There’s an interesting political experiment underway in Idaho’s new, sprawling 7th Legislative District that encompasses all of Idaho, Clearwater, and Shoshone counties and a slice of southeastern Bonner county.
The "incumbent" in the state senate race is Sheryl Nuxoll, an accountant and farmer/rancher who hails from Cottonwood. As the Republican she has to be considered the favorite even though some consider her to be a single issue candidate. She has long been active in Idaho’s "Life" movement.
Given how conservative Idaho County is, and how Catholic the Cottonwood/Greencreek area is her strong stance is a decided, perhaps even decisive, plus.
Her opposition is a popular and talented three term Shoshone County commissioner, Jon Cantamessa, who runs a family grocery business in Wallace. What makes this race a political experiment is Cantamessa is running as an Independent. According to Idaho’s chief election officer, Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, an independent has never been elected to the Idaho Legislature.
When the personable 60-year-old Idaho native first ran for the county commission he did run as an Independent. In his case, then, there is a precedent for such a move. In his two subsequent races though he ran as a "business Democrat" and deliberately identified himself with Benewah County’s long-serving conservative Democrat commissioner, Jack Buell, who is also a good friend.
Cantamessa recognizes that there is a significant challenge to running as an Independent inasmuch as it invites suspicions from partisans of both parties and ensures there is no party organization of any kind to provide support. Nonetheless, he candidly concedes that in trying to introduce himself to folks in Clearwater, Idaho and Bonner counties who have never heard of him, if there were a "D" behind his name, many voters would go no further.
Cantamessa is clearly what former four-term Idaho Governor Cecil D. Andrus would call a "lunch-bucket" Democrat, one who knows the importance of having an economy that creates jobs and keeps growing. He also knows resource conversion, turning minerals into metals for use in computers, trees into lumber for houses, and wheat into flour for bread is what brings new dollars into an economy.
Thus his candidacy is built around economic issues in contradistinction to Nuxoll who he correctly characterizes as being more involved with the social issue of abortion than the economic challenges facing the constituency.
He knows though that in today’s Idaho too many voters associate the word "Democrat" with liberalism and environmentalism.
Explaining why he is neither would constantly have him off message in regards to why he seeks the senate seat. (more…)