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Posts published in May 2018

Where the numbers went


Not so many weeks ago, more than a few Idaho Democrats and democratic sympathizers, observing the developing contested primary for governor within their party, were heard to wonder: How many Democrats will be left to vote in it?

The logic went like this: The race for governor likely would be settled in the Republican primary, and among Democrats there was a clear preference among the major GOP candidates: Lieutenant Governor Brad Little was considered much the most acceptable, and Representative Raul Labrador the worst option. (The third major candidate, Tommy Ahlquist, got less visceral reactions.) So quite a few Idaho Democrats, at least anecdotally, said they would cross over and vote for Little. Presumably that would leave, among other things, a smaller Democratic contingent to decide their own party’s race between second-time candidate A.J. Balukoff and former legislator Paulette Jordan.

Not a few Republicans also thought the scenario might play out that way.

So how did it work out?

The shift of Democratic voters across the aisle to the Republican side is hard to measure. We can’t know for sure how many there were. The number of voters (that is, ballots cast) in the Republican contest for governor was up compared to 2014 by about 25 percent; if you factor in population growth and the greater interest in a race with three major candidates, that’s not a tremendous difference. Were there enough Democratic crossovers to give Little his 9,000-or-so vote win over Labrador? Best guess is that those voters didn’t account for all of it, maybe only half or less. The presence of Ahlquist in the race may have been a larger factor.

Bear in mind that Little received 72,518 votes, which is less than his close ally and current Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter received in 2014 (79,779 votes). His vote could be accounted for if just most of the Otter voters stuck with him (as they most logically would have), allowing for some falloff.

One reason for thinking so is in looking at the vote in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. Only about a third as many people voted on the Democratic side as on the Republican, but four years ago the difference was six to one, not three to one. Turnout in the Democratic primary increased by about 150 percent, a massive increase especially when bearing in mind the much higher-visibility Republican campaign.

Across the board, Democratic primary votes increased far more from 2014 than did the Republican (though theirs grew too). Scan down through the other major office races and though the state legislative primaries, and the same holds true. Of course, most people once stuck with one or the other party’s ballot will continue to vote for a number of offices

But the Democratic ballot increase really is remarkable. The number of votes cast in the Democratic primary for governor is the largest ever cast in that party for that office. What was about 25,000 Democratic primary voters (for governor) in 2014 grew by about 40,000 this year.

Was it a coincidence that the recently-completed petitions for the Medicaid initiative activated similar numbers of voters? Might that have helped generate some of the participation?

On Tuesday, voters in Georgia held their primary election, and Democrats there chose (in a hot contest) a nominee for governor who among other things has based the strategy of her campaign not on the goal of reaching out to Republican and centrist voters, but of activating what she maintains is a large corps of non-voters who (she figures) would vote mostly Democratic if they participate.

How many of them actually are out there, or whether they can with certainty be brought into the voting base, no one yet knows for sure.

But the numbers in the week-old Idaho primary election suggest that significant numbers of them actually are out there. Maybe not enough to win general elections. But significant nonetheless.

Primary’s over: What a relief


It is sooo good to close the door on this year’s primary election. The advertising in the Republican gubernatorial race was wretched. Tommy Ahlquist started early with negative ads and it did not take too long for the contest to degenerate into a mud-slinging match. I don’t recall primary elections being as ugly as this one when Idaho had the open primary system.

The ads did contain some statements of the candidates’ shared visions for Idaho’s future--each candidate claimed he would be more supportive of the President than the others, that he would cut more taxes, that he would cut more spending, that he would provide Idahoans better medical care, and that he would better educate our children.

I’m wondering whether the closed primary on the Republican side may have contributed to the bare-knuckles campaign. When candidates do not have to appeal to a broad cross-section of the electorate, they tend to tout similar stands on the issues that resonate with their limited slice of the voters. The way to stand out from the others is to go hammer and tongs for the opponents’ jugulars, or to try to sound more extreme than the others.

The popular wisdom among Republican office-holders has been that you might risk a challenge from the right in the closed primary if you don’t follow the Idaho Freedom Foundation’s dictates. The fear of being “primaried” has tended to shift the Legislature further to the right in recent years.

I don’t know that open primaries were ever detrimental to the interests of the Republican Party. There was always some cross-over vote but it was never a massive amount. In fact, when I ran against George Hansen for Congress in the Republican primary in 1978 and 1980, I will admit having courted Democrat votes but they did not cross over in droves.

