Writings and observations

stapilus
Randy Stapilus
View from Here

Every presidential election year, seemingly, is the most important election of our lifetimes. So we often heard this time. And this time, it wasn’t true.

This was a confirmation election. The nation is gradually setting off on a course originally charted in 2008.

Some of my view on this grew out of reading Kevin Phillips, who became well known among politics watchers more than 40 years ago for his book prescient The Emerging Republican Majority. In it, he argued that as the 1932 election marked a political and philosophical turnaround in American politics, bringing in not just overall Democratic dominance but an ascendant New Deal and liberal tilt to politics generally, so was 1968, albeit in more subtle ways, a pivotal year. With hindsight, you can that Phillips was clearly correct. A new Republican coalition, with social (sometimes religious), economic and other components, enough to win national elections, was forming. By the mid-60s the forms of liberalism started in the 30s were reaching political exhaustion – going as far, at least, as most people in the country would want them to go – and a reaction to that, an alternative view of politics, policy and government, set in. The most immediately visible and obvious result of that was the flip of the South from Democratic to Republican, a move starting in 1968 and confirmed in the 1972 Nixon landslide. The old South has been mostly Republican since.

And politics for many years after had a Republican tilt, extending and growing over time. It was not a totally smooth or uninterrupted extension. Watergate led to Democratic wins in Congress in 1974 and the presidency in 1976, and the Clinton presidency came during that period too. But even Clinton famously declared that the era of big government was over. The idea of small government and balancing the budget (even during periods which neither happened, even during times of unified Republican control) took off as a major philosophical point. The weight of political discourse had changed.

Over time, the Republican and “conservative” (it should be referred to in quotes) dominance began to grow, change and extend. To be a conservative Republican in Congress, one of the dominant members in the Republican-led House, for example, is a very different thing than it was in the 80s or even the 90s. It has become a lot different, traveled a long way from conservative Republicanism as it was in 1968 or 1972. It has drifted to where its policy points, one by one, are broadly unpopular. And it has allowed Democrats and President Obama to run as simply supporting the idea of community, something considered broadly mainstream not long ago.

In 2008, a new coalition capable of winning national elections was emerging out of this. That coalition, which includes many of the fastest-growing parts of American society (most famously in recent months the Latino vote, but other components as well), is now a functional basis for a long-running coalition that can take Democrats and liberals to wins for quite a few election cycles to run, as long as the Republican coalition remains in the pattern started in 1968. Younger voters are more Democratic and more conventionally liberal. The existing Republican coalition is in numerical decline. It will continue to decline over the next decade.

The 2008 election demonstrated this and marked a break. 2010 was a reaction to that – no major change in American history has ever come without a significant reaction in opposition. But 2012 reinforced the larger trend line.

What does this translate to? It doesn’t necessarily mean, and probably doesn’t, the reinstallation of the New Deal approach to the world. Times change and new approaches are needed. The new Democratic or liberal world view hasn’t fully cohered yet (though it seems to be on its way), and we don’t yet know where it may lead over the next decade or two. Nor does this suggest that Republicans ought to give up their core principles – they won’t succeed by becoming faux Democrats (as Democrats have never had lasting or broad success by becoming faux Republicans). But some major rethinking (not simply “rebranding” or less incendiary rhetoric) will be needed before serious rebuilding can begin.

In any event, the news out of this election is that we’ve entered a new era. The conversations are going to be different. Ways of looking at our society are going to change. And the last two presidential election years have pointed the course.

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Stapilus

carlson
Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Allow me some comments on the future of football at Idaho and Idaho State.

#1: Both Athletic Directors, Idaho’s Rob Spear and ISU’s Jeff Tingey, need to take media training refresher courses. When confronted by a crisis the first rule is to gather the facts quickly, then go public with the bad news because that allows you to frame the matter.

So, Jeff sits on the Coach Kramer shoving incident for a good two weeks, creating the impression he was hoping it would go away and the university could deal with it as a private personnel matter. When taxpayer dollars are involved there is no such thing.

But at least Jeff was finally forthcoming about what he knew win and how he checked it out. The subsequent suspension of the player involved should not surprise anyone.

