and election results are announced, campaign finance reports are posted amid firm deadlines, and more. Asked about his qualifications for that aspect of the job, Denney said, “I can tell you that I don’t think the current secretary of state does that either. I think he has a staff that does, and certainly I’m not going to make wholesale changes in the staff.” He said the staff does a good job.
Denney said updates to his campaign website will be up “shortly.” He said he planned today’s announcement tour now because of the good weather. “We picked this day 10 days out, and we are very, very fortunate,” he said. “It’s a beautiful day.”
House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, who was among those attending former House Speaker Lawerence Denney’s statehouse campaign kickoff today for his bid for Idaho secretary of state, said he’s backing Denney in his run. “It’s my understanding that (current GOP Secretary of State Ben) Ysursa wasn’t going to run before we started,” Moyle said. “I’m with Denney.”
“I think that Ben got sideways with the party on some issues,” he said, but added, “I like the fact that Ben speaks his mind and he does what’s right.”
Asked about another recently announced statewide candidate – Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, who’s exploring a primary challenge to Gov. Butch Otter – Moyle said he’s not on board with that one. “I wouldn’t support Fulcher, no,” he said. “Gov. Otter has said he’s running again. Gov. Otter has done a good job. Ben has said he’s not running again, or implied that. I’m with Butch.”
About 25 backers, including a half-dozen GOP state lawmakers, joined former House Speaker Lawerence Denney in the Statehouse rotunda today to launch his campaign for Idaho Secretary of State. Flanked by family members including wife Donna, Denney said, “Donna and I have been prayerfully considering this move for quite some time … and we have decided that now is the time.” Denney said if elected, he’d work to stop the state Land Board from acquiring commercial property as part of the state endowment; address unspecified problems in Idaho elections that he said he’s heard about from people around the state; and oppose any move to a vote-by-mail system in Idaho. “Sure vote by mail is easier and it’s cheaper, but we cannot protect the integrity of the ballot,” he said.
Backers muttered “that’s right” and “Amen” as Denney spoke; they included a black-clad Tony Snesko of Idaho Open Carry, who wore a gun on his hip in a tooled leather holster; former state Rep. Bob Forrey; and current state lawmakers Judy Boyle, Russ Fulcher, Mike Moyle, Joe Palmer, Jason Monks, Mark Patterson and Paul Shepherd.
Fulcher said, “Lawerence is a personal friend. We always served together pretty close when he was speaker; I just think the world of him.” Fulcher is currently exploring a primary challenge to GOP Gov. Butch Otter.
Denney said before he began exploring a run, he met with current GOP Secretary of State Ben Ysursa and asked him “whether or not he was running, because I had heard that he was not, and his answer was that he was undecided, and I think he’s still undecided.”
Asked why he picked this position to run for, Denney, a farmer and ninth-term state lawmaker, said, “I think Secretary of State is a fit for me, and certainly, the rumor that was out there that the current secretary was not running weighed in our decision, so we started traveling and checking out the possibilities there, and that’s why we decided to do it.” Denney said for now, Boyle is the head of his campaign.
In one of the weirdest launches of a statewide political campaign recently, former Idaho House Speaker Lawerence Denney apparently is going around the state announcing his candidacy for Secretary of State today - but he hasn't announced his appearances, informed the press or even posted anything on his campaign website, on which the info as of last night was so out of date it still said he's speaker of the House, a post he lost a year ago when he was ousted by current Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley. Former state Rep. Janice McGeachin posted on her Facebook page yesterday that Denney would be announcing in Idaho Falls this morning, and now there are photos floating around on Twitter showing that he did so. Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, called the AP yesterday and said Denney would announce at the Capitol today at 12:30. He didn't return calls from Eye on Boise yesterday inquiring about the announcement schedule.
Denney has been mulling a challenge of GOP Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, who hasn't yet decided if he'll seek another term; the AP reports that several other GOP candidates also are considering the race. Click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.
Asked by Eye on Boise why he’s looking at a possible run for governor – against a popular two-term sitting governor from his own party – Idaho Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, said, “I just feel like we’re going down the wrong path.” Fulcher, who filed paperwork over the weekend allowing him to begin raising funds for a possible challenge to Gov. Butch Otter in the GOP primary, said, “It is not a firm decision at this point, but what it does allow us to do is take the exploratory steps over the next few weeks. … We’ll be talking to people across the state and evaluating whether or not it’s a good idea, and whether or not there appears to be some broad-based support.”
Fulcher said the state health insurance exchange isn’t the only issue on which he differs from Otter. “I don’t think we’re on the same page with the lands issue,” he said. “I don’t think we’re on the same page, at least in terms of approach, with education.” But, he said, “Not all issues are created equal, OK? And this health care issue is a big, big deal. Here we’ve got Idaho voluntarily engaging with a program that Americans don’t want, Idahoans don’t want, and just as predicted, you’ve got the program failing out of the gate.”
Fulcher said it’ll take him “several weeks” to determine whether or not to make the run. “To do it right, you have to interact with people all over the state, so we’ll be embarking on that here in short order,” he said. “My intent is not to try to throw Butch Otter personally in the crosshairs all the time. … I’m much more focused on trying to share an alternate vision and see if there’s receptiveness to it.”
Fulcher, a commercial real estate agent, spent 24 years in high tech, working at Micron Technology for 15 years, followed by nine years as vice president of sales and marketing for Preco Electronics; he grew up on a Meridian dairy farm. He was appointed to the Idaho Senate in 2005 by then-Gov. Dirk Kempthorne after the resignation under pressure of then-Sen. Jack Noble amid an ethics scandal. Fulcher said, “I’m more interested in doing what I believe is right than what’s popular. The day that I can’t look myself in the mirror and say that, look, regardless of the circumstances, I stood up for what I believe, then that’s the day I need to be gone.”