Independent voters obviously have an interest in who gets a party’s nomination for an important public office but they are excluded from participating in the primary of the Republican Party, whose candidates have a decided edge in the general election. Independents, or Idaho Democrats, can change their registration before the primary comes around but it is an imposition to make them declare for a party they do not wish to voluntarily join. Idahoans are independent-minded folks and should not be forced into any party in order to participate in selecting our leaders.

The closed primary is a particular problem for Idaho judges. Under Idaho law they are supposed to be non-partisan. Judicial ethics restrain them from partisanship. Yet, judges are interested in public affairs and want to be involved in selecting elected officials in the other two branches of government. When Idaho had the open primary system, judges could simply ask for the ballot of their choice on election day without violating the restraints on political involvement. Now, if they wish to participate in the party primary where the ultimate selection is often made, they must risk violating their ethical restraints by registering themselves as Republicans.

I say, let’s go back to the good old tried and true open primary system where all Idahoans of good faith could participate in selecting our leaders. That would be one way to help make Idaho great again.

Bill Hall


Veteran Idaho journalist Bill Hall, for many years editorial page editor of the Lewiston Morning Tribune, died at Lewiston on May 21. I wrote this column (from December 17, 2016) about him, when he opted to end his long-running column in that and other papers. Our sympathies to his family and to his friends, who are legion.

Please pardon the reminiscing, but the time of year encourages it, as did a newspaper column I read a few days ago.

The column from last weekend was by Bill Hall, whose writing base for about six decades has been the Lewiston Tribune. Its message was, that column would be his last.

By the time I arrived at the University of Idaho back in 1974, Hall already was renowned around Idaho for his editorials and columns at the Tribune. Soon after that he departed, for about a year and a half, to work for Senator Frank Church, and there wasn’t a certainty he’d be coming back. But Church lost his presidential bid in 1976, Hall wrote a book about it (“Frank Church, D.C. and Me,” from Washington State University Press, a great read on all three topics) and soon returned to Lewiston.

His departure and his return was much noted and not just in Lewiston, where Hall’s blistering, biting and often funny editorials so often launched political conversation in the mornings. It was a big deal statewide, even in the far reaches of the state, and even in the pre-Internet era. Politically-interested people considered it necessary to get hold of what Hall was saying.

One of the Tribune writers who worked closely with Hall, Jay Shelledy (now a journalism professor at Louisiana State University), was quoted in one article about Hall, “There are not many papers in the United States where the best-read page is the editorial page. Without question, Hall is the best-known journalist in the state's history.”

He learned about Idaho in the three corners of the state, growing up in Canyon County, then attending college and starting his newspaper career in Pocatello. By the time in 1965 he left for Lewiston, he already was well-schooled in Idaho politics. When I arrived at the Idaho State Journal newspaper a decade-plus after he’d left, I often prowled through his writings about local and state politics, using them to fill in gaps in what I was learning elsewhere.

By then I knew where to look because of Hall’s editorials, which I’d read at college and afterward. They were a lethal combination: Well informed and witty, and up for taking on just about anyone. Even Idaho hunters, as he wrote when the idea arose of a wildlife council picking Fish & Game Commission members: “That could be a two-edged sword because it might tend to give a disproportionate voice to those chronic whiners who want to blame state biologists every time they get too drunk, inept, or unlucky to kill an elk.”

Many newspapers shrink from editorial heat, but the Tribune never has. Hall’s view as I heard it was that he was good business: People might yell at the newspaper but they sure kept reading it.

Part of what allowed this to work was the unusual atmosphere at the Tribune, which issued punchy editorials before Hall’s tenure and has continued to since, under the local control of the Alford family. But Hall’s humor has been a critical individual part of the mix. Since his mid-70s hiatus his columns have been humorous, personal, often gentle – different to an almost drastic degree from the sometimes fiery editorialist. But the two sides could never be separated entirely, and a serious sensibility underlies even many of his more recent columns, since he retired from editorial writing in 2002.

No more Hall columns. Hardly seems like Idaho.

The best money can buy


When Tommy Ahlquist decided to seek the governorship he made a series of critical decisions regarding the team that would make it happen. He hired Travis Hawk as his chief consultant and David Johnston as his campaign manager. He then reportedly hired Greg Stremple as his pollster. All are some of the best in the game and have well deserved reputations.

