Apr 01 2006

Takes on abortion

Published by at 10:27 pm under Idaho

For a certain portion of the voting population, there is no more decisive, vote-determining, subject than abortion. In the Northwest, that is particularly true in Idaho; and it is especially true in Republican primaries; and beyond that, it is strongly true in a Republican primary in Idaho where a half-dozen candidates stand to split the vote deeply. A very sensitive political match is being played, then, in Idaho’s 1st congressional district Republican primary.

In a sense, there should be no issue. All of the candidates in this race call themselves “pro-life,” and most people would readily accept the self-definition. All of them call themselves conservatives, too, and most non-conservatives would accept that defnition as well. But in such a primary, distinctions are being made now by candidates, as they will be on election day by voters.

That’s preface to the op-ed just published in the Nampa Idaho Press-Tribune by candidate Keith Johnson, which aims to upend the calculus.

Within the spectrum of these candidates, the breakdown runs like this.

The pro-life community considers Sheila Sorensen the most suspect; the Idaho Chooses Life website has called her “pro-abortion” (which isn’t right, either, but is expressive of its attitude toward her; note also comments from Kerry Uhlenkott of Right to Life of Idaho). At the same time, while she has described herself as pro-life and can cite a legislative record that supports it, she doesn’t appear to be running on the issue. (The issues page on her web site doesn’t bring up abortion.) Her main topics of discussion appear to include the economy, national security, taxes, environmental and energy policy – a broad range of interest mostly to a different audience.

Three other candidates – Norm Semanko, Skip Brandt and Robert Vasquez – are in a related but distinctive position. They also call themselves pro-life, and can back that up, but in their cases as well abortion isn’t really a central focus, and the pro-life forces haven’t jumped them as being shaky on the cause. Vasquez’ overwhelming issue is immigration and illegal aliens, not abortion. Semanko’s website mentions he’s pro-life but doesn’t dwell on it. Brandt does much the same; his focus had more to do with property rights, trade issues, immigration and border and national security.

That leaves Bill Sali, the best-funded candidate in the race, and Johnson.

Sali has been tightly identified with abortion legislation as long as he’s been in the Idaho House, which is 16 years. He has abortion-related legislation percolating at the Statehouse even now, as the legislature is nearing adjournment. He is the endorsee of Idaho Chooses Life, the most visible pro-life organization in the state. Sali’s stance on the subject is a clear calling call. His political strategy has to rely on drawing the bulk of the (pro-life) abortion-motivated Republican voters.

What makes Keith Johnson’s latest missile so interesting is that he’s engaging a strategy right out of the Karl Rove playbook: Hit the opposition not where they’re weakest, but where they’re strongest.

In his op-ed, Johnson first takes care to lay out his own position: “For personal and religious purposes, I am opposed to abortion. I do not support public funding of abortions, domestically or through foreign aid and I support constitutional spousal and parental notification laws. While I am personally Pro-Life, I fully recognize that there are widely held and disparate views on abortion.” If he’s going for the hard-core pro-life vote, that last is a risky acknowledgement. But then, he’s trying to change their world view, just a bit.

Then he writes about other candidates. They’re unnamed in this piece, but the first obviously is Sali and the second is – Sorensen or is it Brandt? . . .

Voters have a clear choice in this election. On one extreme, candidate’s zealousness for his personal views resulted in his removal from the chairmanship of the legislative committee that hears abortion bills. His 15 years in the legislature have yet to result in meaningful pro-life legislation. We still have abortion on demand in Idaho, proving his ineffectiveness on the issue. On the other extreme, candidates have consistently voted pro-choice in the Idaho legislature. One thing I know is if you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you’re going to get the same results. It is time for new leadership on these issues.

(Sorensen, Sali and Brandt are the only candidates in the race who have served in the Idaho Legislature.)

This might just cause the pro-life forces to circle more tightly around Sali. Or it might be the lit fuse on a bomb exploding over the next seven weeks or so.

