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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eye On Boise

In rare snub, Risch refused to shake Mitchell’s hand before the two debated this week…

Before the only debate between Idaho Sen. Jim Risch and his Democratic challenger Nels Mitchell this week, Mitchell tried to shake Risch’s hand, but Risch refused and turned away. “I was surprised,” Mitchell said afterward; so were onlookers.

At the end of the debate, with the cameras rolling, the two did shake hands. Risch’s campaign had no comment on the incident.

Jim Weatherby, Boise State University professor emeritus and longtime observer of Idaho politics, said, “It’s customary, despite how rancorous the campaign has been - and some of them get very personal. But typically there is a handshake, and an attempt at a smile.”

This is usually more of an issue in sport than in politics. In late July, fans in Dallas, Texas were aghast when Spanish soccer player Seydou Keita refused to shake hands with Pepe, a Brazilian player for Real Madrid, and then threw a water bottle at Pepe’s head before the start of the match. And there’s the famous 2008 incident when a chess match between Nigel Short of England and Ivan Cheparinov of Bulgaria was ordered forfeited after Cheparinov refused to shake Short’s hand.

Chess fans widely agreed that Cheparinov’s move was “unsporting,” but questioned the forfeit, as did Cheparinov. After an appeal, the decision was reversed and the match rescheduled; Cheparinov was required to apologize and shake Short’s hand before the British player trounced him on the board.

But at an Idaho political debate? Does anyone remember this happening in Idaho before?

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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