"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors." - Thomas Jefferson (appears in the Jefferson Memorial)

Republican stumbles

carlson CHRIS


Senator Jim Risch, Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter, and Representative Raul Labrador all remain favorites to win re-election given the heavy Republican bent of the Idaho electorate. Risch and Otter though are showing evidence of an ability to lose their race.

Though recent polling shows each with a double-digit lead, the polls also indicate the proverbial mile wide but inch deep support. A Risch upset would be especially surprising whereas few would be surprised if Governor Otter’s bid for a third term was rejected by an electorate that recognizes he has done virtually nothing to warrant it.

Risch’s problem remains his arrogance and, candidly, his laziness. He takes for granted that he will be re-elected, is proud of his ranking as the most conservative senator by virtue of voting no on almost everything¸ and has never really repudiated remarks he made to the Idaho Statesman editorial board regarding how easy the job of senator is because nothing gets done due to partisanship paralyzing everything. Therefore one can just coast along and he clearly is coasting.

Even supporters and former staffers have been heard expressing their disappointment in the “coasting” senator. They cannot help contrasting his energetic seven months as governor when he seemed to be eveywhere pushing his agenda that included unfortunately the switch away from the property tax and to the sales tax.

Not only did this hit the middle class hard, it provided unneeded relief for large property owners, including Risch, who failed to disclose to anyone that he would pernonally benefit from this switch by an admittedly modest $4500. His failure to be transparent indicates at a minimum that he is ethically challenged, not to mention that it also resulted in further erosion of state support for public education by a cool $50 million.

Risch claimed that it would be revenue neutral, but proved to be wrong.

One hears also frequent complaints from many who try to get an audience with the Senator, often in D.C. Despite what office loyalists say, the fact is he cancels out meetings on a whim, often shows up at hearings late and ill-prepared, so much so he ends up not asking any questions of witnesses’ or, if he does, they are banal to say the least.

Or just flat wrong on the facts as when he said to one witness that the United State had spent and lost billions of dollar in aid to Iran. Dead wrong, and he knows better, but has he admitted the error? Nope.

Risch’s other problem is the Democrats found a quality challenger in former Security and Exchange attorney, Nels Mitchell. A graduate of Boise High, where he was student body president and a graduate of Columbia, Mitchell is starting to hit his stride in his long-shot bid to upset Risch.

As people get to know him, in contrast to Risch, they like him. He would make a fine senator, and while some criticize him for saying he would only serve one term, he makes a very persuasive case that he wants to spend all his time working to solve constituent issues and not locked in some party war room dialing for dollars.

Don’t write Mitchell off just yet. Risch could easily lose his well-known temper and say something he would like to call back.

Otter’smost recent stumble involved his clear demagouging the issue of bringing illegal immigrint children into Idaho. Before the issue was even raised he shot off letters to three cabinet agenies saying Idaho did not want to receive any.

He subsequently learned that several refugee children had already qualified to come to receptive homes in Idaho. His “block the border” stance is in marked contrast to current Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber and former three term Washington Governor Dan Evans, both of whom said these children should be embraced. Otter’s heartless stand did him no credit.

As to Congressman Labrador, his stumble does not threaten re-election but it should be noted. With all the buzz around his hiring of Statesman ace political reporter Dan Popkey, no pundits have mentioned that there is a sizable contingent of Republicans who still believe Popkey did a hatchet job on Senator Larry Craig which ultimately led to his feeling forced to decide not to run for re-election.

You can bet that Labrador’s hiring of Popkey has not endeared him at all to these loyalists.

The bottom line remains never underestimate the ability of front-runners to stumble and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

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