Rob Spear, his hands tied by President Duane Nellis and advisers, all of whom defer too often to the lawyers, has been bobbing and weaving not being allowed to tell the full story yet about why Coach Robb Akey was let go in the middle of the football season. Its become apparent that when Rob got the news Idaho’s talented quarterback had failed a drug test for the third time this season (according to the Spokesman-Review) he had to deliver on a probable ultimatum he’d made earlier to Coach Akey.

An educated guess is the qb flunked his first drug test for which he was punished by being held out of Idaho’s first game against Big Sky power Eastern Washington. Presumably there was a second test he failed and at that point Spear must have said something like “one more time Akey and you’re both gone!” Then one more time happened.

Rob should have and could have addressed all of this at the time he announced Coach Akey’s firing. My educated guess is he was not permitted to lay it all out by the coterie of sycophants that surround the President. The result is of course his credibility is badly compromised with the media, not Nellis’, nor executive vice president Chris Murray’s.

This is unfortunate because Spear is a good man doing as well as anyone could under next to impossible circumstances. He deserves better.
#2: Tingey and ISU President Arthur Vailis ought to stick with Coach Kramer. Anyone who looks at the YouTube footage is amazed the wide receiver so easily fell backwards. One wag said after watching it, “no wonder ISU is losing games so badly. They all must be easy push-over pussy cats!”

Give Kramer the five years a salvage operation like ISU’s program is and that it will take to turn it around.

Spear has a tougher decision in that he has to recommend a successor. Rumors abound that former coach Chris Tormey wants his job back, but that would be a mistake. Why? Because it signals to fans and media that Idaho is trying to remain an FBS independent without belonging to a conference.
There’s no way Idaho can succeed at this. Football is all about generating cash that underwrites other collegiate sports. Idaho lacks the critical element – a sufficiently large media market that it dominates and advertisers who will pay to have ads viewed by a tuned in television audience.

When it comes to football, Idaho will forever be #3 in the Spokane media market, behind WSU and EWU, and Gonzaga and WSU, in basketball. In Boise, it will always be #2 to Boise State. The only way it starts back is dropping down to the FCS where ISU is and resuming its rivalry with ISU and the University of Montana.

If Spear realizes it’s not too late to bring football back to the Big Sky (where next year Idaho joins in all other sports) then there’s only one coach he should be pursuing: Carroll College’s Mike van Diest, one of the NAIA’s most successful coaches ever. He’s only won six of the last 12 national championships.

Van Diest recruits for character, and is a magician at getting the most out of his limited in God-given talent athletes. He knows the recruiting area well, and he knows how to win. Earlier this season he took Carroll to Portland to play the Big Sky’s Portland State. They lost but outgained and outplayed the Big Sky team. That’s just the product of great coaching.
I’ll wager anyone that Carroll will have done better than ISU has when they meet later this year. So, go Vandals – to the Big Sky and go get Mike van Diest.

And go Bengals, but if you want to win let Kramer build the base necessary and give him the time he needs and deserves.

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Carlson Idaho

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

Here, midst the coast-to-coast litter left by our most recent political campaign, we need to look around and consider what $4 billion spent on presidential and congressional battles-for-ballots bought us. And that dollar figure – compiled by the Associated Press – is only good through last week.

If you look just at the presidency and the breakdown of which party won/lost what in the congress, it appears the answer to the money question is “not much.” For me, other factors – truths – make the outcome far different.

Nationally, the Republican Party took a shellacking. Period. Not so much in who won or lost but by how they won or lost. NBC’s Chuck Todd called it “a demographic time bomb that had been ticking and finally blew up in Republican faces.” Nobody has said it better.

Consider this one set of statistics. The white portion of the electorate dropped to 72% and Pres. Obama got only 39% of that. But – he got 93% of black voters (13% of the electorate), 71% of Latinos (10% of the electorate) and 73% of Asians (another 3%). Young voters were 19% of the electorate, up from 18% in 2008. Obama got 60%.

Romney lost because the Republican Party lost on demographics. More than any other factor, his defeat came because the relevance of his own political party base is diminishing. And will continue to do so as long as those in party control remain the same ideologues. The electorate is becoming less white, younger and more racially and ethnically diverse. That’s pure fact and it’s never going to be what it was just a year or two ago.

