"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.
Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

An old phrase one does not often hear references the great state we share as “Gem of the Mountains.” The phrase applies in many ways, but especially when one contemplates the many hidden gems of profoundly interesting people that populate Idaho and fascinate in so many ways.

The living embodiment that the real gems in Idaho are its many individualistic and distinctive folks is a retired science teacher from Mountain Home who has become one of Idaho’s most prolific and best-selling writers in his twilight years: Bill Smallwood.

Political types in Idaho are most familiar with the fine biography (McClure of Idaho, Caxton Press) he wrote about the late distinguished senator. The book should be required reading for any student of Idaho history and politics. Full of detail and illustrative anecdotes, it tells both the history of the senator as well as the state as each grew in prominence.

The first chapter itself whets one’s appetite for more. It focuses on the rise of Kellogg’s John Mattmiller and his seemingly inevitable election to Congress only to have his ambitions and life cut short by a fatal plane crash in 1966, the same year in which Idaho’s Democratic gubernatorial nominee, Charles Herndon of Salmon, was also killed in a plane crash.

Smallwood all but says odds are better than even that neither Jim McClure nor Cecil Andrus would have emerged as the leaders they became except for fate creating critical openings for each man’s ambitions.

The book became a true labor of love for which Smallwood received no compensation despite a handshake promise from a representative of the University of Idaho’s Foundation that he would be paid for his labors.

Smallwood turned to writing while teaching at Mountain Home High School many years ago. An instructor in science, he recognized he could put together a more informative text than what his students were currently using. He was correct and he became first a successful writer of school textbooks.

He then hit on another almost ridiculously simple idea but one which provided a guaranteed audience (and income) of several thousands books each year. He convinced the military academies to let him produce an academy candidate’s guide book containing both current and historical information.

As one can only do in Idaho it seems, I first met Bill on a horse packing trip into the White Clouds. He and his wife, Patty, were part of the group we signed up with for the fine trip run by the folks at the Mystic Saddle Ranch in the Sawtooth Basin.

After a day of hiking and fishing in and around the areas below the magnificent Castle Peak, I was having an adult beverage sitting by the campfire. Sitting close by was this elderly looking man with a cherubic smile who started talking. It took me about two seconds to realize this was one smart hombre and that we knew many folks in common.

We talked about many things including the need for books to be done on Andrus and McClure, not to mention the state of politics in Idaho. More than anything though, his love of all things Basque came across loud and clear.

How many anglos do you know who can speak the ethnographically-unique “Basko” language? The only one I know is Bill, who spent two years living in the Basque country, and one was during the height of the Franco-led totalitarian Spanish government.

Being a natural born writer, Bill, who loves to travel, shares his experiences with people he considers friends. I’m fortunate to be counted as such. In recent years we have received long, fascinating travelogue mailings from places such as New Zealand, Australia and the home of the Basques.

The latest missive recounts his most recent trip to the Basque homeland to receive recognition for a book he painstakingly put together 39 years ago detailing the atrocities committed by German bombers as they leveled the Basque city of Gernika. Entitled The Day Guernica Was Bombed: A Story Told by Witnesses and Survivors, it has been especially well received in the Basque country.

Bill used 124 interviews with survivors, wrote a detailed accounting but couldn’t find a publisher. He thought it was going to be another lost labor of love but a Basque history professor found the manuscript, and had a Basque foundation publish it.

It is now on Amazon and I can hardly wait to get my hands on it. You should also and while reading it, be thankful for another Idaho original gem: Bill Smallwood.

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The electoral college has narrowed serious campaigning for president to so few states that analysts now talk of no more than a couple of dozen counties, in a third as many states, as being especially crucial. None of those counties, obviously, are in Idaho.

Like every state it borders (debatably excepting Nevada), Idaho’s electorate votes for president are already very nearly locked. The Gem State’s four almost (remember: the voter isn’t over till it’s counted) certainly will go to Republican Mitt Romney. No surprise there. That puts Idaho in line with Montana, Wyoming and Utah, and on the other side from Washington, Oregon and (probably) Nevada.

Presidential years usually are good years in Idaho for Republicans (the reverse applies in most blue states), but that can vary. An especially strong Republican vote for president can carry down the ballot, shifting otherwise races. The number of legislative seats Democrats win this fall, for example, may relate to just how large a majority Romney wins.

