"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.

The siren call

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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