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The crystal ball

carlson CHRIS


A conservative friend has challenged me to predict the outcome of the major Republican primary races, and “to say something nice about the projected winners.” Hokey dokey. Here goes.

Prognosticating a “closed” primary is difficult because no one can say with certainty who will actually vote. A poll may show one person far ahead, but if the expected winner has not mobilized his or her supporters to vote an underdog who has could surprise.

Governor: Butch Otter easily turns back the challenge mounted by State Senator Russ Fulcher of Meridian. The margin will be 60/40. While many Republicans are hard pressed to say what the governor has done to merit a third term and share my dismay at the evisceration of public school funding that has happened on his watch, they cannot buy Fulcher’s Tea Party beliefs nor the absurd Republican platform. Butch is one of the most personable people one will ever meet which causes many to overlook his managerial shortcomings and his ideology. He will also benefit from a well-organized but little publicized effort by mainstream Republicans to regain control over the GOP’s apparatus as testified to by precinct committee races across the state.

Boise school board president and businessman A.J. Bulakoff easily wins the Democratic nomination. To win in the fall he will have to dip into his considerable fortune and spend several million dollars informing Idahoans who he is, his far better support for education, and why he can do a better job than Governor Otter. If he doesn’t spend at least $4 million in his campaign, he will lose.

Lt. Governor. Brad Little turns back Tea Party candidate Jim Chmelik and likewise in November rolls over former Pocatello State Senator Bart Marley. Little is the most qualified persons currently in Idaho to be governor and Butch should have retired and let Brad assume the mantle. Thoughtful, intelligent, practical, a problem-solver who is not driven by ideology, he is one of the few public servants I know in whom one can safely posit trust.

Attorney General: If Tea Party challenger Chris Troupis has any political moxie he could make this a closer race than it should be. His “discovery” of an amicus brief in a gun control lawsuit filed by a Wasden subordinate which slipped by Attorney General Lawrence Wasden temporarily aligned Idaho with the “government ought to do more to restrict the sale of firearms” crowd led by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. While the brief was quickly withdrawn, the AG said nary a word hoping that it would go unnoticed, which it did for six years. Wasden’s mishandling of this creates an opening that if Troupis exploits with any skill could make his challenge more viable. My guess is Wasden will be forgiven by voters who even know about this and that his solid record and non-partisan approach to his duties will see him safely re-elected.

Secretary of State: If current Secretary of State Ben Ysursa and former Governor Phil Batt say Ada County Deputy Clerk Phil McGrane is the their choice, that should be good enough for the vast majority of Idahoans who know that Ysursa and Batt are two other fine Republicans one can trust and whose appeal easily crosses party lines. Despite their endorsements this will still be a close race that is hard to call simply because primaries with more than three candidates are always hard to predict. Former Speaker Lawerence Denney may be able to convert his base support in the Treasure and Magic Valleys into a solid enough bloc vote to pull off an upset. Likewise, former Pocatello State Senator Evan Frasure may be able to attract enough of the southeast Idaho LDS vote to pull off an upset.

Second Congressional District: Mike Simpson is one of the best members of Congress Idaho has ever produced. He is incontestably a conservative but also a solution-oriented legislator, not a blind ideologue. Voters in the Second district will reward his years of service and support for INEL with an easy victory over Tea Party challenger attorney Bryan Smith from Idaho Falls. Simpson could still be a Republican Speaker of the House someday.

Other Republicans worthy of trust include Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, from Idaho Falls; Sandpoint State State Senator Shawn Keough; Rupert State Senator Dean Cameron; Speaker Scott Bedke from Oakley; and, Senate Pro Tempore Brent Hill from Rexburg. Any one of these folks could capably serve as governor if destiny called.

A Republican waiting in the wings who many would like to see serve someday is Twin Falls businessman Rich Stivers, the son of former Speaker Tom Stivers. There, I’ve said some nice words about some Republicans.

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