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Opinion >  Column

Eye on Boise: Attorney general hopeful’s loss is win enough for Bistline

BOISE – Now that Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden has handily defeated GOP primary challenger C.T. “Chris” Troupis, the Democratic candidate for attorney general, Boise attorney Bruce Bistline, says he no longer plans to campaign for the post.

“I filed on the last day,” Bistline told Eye on Boise. “I detest the fact that that kind of a decision, between Troupis and Wasden, could be made during the Republican primary with no alternative for the voters who are not part of the closed Republican primary. And while I would probably never have bothered to run against Wasden, because my differences with him are fairly nominal, my differences with Troupis are legion. I saw no alternative but to file to provide a choice in the general election, in the event that Troupis won the primary.”

Bistline said he doesn’t plan to withdraw, but won’t actively campaign unless something dramatic happens. “If something happened and Wasden was unable to run and they appointed Troupis to run in his place, I’d be right back in it again,” he said. “So I can’t rule out the possibility that circumstances would draw me back in, but the circumstances which drew me in in the first instance are resolved now.”

Troupis, for his part, endorsed Wasden the morning after the primary election. At a Republican unity rally on the steps of the state Capitol, Troupis said, “I want to see him be the next attorney general. We need to have a Republican attorney general in the state of Idaho if we are to preserve our independence and sovereignty.”

It’s not the money …

How much difference does money make in an Idaho election? Judging by the two four-way races in Idaho’s GOP primary, not much. Sherri Ybarra, the candidate who won the four-way race for state superintendent of schools, raised and spent the least of the four GOP candidates, just $2,850. Second-place finisher Randy Jensen raised $7,124; third-place Andy Grover raised $41,854 including $5,000 from Melaleuca Inc. and $5,500 of his own money; and fourth-place finisher John Eynon raised $16,284.

“Sherri spent about 3 cents per vote for her win last night,” current state Superintendent Tom Luna said at a GOP unity rally, “and I think some of us on the stand here wonder how that is possible and how we can duplicate that.”

In the secretary of state’s race, it may appear that the GOP primary winner, Lawerence Denney, vastly outraised his rivals. But of the $164,071 Denney raised, a whole lot was from ticket sales for his “Duck Dynasty” fundraiser at the Idaho Center, on which he also spent well over $100,000, including $50,000 to William Morris Entertainment, $53,000 to the Idaho Center and $2,900 for custom duck calls. Asked if he made money on the event, Denney said, “We didn’t. We about broke even.”

He added, “We do think that it gave us a bump here in the Treasure Valley, because of all the advertising” for the reality TV stars’ appearance.

Among the other GOP rivals for secretary of state, Phil McGrane raised $61,000 and came in second; Evan Frasure raised $20,752 and came in third; and Mitch Toryanski raised $47,514, including $32,000 of his own money, and finished fourth.

Denney said, “With four of us in the race, we were all short of money, and certainly a lot of money infused into one campaign may have made a difference in this campaign. Same thing with the superintendent’s race – if there’d been a lot of money, it may have been a different outcome.”

It is what it was

Congressman Mike Simpson’s win over tea party primary challenger Bryan Smith for the 2nd District in the GOP primary fits with Idaho history, according to Eric Ostermeier, professor at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs and author of the “Smart Politics” blog. Here’s why: Since 1918, all but one Idaho congressman who’s run for re-election has won in the primary. The only exception was Orval Hansen in 1974, who was defeated by former Rep. George Hansen. Since then, Idaho has seen a solid streak of 34 straight U.S. House incumbents winning re-nomination in their party primary elections.

Ostermeier notes that three other Idaho congressmen lost their party’s nominations prior to 1918; they were three-term Republican Burton French in 1908 (to Thomas Hamer), Thomas Hamer as a freshman in 1910 (to French), and freshman GOPer Robert McCracken in 1916 (with French and Addison Smith winning nominations to the state’s two at-large seats). 

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