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Campaigning on the state’s dime?

There’s often a fine line between legitimate mailings from office holders to constituents, and campaigning. Or maybe more of a gray area. We’ve received over the years glossy and costly cards and booklets from officials (more often, members of Congress, but sometimes others too), which clearly were more persuasive than informative in approach.

Incumbents often can make the case, or make a case at least, of simply keeping in touch with constituents, much of the time. But sometimes the case becomes impossible.

As recently happened with Idaho state Senator Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood. She has been representing (this last term) District 8, which has been centered around Idaho, Clearwater and Valley counties. Redistricting of the lightly-populated area of north-central Idaho has expanded the district in which she resides north all the way to Bonner County (while chopping off the Valley County portion). She is running for election to the Senate in that new district, numbered 7. She has contests in both the primary and general elections (against an independent).

She had not yet used all of the $2,000 which she could charge to the state for constituent mailings, so she decided to send a mailing. That could be described as simply a constituent mailer despite the presence of lines such as: “I want to thank those who have supported me as I seek re-election for State Senator in the next term for the new District 7. With my experience in the Senate, I hope to continue as a common-sensed, conservative business Senator, with a heart for rural and small communities, a love for life and family, and faith in our Constitutional rights derived from God.”

But there’s a catch, reported by the Spokesman-Review‘s Betsy Russell: It was sent not only to constituents in her current district, but also to quite a few in the about-to-form district she wants to (but does not yet) represent. And not only that, in a season in which she’s running in a contested primary, the mailer went only to Republicans.

A little hard to make the constituent communications argument under those circumstances.

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