This fluctuates more than you might think.

Taking the very long range of history, the highest vote percentage (78.1%) Idaho has ever given to a presidential nominee – Ronald Reagan included – was to a Democrat, though for that you have to go back to 1896, when the nominee was William Jennings Bryan. The last Democrat to win Idaho was Lyndon Johnson in 1964, though he led by only about 5,000 votes over Barry Goldwater, who went down to major crashing defeat nationally.

Since 1968, Republicans have won every time with decisive margins, but less uniformly as you might think. Reagan peaked at a very strong 72.4% in 1984, but his successor George H.W. Bush took just 62.1% – quite a comedown. And in 1992, eight years after Reagan’s smashing win, when Ross Perot won a piece of the vote, Bush got only 42%. (Is that an indication that, under certain circumstances, a portion of those Republican votes can be peeled off?) Four years later Robert Dole again won an outright majority, but only barely, at 52.2%. And the 90’s was when the Idaho Democratic Party already was in collapse, when it was elected near-record low numbers of legislators and county officials.

George W. Bush did considerably better, getting about two-thirds of the Idaho vote in his two races. But in 2008, a year when Idaho Democrats did a little better locally than they often had in presidential years, John McCain was back down to 61.2%. The odds are Romney will do a bit better, but by how much we have yet to see. The Republican presidential norm seems to be in the low sixties.

One other note is about counties. Blaine County is the only Idaho county to have voted Democratic in each of the last five presidential contests, and it was the only one in Idaho to do so in 2000 and 2004. (Before 1992 it had not done so since 1964.) But in 2008 only two other counties, Latah and Teton, joined it, and in 1996 just four counties (Blaine, Latah, Nez Perce and Shoshone) went Democratic. The pattern has shown some shift away from the old Democratic resource counties like Shoshone and Nez Perce, and toward counties with other bases, like resort-oriented Blaine and Teton. What will the pattern show this time?

That may turn a great deal on just how close this presidential contests turns out to be.

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Idaho Idaho column

Mark Mendiola
Eastern Idaho

The opening of an ATCO Structures & Logistics modular housing plant inside the Gateway West Industrial Center last April on Pocatello’s north end has given the former Naval Ordnance Plant a lift and provided a needed positive boost for a community hit by layoffs at ON Semiconductor and Hoku’s polysilicon plant.

About 95 electricians, carpenters, plumbers and other crafts already have manufactured modular units for shipping offsite as ATCO, a Canadian-based company, gets established in the Gate City. When its plant hits peak capacity, it will be able to manufacture two to three units a day.

ATCO has delayed hiring another 60 workers offered jobs until back-ordered material and safety equipment arrives, including tie-off systems to protect them from falling from heights. That may take about two months, but meanwhile production will continue and not be halted.

Bill Haliburton, vice president of manufacturing in North America, expects 200 ultimately will be hired as operations ramp up inside its 200,000-square-foot Building 36, where massive cranes inside the cavernous structure can lift heavy tonnage.

“We are really pleased with the reception we have had in Pocatello,” he says, adding the location has met ATCO’s needs. “Our ultimate goal is an incident-free work place. Safety is the number one priority at all our locations.”

Virtually all of its Pocatello employees are locals as ATCO strives to procure its services and supplies from area vendors, such as SME Steel. ATCO’s modular units have been targeted for Canadian provinces, North Dakota, Wyoming and other states where projects demand housing for personnel, especially oil, gas and tar sand patches.

Based at Calgary, Alberta, ATCO was founded in 1947 when S.D. Southern and his son Ronald D. Southern bought 15 utility trailers for hire in the Calgary area as Alberta Trailer Hire. Ronald Southern announced last May his intention to step down as ATCO’s board chairman in 2013.

Nancy C. Southern, his daughter and ATCO’s president, chief executive officer and deputy chair, announced ATCO would sponsor five Idaho State University scholarships when she visited the Pocatello modular housing plant for a ribbon cutting about four months ago.

The $13 billion ATCO Group employs 8,800 on five continents and boasted $330 million in earnings last year. It has ownership interest in nine natural gas gathering and processing facilities and 18 power generation facilities globally.

