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Eye On Boise

Catching up on the news: It’s debates time, upcoming primary, more…

I’m back, and there’s plenty of news to catch up on, much of it about the now-humming campaigns under way for the May 15 Idaho primary election. First off, there was a televised debate over the weekend in the GOP primary races for governor and the 1st Congressional District, hosted by KBOI2 News and KBOI radio. AP reporter Kimberlee Kruesi has a full report here on the debate, which featured plenty of sniping between the candidates for governor and bombastic attacks on the other 1st CD candidates from first-time candidate Michael Snyder of Bonners Ferry.

That may have just been Round 1. The “Idaho Debates,” the statewide series of televised debates on Idaho Public Television in the major contested Idaho races, start this week – and the first one is this Tuesday night, featuring five GOP hopefuls for the open lieutenant governor’s post, which current Lt. Gov. Brad Little is leaving to run for governor. Here’s the full Idaho Debates schedule:

April 17, 7 pm MT/PT: Lieutenant Governor, Republican

April 19, 8:30 pm MT/PT: State Treasurer, Republican

April 22, 7 pm MT/PT: Governor, Democrat

April 23: 8 pm MT/PT: Governor, Republican

April 27, 8 pm MT/PT: Superintendent of Public Instruction, Republican

April 29, 6:30 pm MT/PT: 1st Congressional District, Republican


All the debates will be broadcast live on Idaho Public TV; they are a collaborative effort among the Idaho Press Club, Boise State University’s School of Public Service, University of Idaho’s McClure Center for Public Policy, Idaho State University’s School of Political Science, the Idaho League of Women Voters Voter Education Fund, and Idaho Public Television.

Here’s some more of the news that broke while I was off:

Fringe gubernatorial candidate packs a big wallet: Chuck Malloy of Idaho Politics Weekly reports that GOP gubernatorial hopeful Steve Pankey of Twin Falls is spending a quarter-million dollars of his own money on advertising for his campaign, including a series of full-page ads in the Idaho Statesman newspaper along with radio and online advertising. Pankey, a former Constitution Party candidate, is a fan of 1950s commie-baiter Joe McCarthy, Malloy reports, and believes the news media, including renowned broadcaster Edward R. Murrow, wrongly soiled McCarthy’s reputation.

This month will decide if Idahoans vote on Medicaid, gambling machines, abortions: The Idaho Statesman reports that three groups are in the final days of collecting signatures for proposed ballot initiatives, including one to expand Medicaid to cover Idaho’s gap population; one to legalize “historical horse racing,” also known as “instant racing,” in which betters use slot-machine-like gambling machines based at Idaho horse race tracks and other facilities to place bets on randomly selected past horse races; and one to impose first-degree murder charges against anyone who performs or has an abortion. Statesman reporter Cynthia Sewell writes that the Medicaid expansion initiative is on track to meet its signature goal by the April 30 deadline, while neither the instant racing backers nor the abortion measure backers would comment on their progress. An initiative campaign to legalize medical marijuana in Idaho is no longer active, and fell short of its goal, the Statesman reports.

7 people in 1 race? GOP nod for Congress may rely on who you recognize: Early polls in the seven-way GOP race to succeed U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador had the two candidates with the highest name recognition – Meridian real estate broker Russ Fulcher and former Idaho Attorney General and Lt. Gov. David Leroy – leading the pack, writes Idaho Statesman reporter Rocky Barker. But the two polls that have been made public still showed large swaths of undecided voters in Idaho’s 1st Congressional District, which extends from West Boise to the Canadian border. That gives hope to the other five candidates in the Republican primary: former prosecutor and state Rep. Luke Malek of Coeur d’Alene; gun shop owner and state Rep. Christy Perry of Nampa; conservative author and blogger Michael Snyder of Bonners Ferry; Nick Henderson, an Army combat veteran and businessman from Post Falls; and Alex Gallegos, a retired Army lieutenant colonel from Nampa.

Idaho GOP candidate backs death penalty to stop abortions, then softens stance: A Republican lieutenant governor candidate, Bob Nonini, softened his stance that women who get an abortion should be punished if it is ever criminalized in Idaho, a day after saying the punishment should include the death penalty, the AP reports. Nonini is one of five Republicans facing off in the GOP primary for lieutenant governor; the others are Marv Hagedorn, Janice McGeachin, Kelley Packer and Steve Yates. Two Democrats also are running for the post, Kristin Collum and Jim Fabe.

‘A violation of trust:' 4 Idaho correctional officers indicted in FBI drug sting: U.S. Attorney for Idaho Bart Davis called a news conference on April 12 to announce that four current correctional officers at the Idaho State Correctional Institution were indicted on federal charges for a major trafficking scheme, KTVB-TV reported. The FBI zeroed in on the four men during an investigation into Idaho Department of Correction employees smuggling contraband into the prison, reports KTVB reporter Katie Terhune, who writes that court documents described a nine-month run of illegal activity by the four, ranging from packaging drugs and counting cash for their purported traffickers, to wearing their IDOC uniforms during drug transports to allay law enforcement suspicions, to soliciting undercover officers for heroin in order to smuggle it into ISCI.

Otter issues third pardon, for drug offender-turned-psychologist: Gov. Butch Otter announced that he’d issued this third pardon as governor, for an Idaho drug offender whose methamphetamine and heroin use led him to prison but has since been able to get his life back on track. Otter pardoned Larry Jasper, 49, who has now completed a doctoral degree in clinical psychology in Oregon, in February. A pardon does not expunge criminal charges, convictions and sentences from an individual's record, but it does provide official acknowledgement of rehabilitation and change. A pardon can be beneficial for providing reassurances to potential employers and other opportunities for former offenders. Otter previously pardoned two offenders in 2013, also drug offenders who went on to turn their lives and careers around.

There’s been plenty more. Let me know what else I missed!

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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