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Eye on Boise: After two-year wait, Idaho court system gets new director

Sara Thomas, Idaho’s state appellate public defender, has been named the new administrative director of Idaho’s courts by the Idaho Supreme Court.

Thomas, who started with the state appellate public defender’s office in 1999 as a staff attorney and headed its appellate division for a decade before being named head of the 20-person state office in 2012, will start her new job on July 11.

She replaces Patti Tobias, who served as administrative director of Idaho’s courts for two decades before accepting a position with the National Center for State Courts in Denver in fall 2014. Since then, former Chief Justice Linda Copple Trout has filled in as the interim director, assisted by Senior District Judge Barry Wood. When Thomas takes over, the two will continue to serve as senior judges.

“Their hard work and commitment allowed us to wait until we found the perfect candidate,” Chief Justice Jim Jones said.

Thomas, the current chair of the Idaho Criminal Justice Commission, said, “I have dedicated my career to helping ensure our state’s justice system serves its people by providing fair, timely and impartial resolution of cases. I look forward to working with members of the court and continuing to help Idahoans in my new role.”

Brody’s fundraising edge

As two Idaho Supreme Court hopefuls head into a November runoff, campaign finance reports show Robyn Brody has raised $170,686 for her campaign since Jan. 1 and still has a $31,321 war chest for the general election campaign. Rival Curt McKenzie has raised $31,608 since Jan. 1, and ended the post-primary election reporting period with $10,707 in cash but $13,160 in debt.

That means so far Brody has outraised McKenzie by more than five times. Even after refunding $17,000 in donations before the May 17 primary election, Brody had raised more than the other three candidates combined, with donations coming in from lawyers and law firms around the state.

What legislative reports show

Post-primary campaign finance reports are in for North Idaho legislative candidates, and a few things stand out. Among them:

The top fundraiser was Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, who raised $102,611 in campaign donations since Jan. 1, and spent $66,547. With $18,424 carried over from previous years, she ended the reporting period with $54,488 in cash and no debt.

Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, was second, raising $64,420 since Jan. 1 and carrying over $17,289 from the prior year. He spent $79,253, and closed out the reporting period with $2,466 in cash and no debt. His challenger, Art Macomber, reported raising $6,788, spending $2,227, and finishing with $5,260 in cash but $6,518 in debt to Becky Funk’s Engage NW Consulting.

The biggest debt was reported by former state Rep. Thyra Stevenson, R-Lewiston, who is running for the seat she lost two years ago to retiring Rep. Dan Rudolph, D-Lewistion. Stevenson reported $70,774 in campaign debt – all carried over from previous campaigns.

Running second for campaign debt in North Idaho legislative races is Republican Mike Kingsley, who is again challenging House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston. Kingsley reported $29,900 in campaign debt to himself, all carried over; and $3,566 in cash at the close of the reporting period. Rusche reported $52,346 in cash and no debt.

Rep. Caroline Troy, R-Genesee, who was unopposed in the primary, reported raising $25,410 since Jan. 1, ending the period with $20,769 in cash and $13,500 in carried over debt.

One couple from Coeur d’Alene, Lloyd and Mary Drennan, gave the majority of the campaign cash received in the final reporting period to five GOP candidates: Alan Littlejohn, Don Cheatham, Art Macomber, Glenn Rohrer and Heather Scott. Littlejohn, Macomber and Rohrer all lost their primaries; Cheatham narrowly won, and Scott was unopposed. Each of the candidates got at least $500 from the Drennans.

The Drennans also donated $500 to Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, who won his primary and also received an array of PAC donations in the final period, which ran from May 2 to May 27. Barbieri reported raising $12,209 in campaign contributions since July 1, and had $15,109 cash on hand and $929 in debt at the end of the reporting period. His Democratic opponent, Kathy Kahn, reported $833 in cash on hand and $1,250 in debt.

Paul Amador, who defeated Rep. Kathy Sims, R-Coeur d’Alene, in the GOP primary, reported raising $21,005 since Jan. 1 and spending $20,217, ending up with $788 cash and $4,558 in debt to himself and his wife. Sims reported raising $6,489 since Jan. 1, and closing the reporting period with $3,400 in cash and a $6,257 debt to herself. Democrat Tom Hearn, who will face Amador in November, reported raising $7,837 since Jan. 1, spending $5,019, and ending the period with $2,918 in cash and $350 in debt.