Yet for all their ability and skill they missed a critical factor. A consultant to Brad Little’s team believes they misread the almost always first question asked: Is Idaho headed in the right direction or wrong direction? On the surface the answer was obvious - overwhelmingly Idahoans believe Idaho is headed in the right direction.

Ahlquist’s team though thought the electorate separated that feeling from the governor and that they were willing to look at a businessman’s approach to the future. In other words they thought the race was a form of a “time for a change” election despite Idahoans liking the direction the state was heading,

The Little consultant also questioned whether the Tommy team did much focus-testing of its ads. Towards the end of the first “introduce Tommy” ad that they ran in the Treasure Valley, seemingly forever, the Little consultant pointed out that their polling showed the expected increase in Tommy’s name ID, but there was also a large number of voters that did not like that new fella. Little’s guy is not sure they ever picked up on that.

Focus testing ads before different groups before one places a million dollar bet is critical. A few years back a good friend of mine ran for the US Senate in the state of Washington. He decided that in order to make the ads more “authentic” he would be the voice - there’d be no hired voice.

Sounded great until about half way through the campaign a tracking focus group revealed that women couldn’t stand his voice - thought it sounded too high and too womanish. Millions down the tube.

A few years before that the region’s then vibrant aluminum industry was preparing a campaign to educate the public as to the back up value to the region the power it was allocated at a low industrial rate. Part of the script had the narrator referring to industry’s allocation as “their” power. The reaction was immediate and damning. It wasn’t industry’s power, it was the public’s. A one word change saved millions in advertising.

Ahlquist’s team never did appear to tumble to the likeability issue and never addressed it. Nor did tracking polls continually showing him with around 25% of the GOP vote and floating between second and third.

They appear to have made few adjustments other than a frustrated Ahlquist reportedly firing Stremple three weeks before the election.

For Little’s consultant it is another example that money can by talent but it can’t buy good judgment, or good analysis, nor can it necessarily overcome experience. At the end of the day one dollar more than it takes was one dollar too much.

It took awhile for it to click with me but it finally did. Tommy Ahlquist reminds me a great deal of one of Idaho’s most successful Republicans - he reminds me of the late George Hansen, who represented Idaho’s Second Congressional District for ten years.

Both are big, charismatic, hard-charging, hard-working individuals who enjoy campaigning, like meeting people and always try to find common ground. If the bug bites Tommy the way it bit Hansen, we’ve not heard the last of Tommy Ahlquist. (The Ahlquist campaign did not return calls seeking comment.)

Making people think


There has been a disturbance in the force. Bill Hall has passed away.

The first time I met Bill Hall I was an impressionable 13-year-old in the company of my dad, a force of nature whose esteem was not easily earned. Pointing to a gentleman some way from us on the sidewalk, Dad said, “There’s Bill Hall. I want you to meet him. He’s the editorial page editor for the Lewiston Morning Tribune.”

I could tell by Dad’s tone of voice that he held this Bill Hall fellow in high regard.

As he saw us approaching, Bill greeted my Dad with mingled wariness and respect, no doubt bracing for Dad to hold forth, as he was wont to do, on the latest issue of the day. But that day Dad wanted only to introduce Bill to his young daughter and to impress upon her his belief that journalists were important members of the community and political writers had tremendous ability to influence public opinion.

Bill was gracious and greeted me warmly. After a brief exchange of pleasantries, we went on our way, and I remember Dad saying, “I don’t always agree with Bill Hall, but he does what an opinion writer ought to do – he makes people think.”

Indeed he did.

I was a nerdy kid, one who read the editorial page before I read the funny page. I cut my teeth on politics reading Bill’s columns. It was the late 60s and there was no dearth of fodder for a decidedly independent-minded political writer. With the support and encouragement of publisher Bud Alford and later his son Butch, Bill pulled no punches. His hard-hitting commentary was frequently punctuated with humor.

Bill delighted in hoisting self-satisfied office-holders on their own smug petards. And though his world view was most often left of center, he did not hesitate to hold to account those he admired when he thought they fell short.

In my senior year in high school, I was among a group of students who had somehow come to understand that Bill enjoyed our company and would welcome us to his home. He loved to share his thinking about contemporary issues, and was eager to hear our take on the topics of the day.

Bill could be provocative, both in print and in person, and occasionally he would say something a bit outrageous to elicit a response. If you didn't catch the twinkle in his eye, you might think he meant it.