And there as this. The suicidal Tea Party affect. The GOP has been changed at its base by a minority of voices more intent on some sort of political “purity” than promoting candidates with broad voter appeal. They run things. One of those suicidal cases happened on my own ballot.
Our county in Southwest Oregon is one of 18 offered a federal “tit” years ago. The feds created a temporary program of paying millions of dollars annually to those counties because federal ownership of forests in the area meant less trees available for private harvesting. There are other definitions but that’s about it. Rather than remember the word “temporary,” most counties added the fed dollars to budgets and kept spending ‘em. Ours was one of the few that banked some as a future hedge. When the feds ended the program a couple of years back, the results were devastating.

We have a little fella in Congress named DeFazio. Been there about 25 years. Has a real short fuse. While he and I’ve a testy relationship, I give him credit for “bringing home the bacon.” DeFazio, a couple other Democrats and a Republican wrote a federal subsidy program extension and – against very, very long odds – shoved it through a gridlocked congress. He got the local backs away from the local wall. For now.

So, how did we thank him? Well, voters in our little blood red county voted – twice – to replace him. Last time just this week. To replace him with the least qualified candidate for public office I’ve seen in my long lifetime. A guy with an oft-demonstrated ignorance of politics; who sees conspiracies behind each of our many trees; who attacks before thinking; would end public education, Social Security and Medicare. A guy so lacking in political skills and bipartisan thinking he couldn’t find a rock in a quarry.

Fortunately, voters in more thoughtful – and appreciative – counties in our congressional district said “thank you” to DeFazio and “no thank you” to the troll.

Therein lies living proof why the GOP is becoming irrelevant. Indeed, given the results of our most recent national election, it may already be. Our nation – and therefore the electorate – is no longer white-Christian-male dominated or terribly conservative. The difference between where we live in our “little-burg-in-the-trees” and where the demographics of this nation have moved is just as stark as that.

Go back to those presidential race statistics. More than 85% of Romney’s vote came from whites. Obama’s 56%. So how did an incumbent president win against high unemployment, a wheezing economy and deeply motivated opposition? Simple. His team read the current demographic makeup of the nation and created a campaign to take full advantage of what Republicans couldn’t reach. The new electorate as it is now. As it will continue to be.

That $4 billion didn’t buy much in Congress. Resident numbers in January won’t change much from today. But, if Republican leadership reads the electoral tea leaves accurately, the President will have stronger hand. While not having a mandate, Congress has been told loud and clear to stop the obstructionist behavior and get to work solving things. That’s where the President will get his strength. He’s got four more years. But members of the House have only two. Given the voter message to “play nice,” and given the declining relevance of the Republican Party as demonstrated in the election, the knuckle draggers could well be gone in 24 months.

In the next 60 days, a debt ceiling increase, crippling budget cuts through sequestration and similar issues that previously brought gridlock will be on the table. Action – immediate action – will be absolutely necessary. If Republicans walk through that mine field with the same heavy steps they’ve used previously, they do so at great career peril.

And just from my own “To Do List,” here are a two tasks at the top. When the next Congress meets in January, Senate Democrats must – MUST – amend the filibuster procedure. Only the majority party can. Either get rid of the practice or enforce the rule that anyone using it will have to stay on the floor – continuously speaking – as was the original intent. The Senate must get back to “majority rule” at 51 votes. Must!

My second item concerns “Citizens United” – the wrongheaded U.S. Supreme Court decision granting corporations the rights of “personhood” and, thus, unlimited financial access to our political process. Corporations, unions and any other entity allowed unfettered, massive financial meddling in our elections must be stopped. Congress must come up with a legislative product that will stand a constitutional test. While there is little evidence the massive amounts poured into the just-completed election drastically change outcomes, even if one race was affected, it was one race too many. Left unchecked, the theocratic billionaires will eventually bend the system their way. That must not happen!

Others will come up with their own lists – their own summaries of what we’ve just been through. Most worth reading. Most worth hearing. But it’s Republicans who need to closely read. And Republicans who need to closely listen. Because if the Party continues its present course, Republican influence in our national affairs will become more and more irrelevant. And that’s not good.

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Rainey

If you have any interest in Idaho results, by all means go to the excellent Ada County clerk’s mapped results page.

It has a very easy tool for checking the results precinct by precinct. It says a lot very efficiently.

In Idaho, Tuesday was generally a good day for incumbency – which with rare exceptions meant good news for Republicans.

