Keith Allred at the Boise town hall/Randy Stapilus
The setup was sweet for a candidate for governor. While there's something of an embunkered feeling to the re-election campaign for Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter, his Democratic opponent Keith Allred holds - about three blocks from the Idaho Statehouse, at the grand old Egyptian Theatre - an open, come-all town hall meeting. (Can anyone active in Idaho politics imagine Otter this year doing something similar?) The pitch: Come and talk to the candidate.
The results delivered just that, on one frequency, and did not deliver on another. It was as promised a straight-up Q & A, and it had plenty of substance. Presumably it did exactly what Allred, trained by profession as a mediator, wanted and intended it to do - and all that it should do if campaigns were a matter of evaluating policy. Some other frequencies were missing.
Somewhere between 150 and 200 people were there, and generally not the political usual suspects. Not many of the people you'd expect in Boise to appear at a Democratic governor campaign event, did; of the dozen Democratic legislators from Boise, just three or four turned up. The best-known Idaho political figure in attendance was former state Senator Laird Noh from Twin Falls, a Republican co-chairing the campaign. (Like Allred, Noh is naturally low-key, a smart policy wonk and a skilled legislator willing to work with anyone to achieve a carefully considered objective. The match in personal approach and style is easy to see.) Allred was drawing in some new people; some of the stalwarts seemed less in evidence.
His opening statement, and responses, seemed of a piece with where he had been before, with a mix of policy suggestions and a proposal to try to leverage the views of Idahoans to try to budge the intractable - on tax policy, notably, though other subjects as well. He appealed to the mind, but less so to the gut. If there, as people have remarked about his approach, an absence of red meat, there was also a general absence of emotional content. He made a case for the inadequacy of various Otter-related policies, but he didn't make the full-throated case of a crusader, exhorting the crowd to join him on a glorious mission to fire the bastards. The setting, alone (but for the moderator, Boise City Council member T.J. Thomson, well off to the side) under the spotlight was ideal for that kind of tub thumper. But this was an appeal to the intellect. This was a prolonged campaign talk with no real red meat, hardly any sound bits, only few applause lines, and those few seemed inadvertent. (There were a few sharply turned lines, though, even if they weren't punched hard, such as one having to do with education: "Folks, that is the American practice.") Those weren't his thing. (more…)