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Idaho Weekly Briefing – June 4

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for June 4. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

Education uncertainty continues this week, as Boise State University gets an interim, not permanent, president, and thew University of Idaho sees leadership changes there met with a local silence. Brigham Young University-Idaho, however, while quietly rolling along, posted new enrollment records.

With the necessary signatures collected to place an initiative before voters this fall, supporters of a measure that would provide health care to tens of thousands of Idahoans began preparing for the next phase of their campaign Thursday.

The United States and Canada began negotiations to modernize the Columbia River Treaty regime in Washington, D.C. on May 29-30. Acting Assistant Secretary Francisco Palmieri welcomed U.S. and Canadian negotiating teams and opened the first session of talks.

The State Board of Education on June 1 appointed Dr. Martin Schimpf as interim president of Boise State University.

The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management today signed the Record of Decision for the Bruneau-Owyhee Sage-Grouse Habitat Project.

The Idaho Transportation Department will host the first public meeting as part of Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter’s recently formed Executive Committee focused on the study of autonomous and connected vehicles in Idaho.

Official spring semester enrollment totals for both on-campus and online students at Brigham Young University-Idaho show continued growth.

Strong results from a bi-annual citizen survey drove a rare 4.5-star rating for the city of Boise for its “quality of governance and vision.” Seattle-based Northwest Research Group conducted the survey of Boise residents between March 14 and April 8. In its report of survey results, Northwest said its 5-Star rating system for municipalities, which is used to rate more than 1,000 cities nationwide, is designed to make a perfect score very difficult to achieve and “very few have even achieved a 4.5-star rating.”

A dozen innovative water-saving technologies received a financial boost today from the federal government and water agencies across the Southwest with the announcement of this year’s Innovative Conservation Program grant recipients.

PHOTO Idaho Falls school officials are looking at trying again after a $110 million bond issue for major upgrades at two high schools – revisions to Skyline High School are pictured here – failed at the polls last month. (photo/Visit Idaho)
 

Something for those in the gap

schmidt

Dear Brad,

I hear you say that you favor doing “something” for Idahoans in “The Gap”. These folks make less money than people who can go on the Idaho health insurance exchange (Your Health Idaho, YHI) so they can’t afford health insurance. You presided over the bitter debates in the Idaho Senate about establishing YHI. Governor Otter bravely fought for this and continues to support it; do you? You know the current system where we pay for the uninsured through catastrophic care, but then liens are filed and they are bankrupt. Some even die for postponing their care. It’s costing Idaho Counties tens of millions and The Idaho General Fund as much or more. I want to know your plan for getting health coverage for our working poor citizens, since you seem reluctant to support the Medicaid Expansion Initiative.

I know you know the numbers. You know how much Medicaid Expansion would mean to rural hospitals and clinics. So explain to me why more expensive half-measures like PCAP or this year’s double waiver plans make sense to you. You supported these plans, but you say you didn’t support the Medicaid Expansion Initiative, which covers more people and costs Idaho taxpayers less. You didn’t sign the petition.

I’ve read your support for returning to the High Risk Pool model, where we tax all health insurance premiums to pay for those who can’t get health insurance. Before the ACA when preexisting conditions were a reason to be denied health insurance, they seemed a reasonable solution. The goal was to get everybody covered by a health insurance plan, as it should be. Explain to me why this is a better option than Medicaid Expansion.

Maybe you aren’t willing to fight the well-funded and very vocal far-right Freedom Foundation who believes only “free market” health care solutions should be considered. That YHI fight in the legislature sure was bitter. But Idahoans flocked to the exchange to buy health insurance. And county indigent and state Catastrophic costs plummeted. It was a hard fight, but I think it was worth it.

Governor Otter has appointed at least three “advisory panels” on health care since 2007 and all have made recommendations to promote universal health insurance coverage in Idaho. He also had two “work groups” who recommended Medicaid coverage be expanded. So Governor Otter has had plenty of hand-picked groups give him advice neither he nor the legislature was willing to act on. Is this your plan too?

