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Posts published in “Idaho”

Prop 2: Right flank

How's this for a head-spinner: An attack on Idaho's Proposition 2 from the right that very nearly matches with a central attack on it from the left, and center?

Robert Vasquez
Robert Vasquez

The tone is unmistakable, though: This could be no one but (retiring, but upcoming Senate candidate) Canyon County Commissioner Robert Vasquez.

In an Idaho Statesman guest opinion, he takes after the land use initiative in part (and this is very much a loose paraphrase) based on his experience in local government, arguing that local governments, which are most closely beholden to the voters, would be superseded by a state action. In that, he joins the view of a lot of other elected officials around the state.

Then this:

Let me set the stage by reiterating the collusion between Idaho’s 1st Congressional District candidate, Bill Sali, and the Club for Growth.

Club for Growth bought the candidacy of Bill Sali for a mere $330,000 (more or less) in soft money, negative campaign ads. Then Laird Maxwell, a staunch Sali supporter, steps forward with this Proposition 2 proposal, under the guise of "free market, private property rights" that would, of course, strike a chord with the Idaho sense of independence. What Mr. Maxwell does not disclose in his efforts is the fact that the Club for Growth has contributed to the funding to get Proposition 2 on the November ballot.

Now enters Bill Sali, still serving as a member of the Idaho House of Representatives, professing to be a low-taxes, small government conservative Republican, who voted in August to raise the Idaho sales tax by 20 percent, but makes no comment when asked about his position on Proposition 2.

Why? Because Club for Growth is guiding both campaigns, in hopes of fooling the Idaho voter once again into giving up their congressional representation to corporate greed, and the citizens’ right to testify in opposition at land use hearings under the existing land use law.

Whew. And concluding: "Let us send a message to the Club for Growth, and their puppets, Laird Maxwell and Bill Sali, that Idaho is not for sale." Notice that Democratic call-out at the end? (Don't tell us it was inadvertent.)

Appears, more and more, that Idaho voters are increasingly likely to kill this thing.

THE SALI ANGLE Sali's role in this requires a little more explication, and happily the Nampa Idaho Press Tribune ran a piece today adding useful details.

Bear in mind the early conventional wisdom on Prop 2 was that - given the way its supportive rhetoric matches neatly with often-winning political rhetoric in Idaho - it would sail through to a win. We still don't know for sure what will happen, but its chances of success today look considerably trimmed from a few months ago. Add to that a normal bit of political strategy, that politicians like to associate themselves with winning issues, not with losers. Watch people like Republican gubernatorial candidate C.L. "Butch" Otter struggle with Prop 2 and finally come out against it, and you can see the prevailing winds in action.

In July, the Boise Weekly's Shea Anderson asked 1st House district Republican nominee Bill Sali about Prop 2. He wrote that Sali said he would vote for it, and added the comment, "As John Locke said, 'the preservation of property' rights is the 'end of government,'" Sali said in a statement e-mailed to BW. "Government should be a good neighbor with property owners, and Proposition 2 embodies that principle." Based on that, Prop 2 organizer Laird Maxwell listed Sali on his web site as a supporter, which seems reasonable. Sali's name has been there for quite a while; it is listed there still. (A quick aside: The endorsement list for Prop 2 includes one state senator out of 35, four state representatives out 70, and one incumbent local government official, out of thousands statewide. There may be a message in that.)

The Press Tribune today quoted, “Bill is still undecided on how he’ll vote on Proposition 2,” in the words of candidate spokesman Wayne Hoffman; and “I think what Bill said is that he supports the concept but he still needed to review the proposal.”

This from the man whose campaign is based around the idea of black-and-white certainty about such matters as (among others) taxes and property rights. If Hoffman's words are literally true, then Sali must be one of the last people in Idaho tracking public affairs at all who doesn't know what they think - pro or con - about Prop 2. And that would be remarkable.

This is a landmark development in this election season in Idaho. It speaks not just volumes but shelves about both Sali and about the proposition.

House in review

The three Pacific Northwest states (those we track, anyway) have 16 U.S. House seats, 10 held by Democrats, six by Republicans. All are up for election this year; just four appear to be seriously contested. But three of those four are getting increasingly interesting. Below, we'll do a reassessment.

By excluding some races from the ranks of "seriously contested," we aren't suggesting that the campaigns in all other districts are without point, but we do suggest the evidence points to them more as longshots than as prospective nailbiters on November 7. We'll take a run through the "active" races as well.

First, the top four, in order of the likely edge-of-the-seat quality for election night, and the likely nervousness of the incumbent - and there are incumbents in all of them (just one open seat in the Northwest this year).

In the case of three of these races, a quick note. In months past, we'd periodically remark that we'd consider it very close or competitive or switching direction if certain indicators appeared on the horizon. Suffice to say: Many of them have duly (maybe surprisingly) appeared.

Dave Reichert
Dave Reichert
Darcy Burner
Darcy Burner

1. Washington 8th - incumbent Dave Reichert, Republican, challenger Darcy Burner, Democrat. Look on any substantial national list of key House races nationwide in the last half-year, and Reichert-Burner will figure prominently. Our most recent post on this one called it a tossup, and there seems no reason to change that. Quite a few national assessments say the same. So do a lot of polls, which in the last few weeks consistently have shown these contenders within two or three points of each other, both hanging close to, often barely shy of, the 50% mark.