Once, when a group of us was visiting, Bill said something with which I disagreed, and I offered another perspective. He forcefully rebutted, and I was quick to concede my point. Bill wouldn’t have it. “Betty, defend your position. Don’t just accept mine.” And so I did. He could not have been prouder.

Two decades later, in my bid for Congress, Bill was in the room when the Lewiston Tribune staff grilled me on any number of issues. I stated my positions without hesitation and, when pressed, defended them with vigor. I couldn’t help but wonder whether Bill remembered, as I did, his early instruction.

The last time I saw Bill Hall was at the memorial service for another north Idaho statesman, Mike Mitchell. Several months earlier, with the help of his beloved wife Sharon, Bill had penned a column letting his readers know that the column would be his last, explaining he had been diagnosed not only with cancer, but with progressive cognitive impairment.

Yet, as I visited with Bill after the service, he seemed his old self – bright-eyed, quick-witted, and, though the circumstances were sad, delighted to see old friends. We had a warm reunion, and I was about to thank him for having a profound impact on my thinking and writing, for encouraging a shy, but civic-minded high school student to express herself well and stay true to her convictions.

But then he and I were both drawn into conversations with others, and the moment passed. Later, I thought to myself, “I will see Bill Hall again before long and thank him then.”

Death has a way of bringing one up short.

When I learned yesterday afternoon that Bill had passed away, my first thought was profound regret that I had not explicitly thanked him for his mentorship and told him how much his friendship had meant to me. But believing, as I do, that our departed loved ones know our hearts, I thank him now.

I thank Bill Hall for years of informed and influential prose that stimulated civic discussion, making his readers wiser and our communities better. I thank him for his tutorials, often impromptu, on rhetoric, argument, and logic. And I thank him for modeling excellence in punditry.

Finally, I thank Bill for his many years of friendship and for seeing some potential in a teenager with strong opinions who wanted to make a difference in the world and encouraging her to do so. I expect I speak for many in noting that Bill was, quite simply, an extraordinary mentor. As my Dad rightly noted so many years ago, he made people think.

Indeed, there has been a disturbance in the force.

Disgusting voices


What the Hell is wrong with us?

A day doesn’t go by without someone, somewhere, making the national news with a racist act aimed at someone not Caucasian, and therefore, not “a real American.” Makes no difference what ethnic group you’re talking about.

Our own president, with more attention paid to his foul mutterings because of the office he temporarily holds, is the worst. Repeatedly calling immigrants - legal or otherwise - “animals” is his latest dip into the racist cesspool.

The other day, a guy in a New York restaurant told some Spanish-speaking customers to “speak English or get out” and threatened to call ICE if they didn’t. A woman in Ohio called the cops because a Black Realtor was prowling around a vacant house he wanted to buy and rehab. In Utah, a guy got out his rifle and stood on his front porch as a Black couple was shown a house for sale next door.

And on and on and on. Repeated public displays of outright racism. Kids of non-white families harassed and beaten on playgrounds because of their ethnicities. People in public, speaking languages other than English, being told to either “talk American” or leave with accompanying threats to call some arresting agency.

We’re destroying the old “melting pot” metaphor. And we’re doing it in the name of being “American” without regard and respect for the differences that have made us a better nation.

In many ways, the old “melting pot” claim has never seemed entirely correct to describe a nation as varied in different races and cultures as we’ve become. The fact is, from early settlers to now, people of like nationalities and cultures have pretty much kept to their own. We have Black communities, Scandinavian communities, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, etc.. Nothing wrong with that, for most purposes.

But, we’ve further divided ourselves adding exclusively Black or Hispanic or other cultures radio, TV, newspapers and other means of racial and/or ethnic communication. In some ways, we’ve created dual societies for different races and backgrounds while allowing cultural separateness. We may “melt” in the workplace - most of the time - but we’ve also encouraged divisions in the rest of our lives.

We live in an area with a very large Hispanic population. While there’s been a lot of assimilating, they still live on the fringes for the most part. But, the fact is, if they suddenly left, this area would be the poorer for it and the local economies would suffer greatly.

I get angry when I hear someone say immigrants are taking our jobs. I can tell you from personal experience that’s a lie. The value of the work most immigrants do is vastly underrated.

It’s ironic to hear loud demands for continued, unfettered immigration coming from farmers/ranchers everywhere these days. Crops are dying in the fields. Fruit is rotting on trees and vines. Work - necessary work - is not getting done. Seems American workers - “real American” workers - aren’t stepping forward to shoulder that work. The “job stealing” claim has always been a lie.