Bill Haliburton, ATCO vice president of manufacturing in North America, expects his company’s modular housing plant in Pocatello ultimately will employ 200 when it ramps up to full production.


ATCO Structures & Logistics is one of its many divisions, providing infrastructure solutions, including space rentals, work force housing, lodging and food services, site support services, defense and disaster relief support, engineering, manufacturing, site construction, emissions management and noise reduction.

In addition to the Pocatello plant, ATCO’s other manufacturing sites are at Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta; Wichita Falls and Diboll, Texas; Lima, Peru; Santiago, Chile, and Brisbane, Townsville and Perth, Australia. ATCO’s Texas plants are a long distance from the Intermountain West. That was a key reason ATCO decided to put a plant in Pocatello, which company officials view as a very strategic location.

“We didn’t have a reach from Texas to Idaho, Colorado and Wyoming,” Haliburton says, citing Pocatello’s proximity to Western Canada and transportation advantages. “There are larger companies, but no one that I’m aware has the geographic reach worldwide like we do.”

The ATCO vice president praises Pocatello’s trade skills capacity, available material and community support. Most of its shipping will be by truck. “Historically, rail has not been a low cost solution unless going direct to a project site, which we rarely are,” Haliburton says.

ATCO Structures, ATCO Frontec and ATCO Noise Management merged in 2009 to form ATCO Structures & Logistics, which delivered a record $89 million of adjusted earnings in 2011, representing nearly 30 percent of ATCO Group’s consolidated earnings. It enjoyed growth in sales and profitability, securing six significant work force housing and site services contracts to support development in resource-rich areas of North America, South America and Australia.

Haliburton points out that ATCO also has established a presence in Afghanistan, where it provides utilities services at Kandahar Airfield and has been awarded several supplementary agreements to support 30,000 international troops.

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An Idaho Statesman article today started by reciting several recent police cases in Boise, all dangerous and all having in common the participation of someone who had a mental problem. It went on, “By noon Thursday, Boise Bench Patrol Officer Gary Wiggins had fielded four mental health-related calls. “It’s a daily occurrence for us,” said Wiggins, a 20-year veteran.”

No doubt it is. Police all over the country have been finding the same thing, a large and seemingly growing portion of what they do dealing not with conventional bad guys but with people whose issue are social and health-related. What varies from department to department is how they respond to this.

The Portland police bureau was one of the earlier major organizations in the country to go after this issue in a serious way. The last couple of chiefs have made it a priority – maybe driven especially by the fact that most of the city’s recent high-profile shootings have involved people with mental health problems – and have tried some new tactics. In some cases, that has meant police being pro-active, trying to work with people before a situation develops into crisis. It turns them, to a degree, into social workers. The city has established mental health liaison positions, intensive working relationships with social workers, and much more.

It’s a work in progress. The police association isn’t entirely happy, and neither are many of the mental health advocates. But there does seem to be a common recognition that for police to simply hang back and wait until shots are fired isn’t good enough.

The Statesman article suggests that Boise is still working through some of this in earlier stages:

“Boise Police Chief Mike Masterson said these cases and the May 31 death of Troy Epperly are among reminders that services are lacking for Idahoans who need mental health care and that police are shouldering a growing burden. Epperly confronted police outside a Boise residence after telling his estranged wife he intended “suicide by cop.” He refused to drop his gun. Police shot him. He died in the hospital. … Masterson and Wiggins hope for a day when mental health issues are resolved long before they become crises requiring police intervention.”

Come that day, police probably will have to be a pro-active part the situation before it turns deadly. And that will mean a revolution in policing.

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Idaho Oregon



You may have seen the maps showing how the red and blue fare on votes and campaign contributions. But have you checked out the Amazon.com map on political book sales?

It may not be especially illuminating at any single moment, especially when a few hot new titles might push things in one direction or another. But over time, it could provide some insight into how political books match up with local politics.

You’ll notice, for example, that while Republican-leaning books are leading generally in the Northwest (as in most of the country) at the moment, that Idaho (buying 64% red to 36% blue) is much more so than Washington or Oregon (both 54% red/46% blue).

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

The month of August is fast disappearing. Has anyone seen any evidence that the most momentous vote Idahoans may ever make is only a couple months away?

