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First take/court filings

More will of course be following on the state candidate filings that wrap up (in both Oregon and Idaho, as it happens) this week. But one in Idaho merits a specific mention.

It’s not a partisan office: This one is for the Idaho Supreme Court, the seat now held by Justice Jim Jones.

(It’s designated as seat 3, of five, and should be so noted on the ballot, but Idaho’s ballots for generations have instead described the seats as those being held by the named incumbent, so you get things like “candidates John Smith and Ed Williams, for the seat now held by John Smith,” which seems like an irrational favoritism toward the incumbent that we see nowhere on the ballot outside of the court system. The seats should be described as “Seat 3,” or whatever.)

Jones was not appointed to the court; he got there in the way constitutional framers anticipated, by election, and was re-elected once. He is now completing a dozen years on the bench, a match to eight years as state attorney general back in the 80s. His decision, just announced, to not run again means the seat will again be filled by election, not appointment.

Two candidates have (as of this morning; the deadline is tomorrow) filed. One is Breck Seiniger, a well known Boise attorney long in private practice. The other, who probably has the edge, is a long-time deputy attorney general named Clive Strong.

That short-hand of Strong comes nowhere close to doing justice. He has for decades, working for attorneys general both Republican and Democratic, managed the natural resources division of the office, a critical place especially in recent decades. He has been a linchpin figure in so many critical areas for so long that many state officials almost consider him an essential resource. Last year, when I developed a ranked list of the most currently-influential Idahoans, I placed Strong at number 25. (I will admit to some bias, having worked with him on a couple of book projects, but check around Idaho state government and you’ll probably soon find my take on him isn’t unusual.)

Here’s the neat thing about the Supreme Court filing. Back in 1983, not long after becoming AG, Jones hired Strong to work for him. Now there’s the prospect that a Jones move, in this case his resignation, may allow for Strong’s next role in influencing Idaho.

This looks to be the only contested Supreme Court race in Idaho this year. Keep an eye on it. – rs

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