Writings and observations

malloy CHUCK

In Idaho

Opposition to Obamacare and Common Core are two of the hooks Sen. Russ Fulcher has used to attract conservative voters in May’s gubernatorial primary race. But he says the “fun part” of his challenge to Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter is discussing his vision for the state, which goes beyond ideology.

He’s thinking big and dreaming even bigger. As he sees it, Idaho is sitting on a gold mine of untapped wealth and prosperity – the kind that could put Idaho on the same economic path as North Dakota, Wyoming and other energy exporters that have bulging state revenues.

“It’s a game changer,” he said. “Washington and Payette counties have natural gas that is pure and plentiful, and a lot of it is on private land. We haven’t done anything with the resources we have, but we know they are there. There’s no reason why Idaho can’t be powered with Idaho’s natural gas and generate all of the benefits that come with it.”

He says that the natural gas could be harvested with little, if any, environmental impact and no fracking.
The holdup, he said, is with the state – not the federal government. “It’s the state that’s putting up hurdles in front of private individuals who want to develop this resource.”

Fulcher says that, as governor, he would provide the leadership to open the doors to a new industry and a new era of prosperity. “It’s a matter of getting with the Department of lands and saying, ‘here’s your charter: Knock down those hurdles and let’s get this thing cranking.’”

North Dakota, with its explosive growth, might not be such an attractive role model. But at least, Fulcher is talking and thinking beyond business as usual. It’s far more interesting than Otter’s bit part in a low-budget movie more than 20 years ago.

Fulcher has plenty to say about Otter – and not about movies.

“When I am talking with people at town hall meetings, I am hard pressed to find anyone who can identify a significant act the governor has led, other than the Obamacare health exchange – which is a bad accomplishment in my opinion,” he said. “From a personal standpoint, I have been in leadership for six of my 10 years here, so I am reasonably close to the governor’s office. There is no agenda, no direction and no major initiatives coming from the governor’s office. If you ask any legislator what his vision is for this state, I don’t think any of them could answer that. I don’t know what his vision is for the state, and I don’t know if the governor knows.”

Fulcher has thoughts on a host of other issues, including health care, education, public lands and wage issues. He says he’s getting favorable feedback on the campaign trail, but the news media have hardly noticed. With about two months before the primary election, he’s had one sit-down interview with a political reporter; that was with me last week, and I don’t do this for a living any more). Fulcher has had no meetings, nor invitations, with newspaper editorial boards. Town hall meetings in Coeur d’Alene and Nampa were not covered by the press; the Twin Falls paper ran only a photo and caption after his visit there. The Lewiston Tribune covered a recent town hall meeting in that city.

Randy Stapilus, longtime political reporter and colleague, suspects that reporters are waiting until the end of the legislative session before diving into the political races. “I might be overly generous in saying this,” he said.

I’m not as optimistic. Fulcher might meet with a few editorial boards, but much of the reporting will be confined to candidate surveys. In Idaho, there is not an abundance of reporters and editorial writers who have a grasp of the candidates, their personalities and the issues.

That’s too bad, because this is one primary race that deserves far more attention than it is getting.

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Idaho Malloy

carlson CHRIS


There’s an old saying that politics is a disease cured only by six feet of dirt. It seems especially true for those who have served in high public office, even those who fulfill the classic prediction that headlined an article written in the 1950s by Oregon Senator Richard Neuberger for The Saturday Evening Post: “They Never Go Back to Pocatello!”

Even those who stay inside the beltway to become high-paid lobbyists will sometimes forsake money because they miss the subliminal joy derived from the exercise of power, and the deference received from those courting their favor.

The itch to serve by a former holder of high office saw its latest manifestation on the last day for filing in Idaho on March 14th. Former Second District congressman Richard Stallings (1984-1992), the only Democrat to hold the seat in recent years, filed to reclaim his old job—again.

The now 73-year-old former history professor at BYU-Idaho attempted to move from the House to the Senate in 1992, but lost to the non-Mormon Republican, then Boise Mayor Dirk Kempthorne, by a 57% to 43% margin. Kempthorne’s victory largely lay to rest the false notion that a good Mormon Democrat would draw better in Idaho’s Mormon counties than a non-Mormon Republican.

Stallings wisely chose not to challenge the hugely popular Mike Crapo, a former Senate Pro Tempore and a successful Idaho Falls attorney, who easily won the Stallings-held seat in 1992. However, when after one term in the Senate, Kempthorne decided he would rather be governor, Stallings thought he had a fairly clear path for returning. Unfortunately for Richard, he ended up facing the talented Speaker of the Idaho House, Blackfoot dentist Mike Simpson. Richard went down to defeat by a narrow 52% to 48% margin.

Simpson has held the seat ever since and will be seeking his ninth term in November if he can dispatch Tea-bag Idaho Falls Republican attorney Bryan Smith who is mounting a serious challenge that will be decided in the May primary.

Some speculate that Stallings is a mere “placeholder.” They think he will be passive until the outcome of the primary is known. Those in his camp say if Smith upsets Simpson, Stallings will remain on the ballot and expect that many independents as well as Simpson Republicans will rally around his name in November.

If Simpson wins, then Stallings will withdraw and hope the party can come up with someone else.

An ironic footnote is that those who have held Idaho’s 2nd District have almost all belied Neuberger’s famous saying, and a majority has returned to Pocatello:

Ralph Harding Democrat 1960 to 1964 Returned to Blackfoot
George Hansen Republican 1964 to 1968 Returned to Pocatello
Orval Hansen Republican 1968 to 1974 Stayed in D.C. area
George Hansen Republican 1974 to 1984 Returned to Pocatello
Richard Stallings Democrat 1984 to 1992 Returned to Pocatello
Mike Crapo Republican 1992 to 1998 Moved to the Senate
Mike Simpson Republican 1998 to ? Incumbent

They do go back to Pocatello, after all!

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Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

New plans for Boise parcel near JuMP (Boise Statesman)
UI will get massive supercomputer (Lewiston Tribune)
Survival rates for wolf pups reviewed (TF Times News)

Ashland council holds session on guns (Medford Tribune, Ashland Tidings)
Shakespeare Festival 2015 lineup announced (Ashland Tidings)
Phoenix petition would delay pot shop (Medford Tribune)
Republicans hope for Portland gains (Portland Oregonian)

New Mukilteo mayor cuts city jobs (Everett Herald)
About two departing legislators, Hope, Roberts (Everett Herald)
About the growing diversity in Bellevue (Seattle Times)
Challenges facing pot businesses (Tacoma News Tribune)
MultiCare Health sued over medical liens (Tacoma News Tribune)
Legislature owes court a school report (Vancouver Columbian)
Common core trial tests next week (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take