In the Senate, where Fulcher is seen as a rising leader of the GOP’s most conservative wing, he’s been an opponent of granting anti-discrimination protections to gays; sponsored successful legislation to make assisted suicide a felony; opposed legislation strengthening state day-care licensing as “government intrusion;” backed highway bonding plans that upgraded I-84 in his district; and sponsored a 2007 law requiring parental consent for minors’ abortions.
Louise McClure, widow of the late Idaho Sen. Jim McClure, has penned an op-ed piece about the recent government shutdown and “flirtation with default on our debts.” In it, she bemoans the breakdown in civility and constructive problem-solving in the House and Senate from the days when McClure served, from 1967 to 1991, and lauds 2nd District Congressman Mike Simpson – the only member of Idaho’s all-GOP four-member congressional delegation who voted for the deal to end the shutdown and avoid default.
“It’s rare in Washington today to find someone willing to consider another’s point of view,” Mrs. McClure writes. “As Jim used to say, compromise is not a dirty word. Our leaders must have the courage to cast a tough vote when the nation’s greater good demands it. Thankfully for Idaho, Mike Simpson has demonstrated the courage to do that.”
She writes, “We have huge problems as a nation and partisan bickering and one-upmanship can’t solve them. We desperately need leaders who will do the hard thing when it is the right thing. Sinking the ship of state for the sake of principle is still sinking the ship of state, after all.”
Of Simpson’s stand, she writes, “Jim would be proud.” You can read her full opinion piece here. Jim McClure, a Republican who chaired the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and made his name as a western conservative, died in 2011.
Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, says he filed preliminary paperwork Saturday for a primary challenge to GOP Gov. Butch Otter; the Idaho Statesman reported that Fulcher said he was motivated in part by his opposition to Otter's push for a state health insurance exchange. Click below for a full report from the AP and the Statesman.
Fulcher, 51, is a fifth-term state senator who is currently Senate majority caucus chairman; in December of 2010, he lost a race for the top GOP Senate leadership post, Senate president pro-tem. A former Micron executive who is now in the commercial real estate business, Fulcher holds a bachelor’s degree and an MBA from Boise State University; he is married with three children.
“Today, I am submitting the appropriate paperwork to begin the exploratory process,” he said in a statement. “I will treat this process with the utmost seriousness and humility it requires. From listening to citizens from across the state to meeting with key community activists, I plan to take this time to seek wise counsel and determine if I am the right person to help Idaho grow while preserving its rich heritage and traditions.”
Idaho state Controller Brandon Woolf is launching his election campaign for a full term in the post today, with the state’s last two GOP state controllers – Donna Jones and Keith Johnson – joining all six of Idaho’s current GOP constitutional officers helping head up his campaign. that includes Gov. Butch Otter, Lt. Gov. Brad Little, Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, Treasurer Ron Crane, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, and Superintendent of Public instruction Tom Luna.
“It’s one thing for me to tell you I’m trustworthy,” Woolf said in a statement. “However, you can verify this for yourself by looking at the many people who support my candidacy.” More than 90 people crowded into the Capitol rotunda for his campaign launch today, pictured above.
At 41, Woolf is among the youngest to hold the post; he was the chief deputy controller when he was appointed to the top job by otter in 2012, after Jones suffered serious injuries in an auto accident. Woolf, who holds an MBA from Boise State and a political science degree from Utah State, started in the controller’s office as an intern in 1997, and worked his way up through a variety of positions including leading the agency’s division that processes payroll for more than 24,000 state employees. In January, as state controller, he launched transparent.idaho.gov, a state transparency website making large amounts of automatically updated state data, including salaries and work force data, freely available to the public.
Woolf was joined by Otter, Jones, Little and more at his Statehouse announcement today.
Woolf already faces an opponent in the May GOP primary: Todd Hatfield, owner of a McCall log home company, who unsuccessfully challenged Jones in 2010, garnering 43.6 percent of the vote to Jones’ 56.4 percent. Hatfield ran on a platform of getting the state lands department to offer smaller timber sales, to give smaller logging companies a shot at the business; this time around, he lists 36 “industry supporters” on his website, all small logging or trucking companies or wood products manufacturers.
Idaho’s primary election is May 20.
Idaho Lt. Gov. Brad Little launched his re-election campaign this morning, quelling – at least for now – speculation that Gov. Butch Otter would step aside and allow his hand-picked running mate a shot at the top job. “I’m here to support Brad,” Otter declared as he joined more than 100 of Little’s supporters at City Park in Emmett, Little’s home town, for a combination pancake breakfast and campaign kickoff. Asked if he thinks Little is a future governor, Otter shot back, “He should be.”
But the 71-year-old GOP governor said he’s set on seeking a third term. “I think we’ve been a great team,” he said. “I think we’ll continue to be a great team for the next four years.” Otter said if he’s re-elected, “I have no reason to believe I will not complete four years.” He added, “I’m healthy as a horse.”
Little, 59, a prominent rancher and former four-term state senator, was appointed lieutenant governor by Otter in 2009, and elected to a full term in the part-time post in 2010. Otter’s given him a more prominent role than past lieutenant governors – including Otter himself, who was Idaho’s lieutenant governor for 14 years; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden says he’ll seek a fourth term in 2014; he told Idaho State Journal reporter Jimmy Hancock, “Every day is an interesting ride, and we are going to keep going. I intend to run for re-election.”
Wasden has been Idaho’s attorney general since first being elected to the post in 2002; he won re-election in 2006 and 2010. Though he’s been rumored as a future candidate for higher office, Wasden said he’s still enjoying his job and wants to keep doing it. “Every day is a challenge, every day is different,” he said. See the State Journal’s report here.