Best news for Democrats: Roaring back in the southeast Boise District 18, resuming control of all three seats there, which they had before two were unseated in 2010. (Both of those winning Republicans in 2010 were ousted.)

Worst news for Democrats: Two strong efforts in the west Boise District 15, for the Senate and one of the House seats (and the other House race wasn’t bad, either), fell short.

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Idaho

Scanning across Washington and Oregon, there’s really not much for Democrats not to like about tonight’s returns.

Democrats won just about everything in sight that was realistically up for grabs.

The big one, of course, was the Washington gubernatorial. Democrat Jay Inslee sits at 51.7% over Republican Rob McKenna, in a race a lot of people saw as a jump ball – and more than a few thought would edge to McKenna. The counting isn’t over, of course, but what’s left – a large chunk in Democratic King County – is more likely to pad Inslee’s margin than to subtract from it.

That one could have gone either way. So could Washington’s 1st district, a territory closely split between the parties with – it seemed to us – maybe a slight Republican lean. The Republican nominee, John Koster, was experienced and well-known, and has won elections in the past. But it appears to have gone, and not by a slight margin, to Democrat Suzan DelBene. (Turns out that de facto Democratic nomination really was worth fighting over.) Two other open seats, in the 6th (Derek Kilmer) and the (new) 10th (Denny Heck), went easily and as predicted to the Democrats.

The major really close race seems to be secretary of state, long in Republican hands, and at the moment there’s a very slight Democratic lead.

Less was on the table in Oregon, but Democrats seeking to hold secretary of state (where a really serious race developed, with the Republican getting newspaper endorsements almost uniformily around the state), treasurer and attorney general all were ahead convincingly. So was Brad Avakian, re-elected in a non-partisan race – theoretically – in which he was the understood Democrat and his opponent Bruce Starr the understood Republican. (Both have been elected as legislators under those parties’ banners.)

The major question remaining in Washington and Oregon has to do with the legislative makeup – Oregon’s in particular is on the edge. More on that later. But the toplines look very favorable for Democrats – close to a mirror of 2008 and a reversal from 2010.

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Oregon Washington

As of 8 pst.

Some thoughts on this – coming at just about the time President Obama seems to be nailing down 270+ to win a second term – as the numbers come in int he next little bit.

Update 8:17 p.m. Okay, I’ll go ahead and say it: With Colorado and Iowa called by major media, if the west coast (including Idaho) goes as expected, Obama has been re-elected. Whatever Ohio, Virginia and Florida do.

BTW, on the Huffington Post electoral map, that site just declared Obama as the winner with 275 (so far) electoral votes – kicked over the line by the addition of Oregon’s seven electoral votes, just added to the blue column.

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Northwest

Not always is the Idaho Student Mock Election, whose results were released today, predictive of Idaho state results. But a particular variation in this one make it worth watching.

At the top of the ballot, the Idaho students chose Republicans Mitt Romney for president and Raul Labrador for U.S. representative in the 1st district, and Mike Simpson in the second. That’s certainly in line with what the state is likely to do tomorrow, though the margins were closer than the real election’s likely will be.

Having said that, there’s this: The students voted overwhelmingly against the “Luna laws,” the three referenda (1, 2 and 3) which would sustain them or reject them. The students’ margins on them were not close, about three to one in opposition to each. They defeated #3, for example, by 324-1,363.

What will the statewide voters do tomorrow?

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Idaho

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

In the 1950′s, three governors stood on the steps of Southern public educational institutions in their states, attempting to block African American students from attending. Flash forward 50 years or so and it’s Florida Gov. Rick Scott standing between Floridians and their polling places to stop them from exercising another guaranteed right of citizenship – the vote.

Our most basic freedom – the right to cast a ballot to determine our choice of government – has been under attack this year by Republican legislatures and Republican governors as never before. It’s been totally a Republican Party drive.

And before one of my elephant-loving friends rises in defense of these elected law breakers, he/she better be holding in his/her hand an concrete example of a Democrat-sponsored effort to participate in this despicable enterprise. Go ahead. I’ll wait. ‘Cause it won’t happen.