The largest current societal race issue we face is not coming from the immigrant population. It’s coming from us. It’s coming from seemingly otherwise good people being swept up in this phony “ship-‘em-back-where-they-came-from” B.S. being acted out across our nation. And much of that is being led and urged on by our racist president and those around him.

What’s being tested here is not whether can we accept and assimilate more from other nations. The test is of our national will to welcome and encourage those who've come to participate in a country they still see as a worthy example of freedom and opportunity. And, in some cases, at proven personal risk to their lives getting here.

The test is for those of us who see value in national diversity and acceptance to silence the bigotry and outrageous abuse that seems to have become commonplace.

Silence it - clear up to the White House.

Idaho Weekly Briefing – May 21

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for May 21. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at

The governor’s primaries are done, with Brad Little winning on the Republican side and Paulette Jordan on the Democratic. A string of other contests, notable among them races for the first U.S. House seat, lieutenant governor and superintendent of public instruction. Next: A breather, then the launch of general election campaigning.

A year’s worth of campaigning led up to the evening of May 15: Primaries in the Republican and Democratic parties that settled the nomination – and in some cases the tenor – of a number of major office races. The top line was the race for governor, won on the Republican side by the candidate from the inside, Lieutenant Governor Brad Little, and on the Democratic by the candidate from the outside, former state Representative Paulette Jordan.

Representative Mike Simpson announced that the Fiscal Year 2019 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill protects funding for the Idaho National Laboratory, the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy, and cleanup activities in Idaho. Simpson is Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, which passed the bill through the full House Appropriations Committee this week, and had the lead role in deciding funding for all Department of Energy programs.

Air Combat Command officials announced the 366th Fighter Wing at Mountain Home AFB will test a new wing organizational structure. The experimental structure, initiated by the commander of Air Combat Command, Gen. Mike Holmes, directs the 366th Fighter Wing to create an organization that will test possible ways to improve squadron readiness, develop unit leaders and encourage innovation. Changes at the wing are expected to start this month.

Idaho’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained at 2.9 percent in April, continuing an eight-month run at or below 3 percent. The state’s labor force – the total number of people 16 years of age and older working or looking for work – continued to increase, gaining 1,242 people from March to April for a total of 849,373.

The Idaho Department of Water Resources issued a final notice on May 17 to more than 400 ground water irrigators who have yet to comply with an order requiring installation of approved flow meters on ground water pumps in the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer region.

Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests visitors should be prepared to encounter personnel working on and near Forest Service roads near the Orogrande community this summer as fuels reduction and restoration projects move forward.

The Board of Ada County Commissioners will be holding a public hearing on Tuesday, May 15, 2018 at 9 AM to consider Ordinance No. 833 that would amend Ada County code to include a new section for unmanned aircraft. This public hearing will occur during the Open Business Meeting in the Commissioners’ conference room on the 3rd floor of the Ada County Courthouse.

PHOTO Would you release a 30.5-inch rainbow trout if you caught it? David Raisch of Pocatello did, and he's now a state-record holder. Raisch caught his record fish in late March and recently submitted it into Idaho Fish and Game's catch and release records, which allows anglers to claim a state record while letting the fish live. The program started in 2016, and it complements the traditional "certified weight" records that require anglers to weigh the fish on a certified scale, which means the fish is typically killed. Raisch was fly fishing in the Snake River when he landed the record rainbow, which coincidentally is where the previous record of 29.3 inches was caught. (photo/Department of Fish & Game)

A convincing win


Paulette Jordan won a convincing primary victory in her bid to be the next governor of Idaho. She convinced more than 60 percent of Democratic voters that her progressive message would work in November.

“I am so moved by the strength and determination of our Idaho voters today. Their voices were heard loud and clear — our vision for a more prosperous future lies with the progressive values embodied by this campaign,” Jordan said in a telephone call to Indian Country Today. “Our communities have spoken, and now we must unite as never before to move onward together.”

Jordan said she is “honored by the widespread support received from my relatives throughout Indian Country.”

“This is a huge step for us and I’m excited to be on this journey with all of you. This is a great indicator of where we as indigenous progressive leaders in rural states can help lead our communities,” Jordan said.

Already some dismiss Jordan’s chances going forward. The New York Times described the race this way: “In a state that Donald J. Trump won by more than 30 percentage points and has not elected a Democratic governor since 1990, the Republican primary on Tuesday is almost certainly where Mr. Otter’s successor will be chosen.”