UPDATE (4/2, evening): If you click on the link to the Johnson web site above, you’ll notice the abortion item isn’t there. Following common blog protocal, rather than remove the link altogether, the situation is explained (as far as we can) here.

The item noted above was located on the Keith Johnson website, which said it was an op-ed submitted to the Idaho Press-Tribune and listed a publication date. (Most IPT items are behind a firewall.) Sunday evening the Johnson campaign, aware by then that quotes from it had appeared here, called to say that opinion piece we quoted had been posted on the Johnson web site by mistake, and that a different version later had been prepared for delivery to the newspaper. Checking back at the Johnson web site, we found the item containing the quotes had disappeared.

Which suggests the approach indicated above may have been considered, and ultimately rejected, by the campaign. Nevertheless it was posted there recently, and lasted for a number of days before its removal. So for now, the point in the post remains, even if only the last remants of the op-ed are here.

Share on Facebook

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Takes on abortion”

  1. F-Wordson 02 Apr 2006 at 1:04 am

    Smelling blood in the ID-01 water

    Oh, and Stapilus: congratulations on out F-wording F-words.

  2. rhetoricon 02 Apr 2006 at 9:26 am

    What kind of Prolife record does Mr. Johnson have to convince the voters of Idaho. I read this and it’s an endorsement by Johnson to Sali on his hard work over the last 16 years as a legislator. Mr. Johnson please do us all a favor, bow out, and give Bill Sali your endorsement the only candidate with a proven record in Prolife issues.

Share on Facebook



WASHINGTON-OREGON-IDAHO Our acclaimed weekly e-pubs: 35-45 pages Monday mornings getting you on top of your state. Samples available. Contact us by email or by phone at (208)484-0460.



This will be one of the most talked-about Idaho books in Idaho this season: 14 years after its last edition, Ridenbaugh Press has released a list of 100 influential Idahoans. Randy Stapilus, the editor and publisher of the Idaho Weekly Briefing and author of four earlier similar lists, has based this one on levels of overall influence in the state – and freedom of action and ability to influence development of the state – as of the start of 2015.
100 Influential Idahoans 2015. By Randy Stapilus; published by Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 202 pages. Softcover. List price $16.95.
100 Influential Idahoans 2015 page.

100 Influential Idahoans 2015
"Essentially, I write in the margins of motherhood—and everything else—then I work these notes into a monthly column about what it’s like raising my two young boys. Are my columns funny? Are they serious? They don’t fit into any one box neatly. ... I’ve won awards for “best humorous column” though I actually write about subjects as light as bulimia, bullying, birthing plans and breastfeeding. But also bon-bons. And barf, and birthdays." Raising the Hardy Boys: They Said There Would Be Bon-Bons. by Nathalie Hardy; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 238 pages. Softcover. $15.95.
Raising the Hardy Boys page.



"Not a day passes that I don’t think about Vietnam. Sometimes its an aroma or just hearing the Vietnamese accent of a store clerk that triggers a memory. Unlike all too many soldiers, I never had to fire a weapon in anger. Return to civilian life was easy, but even after all these years away from the Army and Vietnam I find the experience – and knowledge – continue to shape my life daily."
Drafted! Vietnam in War and in Peace. by David R. Frazier; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton OR. 188 pgs. Softcover. $15.95.
The DRAFTED! page.


Many critics said it could not be done - and it often almost came undone. Now the Snake River Basin Adjudication is done, and that improbable story is told here by three dozen of the people most centrally involved with it - judges, attorneys, legislators, engineers, water managers, water users and others in the room when the decisions were made.
Through the Waters: An Oral History of the Snake River Basin Adjudication. edited by the Idaho State Bar Water Law Section and Randy Stapilus; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 300 pages. Softcover. $16.95.

Oregon Governor Vic Atiyeh died on July 20, 2014; he was widely praised for steady leadership in difficult years. Writer Scott Jorgensen talks with Atiyeh and traces his background, and what others said about him.
Conversations with Atiyeh. by W. Scott Jorgensen; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 140 pages. Softcover. $14.95.

