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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Idaho lieutenant governor rivals debate

Idaho Lt. Gov. Brad Little, left, and Democratic challenger Bert Marley, right, shake hands at their televised debate on Thursday (Idaho Public Television / Kevin Rank)
BOISE – In a polite but pointed debate, Idaho Lt. Gov. Brad Little and his Democratic challenger, Bert Marley, outlined sharply differing views of how Idaho’s faring as it works to recover from a big economic downturn. “Idaho is a leader in the recovery from the recession,” said Little, a Republican. “Prudent and conservative leadership has placed Idaho on the right track,” he said in the only debate between the two; it was broadcast statewide Thursday night on Idaho Public Television as part of the “Idaho Debates,” co-sponsored by the Idaho Press Club and the League of Women Voters of Idaho. Marley, who like Little is a former state lawmaker and rancher, but who also was a public school teacher for 23 years, said, “After 20 years of one-party rule, our state government has shifted their priorities away from the values that Idaho was built on. … Instead of building a better Idaho, their failed policy has put us on a race to the bottom.” Little, 60, scion of a well-known ranching family from Emmett, served four terms in the state Senate before being appointed lieutenant governor by Gov. Butch Otter in 2009; he won a full term in 2010, and is now seeking another. Marley, 66, a fifth-generation Idahoan from McCammon, served two terms in the state House and three in the Senate. He ran unsuccessfully for state superintendent of schools in 2006, losing to Jana Jones in the Democratic primary; he served as director of public policy for the Idaho Education Association before retiring. Idaho’s lieutenant governor is a part-time office, but it’s often viewed as a stepping stone to the governorship, and the lieutenant governor serves as governor whenever the governor is out of state or incapacitated. Asked about their qualifications to be the state’s governor, Little cited his business, philanthropic, agricultural and political experience. Marley said, “Although I agree that Brad’s very experienced and very qualified, I’m concerned that we’re headed in the wrong direction. … Look at where we are today, where our economy is, where our education system is. We’re at the bottom of almost everything.” Little countered, “In fact, Idaho is one of the fastest-growing states right now. Our unemployment rate is half what it was at the height of the recession here, and Idaho is on the right path.” Marley said, “When we went into the recession, rather than cutting our taxes I would have taken some of that money and put it into infrastructure and created jobs, and started the process of bringing us out of the recovery a little quicker.” Little said, “The fundamental principles of limited government, less regulation, allowing private industry to pull you out of the doldrums is the right answer. Those fundamental tenets … I believe most people in Idaho believe in.” The two also differed over the controversial proposal for a new tiered licensing system for the state’s school teachers, which would tie higher pay to levels of certification. “Teachers are fleeing this state … they’re absolutely leaving this state in droves,” Marley said. “It’s not just because of the money. … Idaho has developed a reputation as a bad place to be an educator.” He called the new licensing plan “really just a revisiting of the Luna laws.” Little said the plan “calls for a significant increase, 25 percent increase in starting teacher salaries.” He said, “I’m all in – I think it’s a great idea.” Little said any issues with the proposal can be worked out during the state’s rulemaking process, but Marley said, “The current iteration we’re looking at is atrocious. We need to revisit that.”