To be fair, Governor Otter has followed the advice of one group to promote medical education in Idaho. He supported it with budget recommendations. He also followed the advice to work on changing health care delivery through promoting the Primary Care Medical Home Model for Idaho. And Idaho is in the middle of rolling out a State Health Innovation Plan, designed to reform delivery and payment methods for the state. If “Medicaid is broken”, as I have heard in the Idaho statehouse, let’s work to fix it.

Director Cameron’s innovative suggestion to move high-cost patients with certain diagnoses onto Medicaid to lower private insurance costs shows Otter’s appointees can think outside the box.

It looks like Idaho could be poised for some dramatic and innovative health care changes. States could lead with health care innovation. I believe expanding Medicaid eligibility fits well with these. Why don’t you? Let me know.
 

Shifts of market and region

stapiluslogo1

Forty years ago one of the big ongoing news stories, and one of the big serious issues, facing the Northwest was the impending shortage of energy supply. We just weren’t producing enough electricity, we were told, to satisfy the growth needs of the region.

All sorts of things happened in those years in an attempt to deal with this problem, not least the massive nuclear power building in Washington state (remember the wonderfully-acronymed WPPSS?) that resulted in economic collapse and massive debt.

What never did happen was this: The Northwest never did run out of power.

Idaho, Washington and Oregon have kept on growing, economically and demographically, in the years since, and adequate supply of electric power has never been a significant problem. Neither, for that matter, has cost; juice has been about as inexpensive in the region through these years as it has anywhere in the country.

One of several reasons for that has been the existence, for 80 years so far, of the Bonneville Power Administration. Headquartered at Portland, the BPA has the job of taking the immense amount of electric power generated by the federal dams in the Columbia River system and selling it to customers, mainly regional and local utilities. Idaho utilities get some of this power, and the state benefits more broadly from the way the cheap hydropower has helped keep electric rates low.

Political threats to BPA’s existence have surfaced from time to time - there’s been a rumbling from the Trump Administration most recently - but the most immediate and maybe most intractable threat right now is economic. It comes not from anyone trying to do it in, but from broader conditions.

These are laid out in a fascinating short report by Idaho economist Anthony Jones and activist Linwood Laughy (he was involved in the Highway 12 megaload battle), who with several others began looking into the economic changes surrounding electric power in the Northwest. Their report (you can see it at http://rmecon.com/examples/BonnevillePower%20May%202018.pdf) concluded that BPA could be facing extinction unless something dramatic changes.

They’re not alone in issuing warnings. Elliott Mainzer, BPA’s current administrator, warned in March, “We’ve taken huge hits in the secondary revenues market just like every other hydro provider up here, with cheap gas, low load growth, and the oversupply conditions. It’s been a bloodbath for folks in the wholesale market. I’m not in a panic mode, but I am in a very, very significant sense of urgency mode.”

That concisely lays out some of the issues. Oversupply - of electric power - has become real, as solar, wind and other power sources have become major factors in the Northwest. As supply has grown, prices have fallen. The big drop came around 2008 and 2009, when “the open market price of power dropped from $90 to $25.” It has not much rebounded in the years since. The declining need for additional power already has reduced the use of coal-fired plants in the region.

BPA has been protected somewhat by long-term contracts with many of its utilities, but some of those utilities are agitating for lower prices from other sources, and negotiations are likely to be fierce as contracts come up for renewal. Traditionally, BPA has made money by selling excess power to California, but California also is seeing a massive increase in renewable energy: It is being flooded with additional power as well. Meantime, BPA has a number of costs, from environmental requirements to pension funds to compensation for dam maintenance, that it cannot reduce. It is being squeezed, hard.

That started about a decade ago, and there’s an easy way to measure it. In 2008 BPA had financial reserves of almost $1 billion; now, only about $5 million of that is left, the rest of it gone to pay for costs when income hasn’t kept up.

The Northwest energy world has been turned on its head since those energy-shortage days of 40 years ago. It may look a lot different a decade from now.
 

