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Opinion >  Column

Eye on Boise: First candidate forum for Supreme Court race takes place Tuesday

The first candidate forum for the four rivals lining up to be Idaho’s next Supreme Court justice initially was announced to include just three of the four, but now all candidates say they’ll participate.

The Idaho State Bar, which will host the forum on Tuesday, announced that attorney Robyn Brody of Rupert; Idaho Court of Appeals Judge Sergio Gutierrez of Nampa; and longtime Deputy Attorney General Clive Strong of Boise will participate. The fourth candidate, state Sen. Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, had initially said he could not attend due to a previously scheduled election event.

The forum will take place in the Idaho Law and Justice Learning Center in Boise from 3 to 5 p.m. Pacific time; it also will be streamed online.

McKenzie told Eye on Boise, “I had a fundraiser set that night a long time ago” at the same time in Boise. But, he said, “I’m still figuring out what role we as a candidate have with respect to those.”

Canon 5 of the Idaho Code of Judicial Conduct restricts candidates for judicial office with regard to campaign fundraising, saying, “A candidate shall not solicit campaign contributions in person.”

They’re only allowed to solicit contributions through a committee – and the committee’s not supposed to tell the judge who gave, even though it’s a matter of public record. “Judicial candidates and judges should avoid obtaining the names of contributors to the judicial campaign,” the canon says.

McKenzie said he’d been seeking advice from past judicial candidates.

“I may not even be able to go there,” he said of the fundraiser. But last week, he spoke with the director of the Idaho Judicial Council and was advised that he could introduce himself and leave.

He said the idea is to avoid the judicial candidate participating in the fundraising. But since political fundraisers typically charge for admission, rather than soliciting donations during the event itself, McKenzie said he decided, “I’m just going to have my committee host the event, and I won’t even go over there while it’s going on.”

And, he’ll contact the state bar and let them know he’ll participate in the candidate forum.

“Hopefully they’ve got four chairs still,” he said with a chuckle.

“It’s interesting because it’s so different than other races. … I don’t want to … have any issues.”

He said he may swing by the fundraiser after its official end.

“I don’t think people will make contributions there, but if they did, it would be done, so it wouldn’t be an issue,” he said.

McKenzie has been elected to the state Senate as a Republican from Nampa seven times, but this is the first time he’s sought judicial office.

The election for the nonpartisan post is May 17, during Idaho’s primary. If no candidate gets more than 50 percent, the top two vote-getters will face off in the November general election. The vacancy results from Chief Justice Jim Jones’ decision to retire at the end of his term.

Standing against discrimination

U.S. Attorney for Idaho Wendy Olson met with Middle Eastern and other international students at Idaho State University in Pocatello last week to discuss federal hate crimes and civil rights statutes that protect “persons of all races, religions and national origins.”

A recent New York Times article highlighted tension about Middle Eastern students there. Then someone from outside the area distributed DVDs of anti-Muslim propaganda on car windshields in campus housing areas, prompting concerns from law enforcement, a local human rights group and ISU officials.

ISU President Arthur Vailas said in a letter to the campus community that 50 Kuwaiti and Saudi Arabian students had been victims of off-campus home burglaries over several weeks, in which “personal documents were stolen and hateful and hurtful messages were left behind.” ISU has more than 1,000 Kuwaiti and Saudi students; those countries are reportedly moving to suspend their government scholarships for students to attend ISU.

“In the aftermath of terrible acts of terrorism both in the United States and abroad, many Muslim Americans – and those perceived to be Muslim – have suffered a backlash of harassment, intimidation, violence and discrimination,” Olson said.

“These acts of retaliation eat away at our social fabric by calling into question our commitment to our own Constitution, laws and values. The Department of Justice is committed to working with communities of all faiths to protect and ensure the civil rights of all faiths.”

Olson’s visit to ISU was part of events around the country to address backlash against Muslim, Arab, Sikh and South Asian Americans following the terrorist attacks in Brussels, Paris and San Bernardino, California. She co-chairs a national Department of Justice subcommittee spearheading the effort, in which U.S. attorneys in multiple states are working with community leaders and law enforcement “to address discrimination, violence and harassment targeting people because of what they look like, which country they come from or where they worship.”

Tuition hikes

Idaho’s state Board of Education has unanimously approved tuition and fee increases for the state’s four-year colleges and universities, while holding them to 2 to 3 percent for in-state undergraduate students – even though the University of Idaho and Boise State University had requested more, at 4.5 percent and 3.75 percent respectively. Here are the numbers:

University of Idaho: Full-time resident tuition and fees will rise 3 percent next year to $7,232; nonresident tuition and fees will rise 5.7 percent to $14,808.

Boise State University: Full-time resident tuition and fees will rise 3 percent next year to $7,080; nonresident tuition and fees will rise 2.85 percent to $14,450.

Lewis-Clark State College: Full-time resident tuition and fees will rise 2 percent next year to $6,120; nonresident tuition and fees will rise 4.5 percent to $11,500.

Idaho State University: Full-time resident tuition and fees will rise 2.5 percent next year to $6,956; nonresident tuition and fees will rise 5 percent to $14,608.

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