When asked how she will convince voters in a state that is overwhelmingly Republican, Jordan laughed, and said, “we’re about to find out.”

Then again Idaho is a state that did once elect Democrats. Former Interior Secretary Cecil Andrus won the governor’s office four times, the last time in 1990.

The formula? “Connectivity,” Jordan said. “It’s about connections to the land and people.”

Jordan also is already bringing new voters into the process, young people. A tweet Tuesday before the vote captured that very idea. “Today I became a #firsttimevoterand my first vote ever went to the one and only @PauletteEJordan,” wrote Taylor Munson.

The turnout in the Democratic Primary was remarkably high. The Idaho Statesman reported in the state’s largest county, Ada, officials scrambled to supply enough ballots. “I am super curious to see what actual turnout was for the Democratic Party, because we were certainly overwhelmed by it today,” Ada Chief Deputy Clerk Phil McGrane told The Statesman.

In addition to Jordan’s messages about her rural values, her outreach to younger voters could also be the key to reversing the Republican hold on Idaho.

Jordan defeated a well-funded candidate, A.J. Balukoff who used his own personal wealth to fund his campaign. She also defeated the Democrats establishment, most of the elected party officials endorsed Balukoff (who had been the party’s nominee four years ago). Balukoff was gracious in his defeat. He said he would work hard to elect Democrats.

So that’s another first. Jordan easily erased a substantial gap in campaign funding.

This is history. Jordan is the first woman to ever win a party’s gubernatorial nomination in Idaho.

She also made history because Kristen Collum is her running mate. It’s the first time two women have run together to lead Idaho.

See previous coverage: Making news, making history, and breaking rules. Idaho’s Paulette Jordan announces an all-female ticket

Then this is going to be an election of firsts and making history. Jordan, Coeur d’Alene, is now the first Native American woman to ever be a major party’s nominee for governor. Get used the phrase “first ever” is going to pop up a lot between now and November.

On Facebook, Seahdom Edmo posted: “I am watching this with my daughter. I said, ‘look she is a Native woman running for Governor, do you want to be Governor?’ She said, ‘no, I want to be President.’ Paulette, you are inspiring all of us!”

Cross posted on Indian Country Today. Mark Trahant is editor of Indian Country Today. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Follow him on Twitter Follow @TrahantReports

The disaster of identity politics


Watch carefully my friends over the next six months. You can watch the remnants of the Idaho Democratic party commit seppuku - the ritualized form of Japanese hari kari (suicide).

In the Democratic gubernatorial primary by a 60/40 margin Idaho Democrats rejected the clearly most qualified, most experienced candidate, Boise businessman A. J. Balukoff, in favor of a “symbol”, former State Representative Paulette Jordan, of where the far left faction wants to take the national party.

This is putting identity ahead of competence. Much of politics today is all about perceptions and feelings. Ability, competence, character, honesty all lag behind. And because of this issues matter less. What’s especially sad is identity politics move beneath the surface and if brought up one is quick to be tagged with a negative one word nasty like “racist.”

For example, Jordan is a Native American. If one uses that phrase in describing her even though she is fully exploiting that connection when seeking funds from other Indian gaming tribes, the reporter risks being categorized as a racist.

So let’s check the boxes of identity politics in the upcoming race between Jordan and Republican nominee, Lt. Governor Brad Little, the non-issue oriented items that will be at work but may not surface:

Brad Little is a male. Jordan is female.

Little is white. Jordan is “Native American.”

Little is a millionaire rancher/businessman. Jordan raises horses on a ranch.

Little sent his children to an Idaho public school. Jordan is sending her boys to Gonzaga Prep, an exclusive private college preparatory school in Spokane.

Little is married. Jordan is not.

Little is “Goliath” in this contest. Jordan is the “David.” The media loves to find “short hand” ways to capture a political race which is always a “horse race.” The issues tend to fade away.

Unfortunately, somewhere someplace some outside reporter will parachute into Boise or Lewiston and will end up describing the contest as the latest iteration of the old “cowboy vs. the Indians” story and we all know what happened to the Native Americans.

One person I am confident will not fall into the trap of identity politics is Brad Little. He will relentlessly stick to the issues and this time around the superior more qualified candidate will be obvious.

Come the Wednesday after the first Tuesday in November Brad Little will be elected the 33rd governor of the great state. Take it to the bank.