No, it’s not how Idaho votes in the presidential election. That’s a foregone conclusion: the Romney/Ryan ticket has Idaho’s four electoral votes in the bag.

No, the most important issue on the ballot is the three measures to repeal the key elements of the alleged Otter/Luna Educational Reform package. The three initiatives are critical to providing a real teacher-led effort at reform rather than the balderdash served up so far by conservative Republicans.

Unless the Idaho Education Association has polls showing the repeals to be significantly ahead, which is doubtful, it appears the strategy for the “repealers” is to find a big name leading public figure to be the face for a significant media campaign.

If “repealers” do go that route, one hopes they will select a credible spokesperson, preferably one with solid Republican credentials, like former Governor Phil Batt or former State Superintendent Jerry Evans. Ideally, they also should pair them with the mother of school age children who can speak eloquently of her concerns and her lack of confidence in the Otter/Luna reforms. This is needed as an antidote to First Lady Lori Otter’s ads in support of the three laws.

One suspects proponents are going to saturate the airwaves themselves.

Rest assured, companies that provide computer programs and on-line learning will dump several million into a “support our kids first” campaign that will match dollar for dollar if not exceed whatever the “repealers” raise.

Reportedly, IEA and supportive unions have pledged a $2 million budget. So far there is virtually no evidence for even a portion of that sum being spent on a critical component for success – a well organized grass roots effort.

Motivated teachers and concerned parents should be organized and out on the hustings. Many of Idaho’s counties hold their fairs in August. Where are the information booths manned by parents and teachers with literature, buttons and bumper stickers? Where are the precinct captains plotting literature drops, scheduling phone banks and getting volunteers ready to drive those to the polls that will need rides?

If there’s a campaign being mounted, it’s the most silent, stealth like campaign one has ever witnessed.

The lead “Idaho” campaign consultant is former State Rep. Brian Cronin, a veteran campaigner in his former district and statewide. Brian has been an education consultant for several years and is considered by many of his former House colleagues to be a reasonable and thoughtful voice on education issues.

He now works for Strategies 360, a Seattle-based consulting firm closely aligned to unions and Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell, a former fiance of Ron Dotzhauer, who heads up the firm. Talented but also possessed of an enormous ego, Dotzhauer is without question the most brilliant strategist Democrats in the northwest and Alaska can retain.

He ran Scoop Jackson’s last campaign for the US Senate, both of Booth Gardner’s gubernatorial campaigns, Senator Cantwell’s “comeback” campaign in which she knocked off long-time Republican senator , Slade Gorton, and six years later engineered her defeat of Gorton protege and one of the founding partners of the Gallatin Group, Mike McGavick.

Dotzhauer is very good, there’s no doubt about it. The question is will he listen to the advice of Cronin who is on the scene and in touch (but not necessarily yet in tune) with the finicky nature of the Idaho electorate?

There’s a legitimate fear that campaign folks based elsewhere (Seattle, Portland, Spokane) will listen to former Idaho State Senator John Stocks, now head of the NEA and also the architect of the Republicans massive defeat earlier this year of an egregious ballot initiative in Ohio that would have gutted collective bargaining.

After all, Stocks signs the checks and it’s the “golden rule” – he who has the gold, rules!

IEA board members ought to insist on seeing the breakdown of how the 360 firm intends to spend the $2 million. How much has been allocated for polling? How much for grass roots organizing and get out the vote efforts? How much for tv and radio? How much for direct mail? Print ads? Brochures? Bumper stickers? How much for overhead?

And what is the percentage of the media buy that goes to the media buyer and 360? Many a naive campaign manager has unwittingly let smooth consulting firms get away with a much higher percentage than the going rate.

Not only are there lots of answers that should be provided to questions like these, there’s a clear need to see evidence of a real campaign to put education back in the hands of teachers who know far more about what today’s students need than do ideological politicians like Governor Otter and Superintendent Lunacy.

Chris Carlson is a former journalist and writer who lives in Medimont.

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Carlson Idaho

Book Review

God Gave Me a Mulligan: A Journalist’s Life in War and Peace, by A. Robert Smith (Punster Press, 2012)

Northwest political watchers who go back to the 70s, or further, will recall the name of A. Robert Smith, who covered the region for nearly three decades from the viewpoint of Washington, D.C. His is a story of a specific time and place; it would not be easy to replicate now.