"Salvation through public service and the purging of awful sights seen during 1500 Vietnam War helicopter rescue missions before an untimely death, as told by a devoted brother, leaves a reader pondering life's unfairness. A haunting read." Chris Carlson, Medimont Reflections. ". . . a vivid picture of his brother Jerry’s time as a Medivac pilot in Vietnam and contrasts it with the reality of the political system . . . through the lens of a blue-collar, working man made good." Mike Kennedy.
One Flaming Hour: A memoir of Jerry Blackbird. by Mike Blackbird; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 220 pages. Softcover. $15.95.
See the ONE FLAMING HOUR page.

Back in Print! Frank Church was one of the leading figures in Idaho history, and one of the most important U.S. senators of the last century. From wilderness to Vietnam to investigating the CIA, Church led on a host of difficult issues. This, the one serious biography of Church originally published in 1994, is back in print by Ridenbaugh Press.
Fighting the Odds: The Life of Senator Frank Church. LeRoy Ashby and Rod Gramer; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 800 pages. Softcover. $24.95.


by Stephen Hartgen
The personal story of the well-known editor, publisher and state legislator's travel west from Maine to Idaho. A well-written account for anyone interested in Idaho, journalism or politics.
JOURNEY WEST: A memoir of journalism and politics, by Stephen Hartgen; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, here or at Amazon.com (softcover)



NEW EDITIONS is the story of the Northwest's 226 general-circulation newspapers and where your newspaper is headed.
New Editions: The Northwest's Newspapers as They Were, Are and Will Be. Steve Bagwell and Randy Stapilus; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 324 pages. Softcover. (e-book ahead). $16.95.
See the NEW EDITIONS page.

How many copies?


The Field Guide is the reference for the year on Oregon politics - the people, the districts, the votes, the issues. Compiled by a long-time Northwest political writer and a Salem Statesman-Journal political reporter.
OREGON POLITICAL FIELD GUIDE 2014, by Randy Stapilus and Hannah Hoffman; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, available right here or through Amazon.com (softcover)


by Randy Stapilus and Marty Trillhaase is the reference for the year on Idaho Politics - the people, the districts, the votes, the issues. Written by two of Idaho's most veteran politcal observers.
IDAHO POLITICAL FIELD GUIDE 2014, by Randy Stapilus and Marty Trillhaase; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, available right here or through Amazon.com (softcover)

without compromise
WITHOUT COMPROMISE is the story of the Idaho State Police, from barely-functioning motor vehicles and hardly-there roads to computer and biotechnology. Kelly Kast has spent years researching the history and interviewing scores of current and former state police, and has emerged with a detailed and engrossing story of Idaho.


How many copies?
The Old West saw few murder trials more spectacular or misunderstood than of "Diamondfield" Jack Davis. After years of brushes with the noose, Davis was pardoned - though many continued to believe him guilty. Max Black has spent years researching the Diamondfield saga and found startling new evidence never before uncovered - including the weapon and one of the bullets involved in the crime, and important documents - and now sets out the definitive story. Here too is Black's story - how he found key elements, presumed lost forever, of a fabulous Old West story.
See the DIAMONDFIELD page for more.

Medimont Reflections Chris Carlson's Medimont Reflections is a followup on his biography of former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus. This one expands the view, bringing in Carlson's take on Idaho politics, the Northwest energy planning council, environmental issues and much more. The Idaho Statesman: "a pull-back-the-curtain account of his 40 years as a player in public life in Idaho." Available here: $15.95 plus shipping.
See the Medimont Reflections page  
Idaho 100, about the 100 most influential people ever in Idaho, by Randy Stapilus and Martin Peterson is now available. This is the book about to become the talk of the state - who really made Idaho the way it is? NOW AN E-BOOK AVAILABLE THROUGH KINDLE for just $2.99. Or, only $15.95 plus shipping.

Idaho 100 by Randy Stapilus and Martin Peterson. Order the Kindle at Amazon.com. For the print edition, order here or at Amazon.