Foreign policy by Larry, Curly and Moe

jones

It was never certain that Kim Jong-un was going to make any meaningful concessions in the ill-fated nuclear negotiations. What was clear to any reasonably-informed observer was that Kim was not going to give up his nuclear weapons. He would have been an absolute fool to do so. Kim may be a lot of loathsome things but he does not appear to be a fool.

People may recall that President George W. Bush labeled North Korea as part of the Axis of Evil in January of 2002, along with Iran and Iraq. The following year, Iraq was invaded and Saddam Hussein was deposed on the pretext that he had a nuclear weapons program. He had no such program, but his demise seems to have spurred the other two members of the evil trio to shift their nuclear programs into high gear. One could not fault them for thinking they might be safe from regime change if they actually possessed a working atomic bomb. Saddam’s fate had to be a stark warning to Kim’s daddy.

If one studies the Kim family you learn that they are tyrannical cut-throats. More importantly, they rarely keep their word. Over the years, American Presidents have negotiated deals with them that the Kims had no intention of keeping. Even with that history, our current President characterized young Kim as a good person who could be trusted, giving him credibility and stature on the world stage.

When Kim suggested a summit to talk about resolving the nuclear issue, our President jumped at the bait without giving it a second thought. Going head-to-head at a summit with the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth was a long-cherished dream of the Kim family. They had finally made the big time and got it without having to give a thing in return.

With the President’s head filled with visions of a Nobel Peace Prize, Kim knew he had him where he wanted him. The President openly displayed how much he wanted a deal, prompting Kim to suggest that denuclearization did not actually mean he would give up his beloved weapons.

Enter John Bolton who knew that the U.S. would have to pry Kim’s nukes out of his cold, dead hands. Wanting either to scotch the deal for his own reasons or to get the President off of the limb he had climbed onto, Bolton publicly suggested the deal with Kim would be based on the “Libya model,” which ended badly for the tyrant. Bolton was fully aware this would launch Kim into orbit, which it did. Kim suggested the summit might be called off. The President’s scuttling of the Iran deal, even though Iran was complying with it, may have added to Kim’s discomfort.

Seeing the Nobel Prize fading into the distance, the President implored Kim to stay at the table, claiming any deal would make him “very, very happy.” Bolton may then have convinced the President that he was way over his skis and had gotten painted into a corner that would require him to take any deal, just to have something to show for his wheeling and dealing.

So, it was decided to send out faithful Mike Pence to put a bullet in the head of the summit. The VP reiterated the Libya model, knowing full well that it would relaunch the Rocket Man and likely kill the deal. It certainly got a reaction but not quite enough to fully sink the deal. The President was able to seize on Kim’s fulmination, however, to strangle the life out of the summit and save his personal bacon.

If we try another adventure of this critical magnitude, could it be suggested that someone do some basic homework, make careful preparations and for heck sakes not negotiate by the seat of our pants. This deal was not at all artful and made our dear country somewhat of a laughingstock around the globe.
 

Two roads

carlson

It is truly one of life’s mysteries that the choices one makes as they move down life’s road can effect and alter the lives of others including people they have never met. Such is the case with Wilbert D. “Bill” Hall and me.

Hall, whom I consider to be Idaho’s finest political columnist and editorial writer died last week 81 years young still enjoying his evening wine as he contemplated a rich and full life.

I owe my first big journalism job break to Hall His decision to leave the Idaho State Journal to move across state to take up the political and education beat at the Lewiston Tribune created a vacancy that I serendipitously was able to fill.

Hall had barely left town when there I stood dressed in my “zoot suit - $5 special from the Salvation Army) before Lyle Olson desperately needing a job. Olson bit and I was on my way. Doubtful if I’d ever have gone down that road otherwise.

I met Hall about a year later when I stopped off in Lewiston to review a performance of Hall’s play, “Gifford Eaton,” for the Journal.

Hall had a wonderful dry wit and droll sense of humor, but he could slice and dice one in a nano-second if he thought he was being lied to or someone was abusing their office.