Smith was a World War II vet (the book’s title derives mainly from a close call he had in the Pacific) unsure about what he wanted to do afterward, professionally. He became interested in journalism, drove to Washington D.C. to work for a while as a copyboy in one of that city’s now long-deceased papers, and then decided he wanted to become a Washington correspondent – cover Congress, attend White House briefings, break stories through the executive agencies. He didn’t go for it the usual way, which would have involved spending many years working his way up at one of the papers. His route, instead, was to go to one of the regions of the country where few of the newspapers had D.C. coverage other than the wire service (mostly, that is, Associated Press). That brought him to the Northwest, where he sold editors in the region – mainly Washington and Oregon (the Oregonian and the Eugene Register Guard among them) but a few in Idaho too, and also in Alaska, for which he covered the arrival of statehood – the idea of coverage tailored for their readers.

That meant Smith had essentially no preparation at all for taking on a major and highly complex journalistic assignment. Seemed not to matter. Through the 50s and 60s, his bureau grew in size. By the mid-seventies, as newspapers were swept into groups and the first of many rounds of cost-cutting began, the bureau began to struggle, and in 1978 Smith left for an editing job at a Virginia newspaper.

Before then, though, there were lots of stories, and Smithy tells quite a few in this memoir. Some of the best have to do with Senator Wayne Morse, the cantankerous Oregon liberal who was the subject of Smith’s first book (Tiger in the Senate), which resulted in getting Smith banned from his Senate office for several years. (For the second time.) He throws in descriptions of many of the other Northwest figures, and presidents, he ran into along the way. There is, in all, the sense of a fair-minded guy who knew how to cover a partisan community in a decent and civil manner. Today’s Washington press corps could do worse than to take heed.

Smith’s bureau was eventually sold to Steve Forrester, whose family owned (and still does) several Oregon newspapers, and it continued on for some years. At present, though, there’s no counterpart; probably the idea of making a living covering the Northwest for newspapers, once a viable business, is no longer practical. So much the worse for the Northwest.

But it was done once, and well. Large portions of Mulligan are simply personal (a well-told human story), but Northwesterners will find plenty of interest here.

(A small quibble: If he ever mentioned anywhere what the “A” stood for, I missed it.)

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Most of the United States – the lower 48 at least – is in drought, has been for many weeks, and various kinds of disaster loom in many places.

Idaho is luckier than most of the country. In this year of water trouble in many places, it has two advantages.

One is the part Idahoans have no control over. The Northwest generally got lucky this year, with decent winter snowpack and adequate spring rain, coupled with mostly (and relatively) moderately temperatures this summer. Most of the country wasn’t so fortunate.

The other part, which Idaho has been able to affect, is water management. And that may come into important play in the next few years if Idaho’s summers start to match more closely with the nation’s.

For all the rustic and rural feel of Idaho’s water system (it doesn’t seem especially high-tech), it is one of the most sophisticated water management systems in the country. It is thoroughly developed, both in close watch of the water supply and in overseeing how the water is used. Aquifers are not unusual underground water systems nationally, but Idaho’s seem to be better managed than most; aquifer recharge, to make up for normal drawdowns, is a significant part of water management in the Gem State. None of this is to suggest that Idaho’s system is perfect or that there aren’t any legitimate criticisms, but an Idahoan familiar with his state’s system would have some cause to look down on what many other states do.

The Snake River Basin Adjudication is a major part of that. The SRBA, now about 25 years old, may seem to many Idahoans an eternally running, neverending court case that achieves little. And they would be wrong. Most western states have adjudications. And generally, they have been running far longer than the SRBA and are nowhere near as close to completion, and that includes adjudications far smaller than the Snake River’s. (The SRBA is the largest water adjudication in the country.) Idaho probably stands as the nationwide leader in this area.

When the SRBA is done, water use for nearly all of Idaho will be codified, and people throughout the basin (which takes in 87 percent of the state) will know where they stand – how much water there is, and who gets to use how much and for what. That’s powerful knowledge.

Just how powerful could easily turn up, before long, in Idaho politics.

