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Opinion >  Column

Eye on Boise: Butch and Lori Otter to be honorary Trump chairs for Idaho

The Donald Trump presidential campaign has announced that Gov. Butch Otter and first lady Lori Otter will serve as honorary chairs for the campaign in Idaho.

Otter, in a news release, said the campaign will “keep us all laser-focused on the task at hand: To defeat Hillary Clinton this November.” He added, “Lori and I know and respect Governor and Mrs. Pence and you cannot find a better fit than the Trump-Pence ticket. I stand ready to serve when and wherever needed in this campaign. Our in-state organization is united in purpose to elect Donald Trump and we all represent the vast spectrum of political ideals which draw us to support this highly successful businessman.”

The Trump Idaho campaign has set up its headquarters in the Idaho Republican Party office.

Four parties on Idaho ballot

When Idahoans head to the polls in November to vote for president, they won’t see a line for the Green Party on the ballot. Idaho has just four recognized political parties with ballot status: Republican, Democratic, Libertarian and Constitution Party. But that doesn’t mean Jill Stein, the Green Party’s nominee, won’t be on the Idaho ballot. She was on it in 2012 as an independent.

It takes just 1,000 valid signatures for an independent candidate to qualify for the Idaho ballot for president. Green Party signature gatherers are out now and say they’ve passed that mark.

But to qualify as a political party for ballot status in Idaho, a party would have to present signatures of enough qualified electors to add up to 2 percent of the aggregate vote cast in the last presidential election by Aug. 30. That comes to 13,325 valid signatures, according to the Idaho secretary of state’s office.

Then, after qualifying with petitions, a party must either continue to have three or more candidates for state or national office listed under its party on the ballot at each general election, or have one of its candidates get at least 3 percent of the vote, for it to remain a recognized party.

There have been other parties that qualified for the Idaho ballot in the past, including the Natural Law Party and Reform Party in the 1990s and, decades ago, the Populist Party. The Green Party, which was founded in 1984, has never been on the Idaho ballot, according to Chief Deputy Secretary of State Tim Hurst. However, that doesn’t mean some of its nominees haven’t.

In addition to Stein, who drew 4,402 votes or 0.7 percent in Idaho as an independent in 2012, Ralph Nader, who had been the Green Party’s presidential nominee in 1996 and 2000, finally made the Idaho ballot as an independent in 2008. He drew 7,175 votes, or 1.1 percent.

Four years earlier, Nader had fallen short of the required number of signatures by the August deadline. He sued, trying to get on the Idaho ballot anyway, and lost. He ran that year as a write-in but got just 0.2 percent of the vote; he polled 2.5 percent of the vote as a write-in in 2000.

In recent years, the highest vote numbers for a third-party or independent candidate for president in a general election in Idaho went to Ross Perot, who ran on the Reform Party ticket in 1996 and drew 62,518 votes, 12.7 percent of the vote that year.

History plate at risk

A special license plate commemorating the 150th anniversary of the creation of Idaho Territory – and raising money for local county historical societies and museums – is at risk of being discontinued if more Idahoans don’t buy it. Dubbed the Idaho Territorial Sesquicentennial plate, the specialty plate needs 1,000 or more sales by Dec. 1 to avoid an inglorious demise. Only about 220 a year have been sold during the plate’s initial grace period.

People can purchase the plates even if their current plates aren’t up for renewal and get credit for the remaining time on their current plates.

A far-off deputy attorney general

Why would the state of Idaho be appointing a special deputy attorney general to handle litigation against Toshiba in Japan? It turns out that the Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho saw investment losses estimated between $900,000 and $2.7 million when its Toshiba stock holdings dropped sharply in value several times over an accounting controversy at the Japanese firm between 2008 and 2015, and there’s a lawsuit in the works.

Idaho’s Board of Examiners agreed last week to appoint Bonnie Dixon of Atsumi and Sakai as a special deputy attorney general to represent PERSI in “pursuing litigation in Japan against Toshiba Corp.” PERSI spokesman Kelly Cross said, “Because PERSI’s related investments were not made through U.S. markets, the litigation would take place in Japan.”

Atsumi and Sakai is an independent law firm in Tokyo of which Dixon is a partner.

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