Thus office holders will often describe a love/hate relationship. Elected officials often critical of Hall included almost anybody who was somebody in the GOP from Larry Craig to Steve Symms to George Hansen.

Even Cecil Andrus was wary around Hall reminding me Bill was a reporter always on duty. Cece liked and respected Hall, but he felt the sting of more than a few bites. “if he compliments you one day give it a week and he’ll bite you. It’s like he kept a scorebook and always tried to keep it even,” Andrus once said.

Hall was smart, did his homework and knew the issues. He relished playing the H.L. Mencken role: My goal is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

Most political journalists after a few years begin to have a yin to see a campaign from the inside. They want to see it from the other side and so they cross-over. In the old days that was it, you’d made a choice and you didn’t cross back. Hall decided to accept an offer to come to D.C. and join the staff of Idaho Senator Frank Church as press secretary. Times have changed as today in D.C. it is a revolving door.

Many of Hall’s friends warned him that he’d be captivated at first but rapidly grow tired of the power seekers, the con artists, the blatantly dishonest, all those on the make. Hall did decide to switch jobs, though, becoming the Church Presidential campaign’s spokesperson. That experience was not all struggle and strife but close to it.

He wrote a somewhat self-deprecating book covering the “highlights”
Entitled “Frank Church, D.C.and Me.” It's well worth reading.

It is doubtful he would ever again cross to the darkside.

No column on Wilbert D. would be complete without mentioning his longtime friendship with Don and Ann Watkins. With Hall serving as Watkin’s biggest fan, Watkins (who worked for State Superintendent Del Engelking) commanded the attention of reporters and journalists, both young and old, all across Idaho. Watkins, a former journalist himself, hosted many an Idaho journalist at the fine table Ann set at their home in Boise. When Hall was in town he was always the prime catch.

Bill Hall was the best Idaho ever produced. With his departure Idaho loses a tremendous amount of institutional history. Rest in Peace!
 

Dear Brad Little:

richardson

Congratulations on winning the Republican nomination for governor. After begging Democratic voters to register as Republicans to help you defeat Raul Labrador – and getting quite a few takers – you hustled so far to the right that you became a pathetic echo of your opponents.

One of your most repugnant commercials, an ad attacking Raul Labrador, repeatedly referred to undocumented immigrants as “illegals.” You claimed Labrador had voted for welfare for “illegals,” defended criminal “illegals,” and supported amnesty for “illegals.” By my count, you used the term “illegals,” six times in a 30 second ad.

Your incessant use of this pejorative and divisive term was unconscionable. When you refer to people as “illegals,” you use the term as a noun, implying that the person’s very existence – as opposed to their actions – is criminal. Writing for the Huffington Post, Robert Stribley observed that “[t]he term seems especially egregious when the undocumented immigrants are typically coming here because American businesses are actively courting them.”

During the run-up to the primary election, it often appeared that you and Raul and Tommy couldn’t cozy up close enough to Trump; your ad might have been taken straight from Trump’s playbook of innuendo and slurs. Earlier this week, the president ranted, “We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — we’re stopping a lot of them. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people, these are animals . . . “

A day after making this sweeping comment, Trump “clarified” that his remark was meant to be directed at members of MS-13, an especially vicious and brutal gang. But that’s not what he said. Unmistakably, his initial statement conflated MS-13 gang members with all immigrants, implying they were less than human.

Where have we heard this before – this crass characterization of a group of people as something less than human, as “animals?” Of course, you know the answer. We heard it from Adolph Hitler who said, “Jews are not people; they are animals.” It is so much easier to exterminate people when one does not see them as human. Calling them “animals” serves that purpose. So does labeling them “illegals.” It’s a slippery slope.

The language we use in our public discourse matters. Other law-breakers are not referred to as “illegals.” So why apply this polarizing and demeaning term to people unlawfully in the country? One need not condone illegal immigration to treat others with dignity. One need not approve of open borders to refrain from dehumanizing others.

You won your party’s nomination, Brad, and you won it, in part, with this despicable ad. Now grow up and start acting like a thoughtful, decent human being. And remember – in the words of Holocaust survivor and Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel – “No human being is illegal.”
 

