BOISE – The two major-party candidates for Larry Craig’s U.S. Senate seat have hit the airwaves, each with a television commercial trying to catch the attention of voters statewide and convince them of the candidate’s worthiness to take on the thorny issues facing the nation.
Republican Jim Risch’s ad focuses on gas prices, energy policy and Risch’s record as a governor who “just gets things done.” Democrat Larry LaRocco’s ad focuses on the impact on Idaho families of price increases, job losses and declining wages, and LaRocco’s campaign strategy of working a day each at various jobs around the state, from garbage hauler to roofer to nurse’s aide, “working side-by-side with Idahoans.”
Both are serious, issue- and qualifications-oriented ads that avoid any mention of the other candidates in the race, who in addition to Risch and LaRocco include independents Rex Rammell and Pro-Life (formerly Marvin Richardson) and Libertarian Kent Marmon.
“They’re both very effectively done, and both fall within themes that are being played out across the country between Democrats and Republicans,” said Boise State University political scientist emeritus Jim Weatherby, “with Risch emphasizing energy policy as the major issue, and LaRocco the economy and the need for change.”
However, LaRocco’s reference to his campaign tactic of working a day at each of more than 30 jobs so far as a way to reach out to Idahoans and listen to them where they work isn’t fully explained, Weatherby noted, and people who aren’t familiar with what he’s doing may not understand what he’s referring to.
“It’s almost as if he’s tried to cram too much into one ad,” Weatherby said. “That undercuts its effectiveness to a degree.”
Here’s what each of the ads has to say:
LaRocco: “Idaho families are hurting. Skyrocketing costs of health care, gas and groceries. Declining wages, lost jobs. We need real change in Washington, now. I’m Larry LaRocco. For over one year I’ve been working side-by-side with Idahoans. More than 30 jobs so far, listening and learning. I’ll put my experience to work fighting for Idaho, to bring about the changes we so desperately need.”
Announcer: “With Congress on vacation and gas prices hurting families, we need bold new leadership.” Risch: “High gas prices are a supply problem, and we need to act now. We need to expand American oil production and aggressively develop other energy sources for the future . If we don’t move now, the mess we’re in will only get worse.” Announcer: “Idahoans agree. As governor, Jim Risch delivered. The Idaho Press Tribune said Jim Risch just gets things done. Jim Risch, U.S. Senate.”
Fewer Idahoans buckling up
Idaho’s seat belt usage dropped this year for a second straight year, after rising to its highest-ever level of 80 percent in 2006. The troubling trend showed up in this year’s annual survey of seat belt usage by the Idaho Transportation Department, which found overall usage in all types of vehicles dropped to 76.9 percent this year, from 78.5 percent in 2007.
North Idaho showed the second-biggest drop, from 87 percent last year to 82 percent this year. But that was eclipsed by southeastern Idaho, the region where seat belts are least likely to be used. There, usage continued a three-year decline, from the 2005 level of 68 percent to just under 60 percent this year.
ITD officials say lack of seat belts is a major contributing factor to traffic deaths on Idaho roads. “So far this year, 68 unrestrained people have been killed in Idaho traffic crashes, and the majority of them were ejected from vehicles designed to protect them in a crash,” said Mary Hunter, state highway safety manager.
Washington’s seat belt usage rate is 96 percent.
Whoosh! Here comes the political season
As javelins fly in Beijing for the Olympics, we’ve got our own rhetorical spears flying here in Idaho, as the political season takes off with all the crackle of an Idaho summer lightning storm. First, the Idaho Republican Party put out a press release using former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards’ admission of an affair as an excuse to recall current Democratic Senate candidate Larry LaRocco’s long-ago workplace affair. Revelations of LaRocco’s affair contributed to his loss to Helen Chenoweth in the congressional race in 1994, partly because he denied it in a televised debate two years earlier. (Chenoweth later acknowledged a long-term affair of her own with a married man, but said God had forgiven her.)
Then, the Idaho Democratic Party fired back with a blistering statement from Chairman Keith Roark, chastising GOP Chairman Norm Semanko for bringing up LaRocco’s old news but not mentioning GOP Sen. Larry Craig’s more recent scandal over an airport men’s room sex sting arrest. “Larry LaRocco made his mistake, made his amends and moved on. Larry Craig continues to lie and mislead,” Roark wrote. “If Norm Semanko is going to make sexual indiscretion the centerpiece of his leadership he will need to follow the example of our disgraced senior senator and take a wider stance – sexual indiscretion is not a one-party affair.”
Then, LaRocco put out a press release denouncing Roark’s statement. “The LaRocco for U.S. Senate campaign was not consulted before Roark issued his statement and would not have approved such a divisive statement,” the release said, with LaRocco saying, “I’ve worked for 16 months now to improve the political discourse in this state and this is a step backwards.”
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