Here’s a link to my full story at spokesman.com on tonight’s lieutenant governor debate, the only debate in the race between GOP Lt. Gov. Brad Little and Democratic challenger Bert Marley. In the polite but pointed televised debate, Little and Marley outlined sharply differing views of how Idaho’s faring as it works to recover from a big economic downturn.
The lieutenant governor debate, which ran 30 minutes, followed a heated debate in the governor’s race, in which GOP incumbent Butch Otter, Libertarian John Bujak and Democrat A.J. Balukoff clashed on everything from Idaho’s private prison debacle to education to jobs. Among the interesting moments: Otter referred at one point to his opponents by a combined name: “Balujak.” After Bujak was asked about his legal woes in Canyon County – which resulted in multiple acquittals – he said, “I’m surprised that I get the questions about scandal, with Gov. Otter standing next to me.” Balukoff called for scrapping the troubled contract for the Idaho Education Network: “Undo that contract, rebid it,” he said.
Otter said Idaho’s never been able to meet its constitutional mandate to adequately fund schools because of the state’s rural nature, and only now with initiatives like the IEN is it beginning to bring more uniformity to education. Balukoff and Bujak both disagreed; Balukoff said Idaho did a pretty good job funding school operations before the 2006 law that shifted funding from property taxes to the sales tax.
Otter said he’d sign a bill to add the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the Idaho Human Rights Act, if lawmakers send it to his desk, but said he’s “not ready to surrender” on same-sex marriage. Bujak said, “At this point the ship has sailed. … You’re just throwing good money after bad.” Balukoff asked, “Friends, is our state better off under Gov. Otter? The answer is no.”
Meanwhile, the two candidates for state superintendent of schools, Republican Sherri Ybarra and Democrat Jana Jones, met for their final debate – this one organized and run by high school students in Idaho Falls. Idaho Education News reporter Clark Corbin has a full report here.