Suffer the children

rainey

Trying to write about our national political activities these days is getting much harder to do. Used to be you could take the usual issue and the politicians involved in it and opine this way and that in reasonable commentary.

No more. The amount of misogyny, cruelty, idiocy and just plain B.S. being passed of as political “discussion” these days has made it tough even to consider some of the elected cretins fit to hold the offices they do much less quote them.

The following two despicable examples appeared on “news” pages within three hours a few days ago.

Rep. Dana Rhorabacher is known for saying alarming, ignorant and quite stupid things on a regular basis. His latest? He told a convention of Realtors in D.C. last week home sellers “shouldn’t have to sell to people who offend their personal beliefs.” Meaning buyers who are Black, gay, lesbian, atheist, Muslim, etc.. Next day, to their credit, the Realtors cut him off their endorsement list and, more important, from their PAC.

Then, the always - always - moronic Rep. Louis Ghomert. His latest? He told an interviewer Special Prosecutor Mueller had “spent his entire career defending Muslim terrorists.” Even followed up with a national news release.

Of course, there’s the House “Freedom Caucus” writing the Nobel Committee to formally push for the next Peace Prize to be given to Donny Trump for his work with North Korea. Can you even imagine the reaction within the Nobel Committee when that hit the mailbox?

But, here’s one entirely sadistic political story that didn’t just reach the bottom of the barrel. It broke through to new mud and took the current GOP “administration” to a new, much lower cesspool.

This mighty nation - this “shining beacon on the hill” - this nation made up entirely of immigrants - this proud country - has begun stripping babies and children from their families at our borders. Tearing apart families whose only “crime” has been to cross our borders, seeking their own liberties in this “bastion of freedom.”

Now, we’re told, in addition to that cruellest of acts, our “government” has lost nearly 1,500 hundred of those kids - 1,500! Authorities - or what passes for “authorities”- have no idea where they went, who has them, whether some are being sold into sexual slavery or other human bondage and, if so, by whom! Trump’s hardline Chief of Staff said they’d be “placed in foster care - or whatever.” “WHATEVER?!”

John Kelly is also trying to “justify” this inhumane family destruction by saying maybe more people “will be deterred” from trying to cross our borders if they know what awaits And our Attorney General mumbled much the same thing!

What the Hell kind of people are these?

And now our “government” claims it’s “not legally responsible.”

“NOT RESPONSIBLE?”

I cannot even imagine the sadistic political “minds” that ordered these crimes-against-humanity. Much less the actual government employees doing it - reaching out to grab crying children and stripping them from their parent’s hands. Whose “government?”

As I said, it’s much harder these days to even comprehend some of the political goings, much less write something cogent about them. The Rhorabacher’s and Ghomert’s and some of their Cretin kin are hard enough to deal with. Maybe - just maybe - a couple elections will send them back to their loyal “bases” and they can enjoy their full taxpayer paid retirements in well-deserved anonymity.

But, I’m sitting here, trying to comprehend what’s happening in our beloved country. My mind wonders how far we’ve strayed from being a welcoming nation with a compassionate populace. I’m trying to find the words to describe the cruelty, anger and rank idiocy so prevalent in our nation’s politics. Wondering if we’ll ever rid ourselves of the mindless, sadistic, lying and corrupt “leadership” currently driving this country further into a huge ditch.

As I search for words, the ones that repeatedly flash in my head are “...suffer the little children....” Biblically, the word “suffer” meant “let the little children...” or “do not impede the little children...”

Trump, Sessions, their minions and a Congress that stands idly by are using the word “suffer” in its worst application.
 

Idaho Weekly Briefing – May 28

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for May 28. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

The shifts in university leadership go on, as the state Board of Education – even while continuing to struggle with finding a new president for Boise State University – reaches a “mutual agreement” with University of Idaho President Chuck Staben that he will move on after this coming academic year. Could the changes portend some change in structure such as those Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter has suggested?

