On occasion, my counsel has been sought by prospective candidates for statewide offices. (By way of credentials, I have been involved in three successful campaigns.)
I ask them the usual questions:
Why do you want the office?
What is your initial base of support?
Is your spouse supportive?
Do you have a budget and a plan for raising the required money?
What is your strategy for winning?
Who are your key helpers and supporters?
Do you understand the commitment it takes?
Will you accept media training, conduct polls, etc.?
Invariably, though, I ask the one question nine out of 10 “wannabes” flunk: Have you met with any member of the “Committee of Nine” and, if not, how do they plan to introduce themselves to the “Committee of Nine”?
The blank stare this question engenders tells me the person isn’t close to being ready to run.
Most readers will ask the same question. You can bet, however, that every successful major Idaho political figure in the last 50 years knows this group and how influential it is behind the scenes. The “Committee of Nine” is the nine water masters of the major Snake River Federal Irrigation Projects in southern Idaho. The members can make or break most major statewide candidates.
Former Idaho Governor and U.S. Senator Len B. Jordan once described the Snake River as a “working river, the lifeblood of Idaho.” Any candidate for major office who does not understand how that river works, the important role the water masters play, especially in times of shortages, and the primacy of upstream water rights is, pardon the expression, “dead in the water.” (more…)