When normally successful business leaders get into politics they all too often leave that business acuity behind, especially when it comes to following that all important term “return on investment.”

Wednesday morning two multi-millionaire Boise businessmen, A.J. Balukoff and Tommy Ahlquist, had to wake up wondering just what possessed them. Both took what can only be described as a sound thrashing.

Balukoff received 26,286 votes and reportedly spent $3.2 million dollars. The return on investment on that is $121.73 per vote. Ahlquist garnered in his third place run 50,735 votes and reportedly spent $4.8 million. The ROI on that is $94.60 per vote. For Idaho these numbers are staggering and unprecedented.

Why it is that successful business leaders think running for high office is just another business challenge is a mystery. Some attribute it to hubris. Others say it is pure ego. Others say they are bored just making money and are looking for a new challenge

The sad thing is though the trend of millionaires running for office is only going to increase. Most state legislatures and Congress itself will consist almost entirely of the super wealthy.

These legislative bodies will hardly be the citizen-legislators our Founding Fathers envisioned when they wrote the Constitution.
Welcome to the big time, Idaho.

Yes, your fearless prognosticator was 0 for 4. Shows 40 years in the game still finds me leading with my heart instead of my head.

Divergent patterns


In choosing Brad Little and Paulette Jordan to be the Republican and Democratic - respectively - nominees for Idaho governor, the voting bases of the two parties made decisions quite a few partisan observers didn’t expect, but that are consistent with their roles as long-standing majority and minority parties in the state.

Which is to say: If you’ve got something that’s work for you, you keep doing it; and if what you’ve been trying doesn’t, you change it.

That’s of course not the only factor in why the two parties’ primaries for governor resolved as they did. Jordan had developed a real following, showing more charisma than most Idaho candidates do. Little had the advantage of being an establishment candidate opposed by not one but two serious challengers, which meant they split the opposition vote. (Would Little have won if opposed only by Representative Raul Labrador? Hard to say.) Geographic, religious, business and other elements were in play too.

But as a matter of party dynamics, there’s this to consider.

Idaho Republicans have been spectacularly successful at the polls for the last generation, since the early 90s. They have won the last six gubernatorial elections decisively - not to mention, of course, almost every other office in sight - and their governors have been mostly of a type. They have all come out of, or been closely aligned with, the state Republican organization, and mainstream conservative politics (whatever that meant at the time). Phil Batt, Dirk Kempthorne, Jim Risch (elected as lieutenant governor, but he belongs in the list) and C.L. “Butch” Otter - were all, at least when elected, solid members of the state Republican establishment. As is Brad Little.

The state government didn’t change a lot when it moved from one of these governors to another. Insiders may note personnel changes and the like, but the sensibility at the top of Idaho’s executive branch hasn’t changed much, whether you like it or don’t, in almost a quarter century. Little has linked himself to the record of the Otter Administration, made that connection plain in his campaign, and would seem likely to extend the run. He’s not a clone, of course, as none of them are, but neither would he represent a major break with the recent past. (Unless he surprises us all.)

As a matter of politics, that makes sense for the Republican Party: Stick with what’s working for you.

The Democrats are at the other end of the spectrum. They have been shut out, decisively, of the governor’s office since 1990. Following Larry EchoHawk in 1994, then attorney general, they have not nominated a sitting Democratic office holder for governor and, since Robert Huntley in 1998, not a single candidate with prior Democratic Party political activism or leadership. Jerry Brady (2002 and 2006), Keith Allred (2010), A.J. Balukoff (2014) - all men of similar age with no history of Democratic partisan candidacy or party leadership; their background was in business (with interest in public affairs), and they positioned themselves as centrists, with the aim of appealing broadly. And they all lost.

Bringing us to Jordan’s somewhat surprising rout of Balukoff on Tuesday. Balukoff had the support of almost the whole of the Democratic establishment, and the major element of the party often described as leaning in Jordan’s direction was the Bernie Sanders contingent. On reflection, her supporters may be better described as people frustrated by doing the same thing in yet another race for governor, and wanting to try something new. It may not work, but even if it doesn’t, it may generate more interest and excitement than taking another lap around the familiar track.

That’s what minority parties tend to do when they’re making a serious attempt to rejigger the calculus and shake up politics.

So there’s an argument, however you assess the virtues of the winning (and losing) candidates, that both parties- made rational choices for their nominees - by applying opposing forms of logic.