Republicans in at least seven states have undertaken various approaches to denying Americans their rightful place at the ballot box. When the efforts were taken to the courts, all were stopped but one. And that one – upheld by a Republican-appointed judge in Pennsylvania – was reversed on appeal. These were just the ones that got through the legislative process. In more than half-a-dozen other states, the Republican-backed treachery was stopped before getting out of the chambers.

In Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio, Republican Secretaries of State have also tried to separate voters from the franchise. One fired Democrats on Ohio’s voting commission when they opposed his illegal restrictions. All three made drastic cuts in early voting hours, days and polling places. All have sponsored official web sites with wrong voting data about polling places, dates of the election, hours of operation and “official” telephone numbers for voting information that were either unanswered or led to automated messages containing similar bogus data.

In two states, billboards were placed along highways that contained phony information – such as photo identification being required to vote- even after courts had struck down the illegal requirement. Official mailings were sent out in three states with dates to vote listed that were two days after the election. In one case, the voting information was only wrong – in Spanish.
Is this a full Republican Party press to violate constitutional rights of citizens? No. Thank God, no. In Florida and Ohio, several Republican county officials refused to comply with state orders to cut days, hours or otherwise impede voters. They were threatened but held their ground.

But what we’re seeing played out here is – in my view – a symptom of the internecine battle to come within the Republican Party following this week’s election. There are Republicans – God love ‘em – many Republicans who’re just as disgusted and embarrassed about this destructiveness as the rest of us. They are seeing the rotten fruits of the labors of zealots and ideologues who control the Party from precinct level to national offices.

Real traditional Republicans – the majority wanting a healthy, active two-party system – are faced with one of three tough choices. The first is to take back the party. But the miscreants who have power now started their drive in the late 1960′s at the precinct level and have slavishly worked for control for nearly 50 years. They aren’t about to give up what they have. Anyone who wants to purge them will have to undertake a similarly long-view approach and that isn’t likely.

The second option is to leave the party to the rabble and become Democrats. That doesn’t seem likely, either, because the fastest growing voting group right now is the unaffiliated – that large, amorphous group that’s becoming more important to which party wins any given election. But if Independents really become the determinative factor with winners and losers, we actually will become a three party system.

The third obvious choice is to form a third major party. While doing so would still seem unlikely, widely circulated leading Republican endorsements of sitting Democrats are becoming more frequent. The Colin Powells of this world are obviously fed up with their own Party’s behavior. More voices of national Republican officeholders seeking sanity in the ranks are being heard. Some very responsible GOP members of Congress have surrendered their seats while denouncing the extreme partisanship and gridlock extant in national politics today. Their chorus is growing.

The Republican Party is coming to a crossroad. The paths offered appear to be those of the governmentally-ignorant, ideological purists who will accept nothing less than their twisted views of the world or the rational, thrift-loving, responsible conservative and honorable opposition of the GOP past. Internal pressures are building and the current course of irresponsible and often politically destructive behavior cannot continue if we are to have a functioning system of governance.

Exhibit number one of the latter behavior is surely Rick Scott. His misuse of electoral power in denying the guaranteed right of polling access to citizens of Florida must be checked. Either in the courts today or at those very same polling places two years hence.

Exhibit number two is the totality of those other governors and legislatures who have conspired to disenfranchise Americans in their states. So far, the only protective balance there’s been is the willingness of the judicial system to throw the illegal, partisan garbage out the window. When they’re asked.
Then consider the irony of the determined, very positive efforts of a lone Republican voice of reason against this tide of GOP polling place denial. Gov. Christie in New Jersey. Not only will there be no effort to impede voters, there’ll be portable polling places on trucks. Or voters can cast a ballot by email or fax.

I believe the ballot is like a single brick placed in the hands of Americans. With the proper use of each one, we can construct the institutions we chose to govern and protect us from anarchy. That masonry, when used properly, makes us strong.

But in the hands of the Rick Scotts of the world – as they were in the hands of those three governors more than 50 years ago – those building blocks can be used to construct obstacles between us and our governing system. We’ve not accepted those attempts in the past. We must not do so again.

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Rainey

In the last Idaho column I noted that I didn’t know much about A.L. Freehafer, the last person elected (in 1928) to the Idaho legislature as an independent, other than that he was later (in 1930) elected as a Democrat, and had served in the legislature some years before as well.