Idaho is becoming increasingly urban and especially suburban. Most of the water used in the state is used by irrigators, to water sometimes water-intensive crops in a near-desert climate. Up to this point, there’s been generally enough water to go around – mostly, and most of the time. But recent years have seen a series of water calls (insistence on delivery by senior water right holders) in agricultural areas. What happens when the water supply is stretched thinly enough that urban areas are told: Your junior water rights mean you may be cut off?

Things may not unfold quite that way. But a few more dry years and more urban population growth could put the long-running rural domination of much of Idaho politics to its most severe test.

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Idaho Idaho column

On Wednesday (August 15), the Idaho Board of Education went into an executive session, as it is allowed to do to discuss certain specific things permitted under Idaho law. The default for public meetings is open doors.

The general subject was fairly well known, and of statewide interest, especially to football fans. The University of Idaho was planning to realign its athletics participation in intercollegiate organizations. The details get complex, but the Idaho Statesman summarized, “Idaho plans to play as a Football Bowl Subdivision independent and join the Big Sky Conference in other sports.” None of that has been especially secret; shift alternatives have been discussed for a while now.

So the question – why did the Board of Education feel the need, or justify, a closed executive session?

A correspondent (hat tip here) notes the language on the board’s agenda papers:

EXECUTIVE SESSION (Closed to the Public)

University of Idaho
“2. I move to go into Executive Session pursuant to Idaho Code §67-2345(1)(d) and (e) – “To consider records that are exempt from disclosure as provided in chapter 3, title 9, Idaho Code; … and to consider preliminary negotiations involving matters of trade or commerce in which the governing body is in competition with governing bodies in other states or nations” [emphases added]

So that’s what our public institutions are explicitly doing: Athletics are trade or commerce, in competition with other states.

Okay. Just wanted to be clear about that.

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The excellent New York Times Five Thirty-Eight blog (there’s hardly any more fun reading for those into presidential political statistics) has a piece out on Oregon, taking a look at its presidential voting proclivities. And coming up with an interesting idea:

“Mr. Obama’s 16-percentage-point margin of victory in Oregon in 2008 was very much out of character for the state. It was the largest win there by a presidential candidate in more than four decades. In 2004, Senator John Kerry won Oregon by four percentage points. In 2000, Al Gore eked out a win there by less than 7,000 votes. Oregon’s electoral trajectory is actually very similar to the arc Wisconsin has followed. The two states both sit right on the cusp of competitive and safely Democratic states.”

That feels about right. The Obama 2008 numbers were unusual. And the Democratic lead in voter registration, massive in 2008, has retreated a bit since.

The idea isn’t that Republican Mitt Romney has a substantial chance of winning Oregon. (He hasn’t been contesting it, and neither has Barack Obama.) But the gap between the two, in a state where the legislature is almost perfectly split between the parties and the governor had an extremely tight contest in 2010, is apt to be smaller this time.

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

If the “lion of Idaho” was William E. Borah, Idaho’s most famous United States Senator, a strong case can be made that the “lioness of Idaho” has to be the late Louise Shadduck. Others will argue that the title should be bestowed on Verda Barnes.

Or, if one believes that a prerequisite for such a designation is to have held public office then Gracie Pfost has to be a leading candidate.

Louise who? Verda who? Gracie who?

Therein lies the challenge. Only a few political junkies or academics know who these three talented women were, each of whom had a profound influence on Idaho’s political life. Each deserves a biography, yet thus far, only two are in the works.

The case for Louise is the strongest. She was the first female executive assistant to any Idaho governor, but in her case because it was Idaho’s first post-war progressive governor, Dr. C.A. Robins (from St. Maries), Louise, by Doc Robins’ own admission, had a profound influence on the many progressive initiatives he undertook.

She then worked for Doc Robins’ two immediate successors, Len B. Jordan, and Robert E. Smylie. Smylie made her director of the department of commerce which she transformed into the aggressive state marketing agency it is today. She held sway there for 10 years.

Louise also served as chief of staff to Senator Henry Dworshak, and later held down a similar position with Second District congressman Orval Hansen.

