Oct 31 2005
Chances are that in 2006 Idaho in effect will reverse the decision it made in 2002 to keep a single Democrat in statewide office, as superintendent of public instruction. Chances are good, in fact, it will put in that office the same Republican who failed to drive out that Democrat last time.
Marilyn Howard is familiar enough to Idahoans, has a good enough personal reputation and – outside Boise Republican circles – is uncontroversial enough that she would have had a decent chance at holding the job if she wanted a third term next year. She doesn’t, and the default probability in such cases in Idaho, in these days, go to the winner of the Republican nomination.
This is the framework for considering the prospects of the rather large field of candidates, announced and prospective, for this job. None of those candidates are supremely well known in Idaho. To recap, the Republicans are State Representative Steve Smylie of Boise, 2002 Republican nominee Tom Luna and Coeur d’Alene High Principal Steve Casey; on the Democratic side, Jana Jones, Howard’s chief deputy, has announced, and state Senator Bert Marley of McCammon has expressed interest.
Jones’ candidacy seems firm, while Marley’s still is uncertain; there’s some talk in Democratic circles that superintendent is just one possibility, that Marley might turn toward another statewide office. In theory, Marley would be a strong candidate, a southeast Idaho Mormon Democrat, a combination that has worked well electorally in the past (John Evans, J.D. Williams to name two examples). He is an experienced campaigner and in 2004 beat a state Senate comeback attempt by one of the state’s premier political organizers, Republican Evan Frasure. He’s on the short list of Idaho Democrats who could look good on a statewide ballot. Is a race in a contested primary against a close ally of the Democratic incumbent the best place to put that asset to work? As for Jones, she is new to campaigning, and popularity seldom transfers as Howard and Jones presumably would like it to. On the other hand, the state offices of attorney general, state controller and secretary of state now are filled by men who previously had been chief deputies for their predecessors.
All that said, the default probability has to go to the Republican nominees, whoever that is. Casey is unknown statewide but has some connections; besides friendships in the Kootenai legislative delegation, his brother Greg was head of the Idaho Association of Commerce & Industry some years back and retains strong ties to statewide Republicans. Still, he starts a distant third behind Smylie, a veteran (and respected) legislator and a good campaigner and has strong professional credentials, and Luna, who lost to Howard in 2002 but ran a skilled and energetic campaign, and since has worked in the Bush administration. Both have liabilities: Smylie is a moderate in a state Republican party more conservative than he is; Luna, closer to the conservative core, was the sole major Idaho Republican loser in 2002, while may put off some party regulars. On the basis of philosophical appeal and the seeming antipathy of the primary electorate toward educators, the edge seems to go to Luna – for now.
Carrying through the rest of the formula: That gives Luna an edge, at matters sit, for the 2006 election to the job he couldn’t get in 2002. But bear in mind, that’s the starting point. Election day is still more than a year away.Share on Facebook