The State Board of Education and President Chuck Staben, have mutually agreed that the 2018-19 academic year will be Staben’s last as president of the University of Idaho. The state board is developing a Request for Proposal for a firm to lead the search to find new presidents both at the University of Idaho and at Boise State University.

Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter announced the appointment of veteran Second District Judge John Stegner of Moscow to fill the Idaho Supreme Court vacancy left by the retirement of Justice Warren Jones.

Idaho Water Resource Board officials estimate they will reach a new record of 524,000 acre-feet of water flowing into the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer (ESPA) by the end of the winter 2017-18 recharge season – more than double the annual recharge goal of 250,000 acre-feet.

Community banks and credit unions across the country will soon see regulatory changes from Senator Mike Crapo’s Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act (S. 2155), which was signed into law on May 25. As Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, Senator Crapo worked with his colleagues in the Senate, House, and outside groups and stakeholders to craft and usher this bipartisan banking legislation through Congress and to the President’s desk.

Idaho Fish and Game Southwest Region staff will soon have a different business address thanks to the efforts of the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation which is funding construction of a new office building just off the Garrity Exit of Interstate 84.

Two legislative provisions authored by Senator Mike Crapo were included in the May 23 Senate passage of S. 2372, the John S. McCain III, Daniel K. Akaka and Samuel R. Johnson Department of Veterans Affairs Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks (MISSION) Act.

Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper on May 24 named Rick Cloutier to fill the position of Airport Director at the Idaho Falls Regional Airport. The hiring was approved by the city council.

PHOTO A view at Craters of the Moon National Monument, at the Visit Idaho web site, promoting tourism to the site. (photo/Visit Idaho)
 

Jordan and a changing Idaho

trahant

Can Paulette Jordan win the governor’s race in Idaho? The New York Times (and so many others) have already answered that question with an almost certain, nope.

“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 is almost certainly where Mr. Otter’s successor will be chosen,” The Times said.

The Times is not alone. That’s the conventional wisdom. Idaho is, after all, one of the most Republican states in the country. There is not a single Democrat who has been elected to any statewide office in the past couple of decades. And a Native woman, a young woman at that? Nah. Case closed.

But Jordan is not a conventional candidate. And this is not a routine election year. And Idaho has a history of sharply reversing course (ok … you have to go back a century for that one).

Let’s look at the numbers. Nearly 195,000 voters picked a Republican in the primary election and only some 66,000 voted for any Democrat. That seems daunting at roughly 3 to 1. But it will be closer than that in the general election. A lot closer. Four years ago the margin was 15 percentage points, 54 percent for the Republican to 39 percent for the Democrat. So the issue is how to get from 39 percent to 50 percent, plus one. To do that Jordan will need to win over at least 70,000 voters.

The most important thing for Jordan to do, she’s already doing. And that is to make Idaho cool and smart. (This is where the national attention helps.) On election night the music of Drake singing “God’s Plan” filled the room. Later supporters posted a video of Jordan dancing. Cool.

“The video of her speech to supporters in the Boise bar is revealing,” writes Dean Miller. “That is a very savvy, very disciplined Gen X politician, singing along to hip-hop lyrics, greeting workers with attention, holding weirdos at arm’s length with generous caution and immediately reaching out to all Idahoans. Her skills and instincts are top-notch.” Miller is the former editor of the Idaho Falls Post-Register and a longtime observer of politics in the Gem State.

Jordan also has the ideal message for the voters who are new to Idaho politics, especially those who have moved to Boise from other cities across the West. More than 75,000 people alone moved to Idaho last year (that includes families, but it’s still a huge number).

Idaho is increasingly a technology state. Consider this bit: “In one year Idaho saw a 44.9 percent increase in job postings related to emerging technologies, including the Internet of Things, smart cities, drones, artificial intelligence, machine learning, virtual reality and augmented reality, and blockchain. “While these positions accounted for a small percentage of total tech job postings, it indicates where organizations are headed with the technology investments,” reported Cyberstates in 2018.