Though she never held a elected office she wielded considerable influence from other posts such as president of the National Federation of Newspaper Women (She was a trained journalist who worked for both the Coeur d’ Alene Press and The Spokesman Review), and as the first director of what became the Idaho Forestry Association.

The key to her influence was not just smarts, but an incredible memory for names, unfailing courtesy and the sole of discretion. She knew everyone who was anyone. She jammed into one life a half dozen careers and could have retired at several points but chose to stay active in Republican affairs and the state’s affairs, as well as her beloved Coeur d’Alene, until the day she died at 93 years young.

And she kept writing, a number of interesting books on subjects ranging from a history of doctors in Idaho, to the history of the Caldwell rodeo to a biography on Andy Little, a turn of the century sheep and cattle baron in Idaho.

What few people know, save University of Idaho Dean Katherine Aiken, is that Louise did seek public office in 1956, taking on First District Congresswoman Gracie Pfost. It was the first time in the history of the Republic that two women were the party nominees in a congressional race.

In a column I wrote for the Lewiston Tribune in September, 1972, Louise told me: “I have no regrets. I learned more from that brief time than any other comparable period in my life. It was a good, clean campaign. Most of all, we proved that two women could run a credible campaign against each other.”

If elected office is a requirement, then hands down the lioness has to be Ms. Pfost. A smart, tough, hardworking county officer (deputy clerk, auditor, treasurer), she parlayed her knowledge of government and people into being Idaho’s first female member of Congress. She served ten years from 1952 to 1962, giving up her seat to run in the special election held to fill the seat of Senator Henry Dworshak who died in office. She narrowly lost to former Governor Len B. Jordan, 51 percent to 49 percent.

Following her defeat she accepted a position with the Kennedy Administration working in the Federal Housing agency. Sadly, she died prematurely at age 59 in 1965 at John Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore and is buried in Meridian.

A third solid contender for lioness has to be Frank Church’s long-time administrative assistant, Verda Barnes. Born in Utah but raised in St. Anthony, many Idaho political wonks feel with all due deference to both the skills and talents of Frank and Bethine, nonetheless it was the political acumen and an unerring sense of Idaho that Verda possessed which was the key to Church being the only Democrat ever re-elected to the Senate, which happened three times.

It is no coincidence either that Verda had passed away before the senator’s loss to Steve Symms in 1980. Verda deserves a biographer for of the three she is the least known. Dean Aiken is working on Ms. Pfosts’s biography and Louise’ former Pastor, Mike Bullard, is working on hers.

If someone steps forward to do Verda’s then perhaps it will be easier to award the “lioness” title. Even then my money will still be on Louise.

Chris Carlson is a writer and former press secretary to Governor Cecil Andrus. He lives in Medimont.

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Carlson Idaho

This is a case where a statement about issue stances really needs just a bit of context.

Back in February, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden was at a town hall meeting at Newberg, and was asked a critical question by a local Democratic leader. We described it:

The county Democratic chair said she’d been asked by a number of local Democrats about Wyden’s cooperative venture on health care policy with Republican Representative Paul Ryan; it sounded to many of them, she suggested, as if Wyden was giving up ground on the health care fight. Wyden’s response was that he wasn’t, that the effort with Ryan was very preliminary, far from the point of drafting a bill, at more an exploratory point, to find out what ideas they might have in common. He cited a few but suggested that the conversation is only in early stages.

The news reports suggesting the two had cooked up a major new piece of legislation were heavily overblown, he said. And he has stuck with that description since.

When Paul Ryan joined the Republican ticket as vice presidential nominee, his backers were eager to position him as someone willing to work with Democrats – and so the notion of a Ryan-Wyden health bill resurfaced. it resurfaced last weekend, and seems to refuse to die.

Wyden got pretty explicit again about the situation in his recent statement on presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s description of the situation: “Gov. Romney is talking nonsense. Bipartisanship requires that you not make up the facts. I did not ‘co-lead a piece of legislation.’ I wrote a policy paper on options for Medicare. Several months after the paper came out, I spoke and voted against the Medicare provisions in the Ryan budget.”

The added bit of context here is that, for someone ordinarily as determined to work cooperatively and be (genuinely) bipartisan, this amounts to a nuclear explosion. What will it do to Wyden’s efforts, which have run across decades, to reach out across the aisle?

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