Turns out that Freehafer has some family members who became considerably better known around the state than he was: His grandson was former U.S. Senator James McClure. The senator’s son, Boise attorney Ken McClure, sent a note this morning on Freehafer, filling in some of the background about him:

I know a fair amount about A. L. Freehafer. Nice to read about him. He was my great-grandfather. Albertus Leroy. The source of Dad’s “James Albertus.” He actually served in the Senate from three different counties He lived in Council, and was elected in 1908 to represent Washington County in the Senate. In 1909 he carried the bill that created Adams County (split off from Washington County) and then was elected to represent Adams County. He left the Senate to serve on the (I believe first) PUC in 1913 if memory serves. After that service concluded he later moved to Payette County (to be nearer my grandmother and her husband and to practice law in that growing metropolis) where he later was elected to the Senate.

A.L. was a lawyer who “read the law” instead of going to law school. He and my grandfather, W. R. McClure, practiced law together in Council after my Grandfather graduated from the U of I Law School in 1920 (following a stint in the army air corps in WWI) until my grandfather moved to Payette in 1924, just a few months before my father was born. After that, A. L. practiced in Council for a couple years with Roger Swanstrom’s father (or perhaps grandfather, I don’t recall, I do recall that his nickname was “Too Tall Swanstrom” since he was tall, just like Roger) until he moved to Payette. He may have run as an independent in 1928 but he was a Democrat, particularly after Roosevelt was elected. I had always assumed he had run as a Democrat in Washington and Adams Counties, but I guess I don’t know for sure. I need to find out. Thanks for the article. It gives me a bit of research to do.

Thanks: Illuminating a whole section of Idaho politics and law.

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Idaho

idahocolumnn

In 1928, a man named A.L. Freehafer was elected to the Senate from Payette County. (Back then each county elected a senator and at least one representative.) We don’t know much about him, but we do know that he had served a couple of terms two decades previous, and one more after the election of 1930.

We also know this: He was elected in 1928 as an independent, not as a member of any party. That is a rarity in Idaho. Every Idaho legislator elected in the years since, including Freehafer himself in 1930 (as a Democrat), has been elected either as a Republican or a Democrat.

Such are the odds for any candidate choosing not to run under the umbrella of one or the other. Usually, non-major party candidates aren’t a big deal in terms of the vote count, picking up a sliver of the vote. If a major party candidate isn’t opposed by the other major party, a third-party or independent candidate might collect a quarter or even more of the vote. But close calls have been almost nonexistent.

But before we cross to the far side of election day, take note of a legislative race that’s not on most radar screens, and after the fact might or might not be of interest. On election night, cast a glance over to District 7 and the Senate contest between Republican Sheryl Nuxoll, of Cottonwood, and independent Jon Cantamessa, of Wallace.

Those candidate addresses give you a sense of the size of this district: Immense, from the outskirts of Sandpoint down to where northern becomes southern Idaho. It is also hard to get around, since so much of it is in backcountry with winding highways, if those. Newly created this decade, it will be a hard district to represent.

The more or less incumbent – she current is a senator – is Nuxoll, now wrapping up her first term. In 2010 she defeated an incumbent Republican in the primary and easily won in the general in her old district, which takes in much of the southern part of the new one. She is well positioned in the Idaho County and Clearwater County communities, with deep family and other connections. She has made a few missteps as well, though, such as sending campaign-like mailers on the state dime to not just current constituents, but to people in the northern part of the newly-formed district.

Cantamessa has his base of strength too, in the northern part of the district; he has been a Shoshone County commissioner (his brother is running to replace him), and has been involved with a mass of regional organizations. His family has operated a grocery at Wallace since 1925.

Like Freehafer, Cantamessa has some background with major parties. When he was elected to the Shoshone commission in 2004, he ran as an independent against both a Republican and a Democrat. Seeking re-election in 2006 and 2010, though, he did so as a Democrat. But he has picked up support from other quarters. His web site carries endorsements from Phillips Baker, CEO of Hecla Mining and Republican Senator Joyce Broadsword (she’s not on the ballot this year), whose district is close by.

District 7 is Republican territory, and Nuxoll may win easily. But this is an unusual case, and Cantamessa a more-advantaged candidate than usually runs as an independent. Keep a watch here for an indicator of how well, or not, an independent candidate for the Idaho Legislature can do.

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Idaho Idaho column