Idaho’s tech sector is already responsible for some $6.1 billion in the state’s economy, the report said.Tech’s impact on the Idaho economy ranks third behind manufacturing and government. (Bigger than agriculture.) There are some 51,900 tech workers in the state with an average wage of $87,740. (Compared to the state’s average annual private sector wage of $40,290.)

The tech world has no use for the old school — and that includes politicians. It’s about inventing the future, not repeating routine slogans about social issues, border walls, or even extractive energy development.

This gives a reason for people who are Republicans to vote for a Democrat. Jordan speaks the language.

Jordan can also sell the technology industry to rural Idaho and Indian Country. Most of the technology jobs are in Boise. Jordan can make the case for creating jobs in northern Idaho, tribal communities, and telecommuting and other jobs that would work in rural Idaho.

Another reason why Jordan could be competitive is that she is exciting. People want to be around her. That is especially important for attracting new voters to the process. Four years ago less than 60 percent of the voting age population cast a ballot. The higher than number, the better Jordan’s chances.

This is challenging in a mid-term election. Idaho young people, like those across the country, are more likely to vote in a presidential election year. Two years ago the share of voters under 29 years of age was nearly 15 percent of the electorate. But four years ago, during the last governor’s election, the share of young voters was only 8.2 percent. Again, the higher the number, the better Jordan’s chances.

A new national poll of America’s 18- to 29-year-olds by Harvard’s Institute of Politics shows a marked increase in the number of young Americans who indicate that they will ‘definitely be voting’ in the upcoming midterm elections.

“The big picture: 37 percent of Americans under 30 indicate that they will ‘definitely be voting,’ compared to 23 percent who said the same in 2014,” the study found. “Young Democrats are driving nearly all of the increase in enthusiasm; a majority (51 percent) report that they will ‘definitely’ vote in November, which represents a 9-percentage point increase since November 2017 and is significantly larger than the 36 percent of Republicans who say the same.”

Indian Country is important in this regard too. Native American voters are only about one percent of the population, but among young voters, the number climbs to 3.3 percent. That might seem small, but it could be a good reflection of voter engagement.

Support from Indian Country is essential for Jordan to raise enough money. It’s how she gets her message out to voters. So far Jordan has collected more than $367,000 in contributions. Some of her largest contributors have been tribes, including her own, Coeur d’Alene, as well as other tribal nations in Idaho, Shoshone-Bannock, Nez Perce and Kootenai. She also received support from tribes from across the country.

One potential pool of voters for Jordan is foreign-born citizens. A study by the Partnership for the New Economy said Idaho was home to almost 34,000 foreign-born residents who were eligible to vote in 2014, including an estimated 14,000 foreign-born residents who had formally registered.

“Those numbers are unlikely to sway a presidential election in this relatively safe Republican state, where Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney won by roughly 208,000 votes in 2012. Still, it can make a difference in closer statewide contests and primaries,” the report said.

The challenge for Jordan is to reach these new groups and serve the core Democratic constituency. But that’s what election coalition building is all about. She has to make sure to reach union workers, make inroads into Mormon counties (most likely by finding strong surrogates who are LDS) and basically round up every Democrat, independent, and enough Republicans to put her over the top.

Once again, the higher the turnout number, the better Jordan’s chances. And there is a flip side to that idea: Republican turnout could be down across the country. If the country senses a landslide for the Democrats in the House, a lot of regular GOP voters might not show up. This is particularly acute in North Idaho because it’s on the Pacific time zone and TV viewers will have already seen the wave while they are still voting.

So can Paulette Jordan win the governor’s race in Idaho? Yes there is a path. And now she can run against The New York Times who has already told her she can’t win. Conservatives will love that. Idaho has a history of defying the odds. Frank Church, a liberal Democrat, won a Senate seat when he was only 32 years old. And Democrat Cecil Andrus won the governor’s chair four different times. Church’s strength was his intellect. Andrus was a great storyteller. And Jordan owns cool.

Mark Trahant is editor of Indian Country Today. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Follow him on Twitter @TrahantReports (Crossposted at Indian Country Today.)
 

Where the numbers went

stapiluslogo1

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.