This race got to that point in a smooth trajectory and since appears to have become stuck in neutral, maybe in part because not many undecideds may be left. It's become a terrific tug of war. The ad war has been fierce, and sometimes there's been blowback. Burner has been airing a spot featuring video of Reichert saying, "So when the jeadership comes to me and says, ‘Dave, we need you to take a vote over here because we want to protect you and keep this majority,’ I do it.’” It leaves out what he says next: “There are some times where I say, ‘No, I won’t.’” And it was taken from a video presentation by TVW, which bans use of its material for political campaigns. Burner has some significant complaints too, especially about the wave of third-party ads and robocalls in the district. Reichert got the Seattle Times endorsement; Burner's backers seem if anything energized in their responses to it. (more…)

From uncertain foundation

Not much else to say for now beyond what's already there - on the airwaves, blogs and soon to be media - on the Larry Craig outing story. Briefly, a gay activist and blogger named Michael Rogers, who has written about gay members of Congress and congressional staffers in recent years, posted a blog entry and went on nationwide radio this afternoon to say that Craig participated in a number of gay sexual incidents. (Some reports notwithstanding, Rogers did not describe Craig as gay.)

Larry Craig
Larry Craig

Craig has denied, to at least the Spokane Spokesman-Review and possibly other media as well, the substance of the allegation. (Note in the link the Spokesman's take on dealing with the story.) Rogers does not offer any independent proof, other than his own assurances that he is certain; he does note that he has made earlier comparable allegations which proved accurate. Nor is there any suggestion of abuse of office or abuse of minors.

The tough question here at the moment is: Does this story have legs - will it grow? - or, absent evidence, will it die away? For that, no immediate answer. Nor for now to the question of whether it might impact the hottest race in the state, the contest for the 1st congressional district.

For a range of views, we'll refer you to the Spokesman's Huckleberries Online, where the comment section has been buzzing. Writer Dave Oliveria remarked in one response: "... this aired on a national radio program this afternoon. I'm not saying it's legit. I'm telling you what's out there. I'd be asleep at the switch if I didn't post items of interest to North Idahoans. Do you want that? Do you want me only to post comfortable things? If this isn't true, Mike Rogers is in a heap of trouble. If it isn't true, it's still a story that a top gay activist has targeted Larry Craig."

OF NOTE Dennis Mansfield has posted thoughts on all this on his website.

Post-Jon & Chris

Aquick note for those following the Boise radio situation after Jon Duane and Chris Kelly, who had been morning anchors at KIDO-AM for many years and probably the key morning radio figures in the area much of that time, departed early this year.

Idaho Radio News has an update:

KIDO picked Kimberly James and Brian Norton this summer to replace Duane & Kelly. The station parted ways with James just a few weeks ago - leaving the program in further flux. As I’ve hinted at before - CC Boise went after a number of well-know local folks to fill the morning slot - and clearly wasn’t able to come up with that big marquee name it hoped to land.

KIDO lost ground in all major demos (and overall) in the morning day part. Since Jon & Chris left midway through the book, it leaves you to wonder: what will fall look like?


Next legislative cycle, proposals will be offered almost certainly to ban mass robo-calling, and there's good cause both out of precedent and out of public service.

telephone The precedent for such a ban is in the current bans on unsolicited faxes and e-mails and telemarketing calls to land and cell phone lines. The rationales are simple: While these are inexpensive ways for people to spread a message, they place a cost - in time at least and in money as well - on the recipient, in a way that, say, direct paper mail does not. If these things can be banned, surely political robo-calls can be as well.

You see the complaints growing. In Idaho, the Larry Grant campaign last Friday posted a note saying, "A torrent of complaints is pouring into the Grant for Congress campaign about harassing, annoying, computer-generated telephone calls. It’s not us! We, too, have been getting them and find them just as annoying as everyone else. The computer-generated calls (robocalls, in political parlance) began Thursday, Oct. 12, and are continuing, apparently, across the First District. We believe two versions are being used, one that begins 'When you go to the polls on Nov. 7 you’ll see the name ‘Larry Grant’ on the ballot. Let me tell you a little about Larry Grant….' The other opens with 'Larry Grant needs a lesson in Economics 101…'”

These efforts are simply a try at tossing in a bit of slime in a fast and unanswerable way. More seem to be coming in that race.

So too in Washington state's premier legislative race, between incumbent Republican Senator Luke Esser and his challenger, Democrat (former Republican) state Representative Rodney Tom. The recording, among other things, alleges that an ethics investigation of Tom is underway; in fact, that's not true. But the attempt to slip the idea into the subconscious of a telephone listener could be marginally effective.

Until legislative emerges banning them, these robocalls need to be recorded and dragged out into the sunshine, where they can be properly addressed. In the case of the Tom message, Horse's Ass blogger David Goldstein has done just that. Now you can click and hear the little slice of slime - with the difference that you are forewarned as to its contents.

What not to say

For a good chunk of this year, one of the legislative races Idaho Democrats have most touted is that of Ryndy Williams, running in a Meridian district against Republican Senator Gerry Sweet.

No Democrat has won a legislative seat in that area ever, but the line went like this: Sweet has some unusually strong negatives (some on policy - conservative social issues - and some on missing a bunch of legislative meetings). Williams is running an unusually strong campaign. To our cautions that this is simply a tough district, we were told: Don't let this one slide off your radar.

So. the first sentence of the Idaho Statesman report about this race today begins with this: "Democrat Ryndy Williams said she doesn't expect to get elected on November 7. . . ."

If (and we'll assume here the report is accurate) she doesn't think so, why should anyone else? And if the race is a foregone loser, why should anyone pay attention?

If the tide rises

We're still 25 days from election, but talk nationally continues along the line that a Democratic wave is coming. If so, what effect might that tide of blue have in kiln-dried red Idaho?

We're inclined to think Idaho generally is one of the places where the impact will be relatively slight. But that doesn't mean nonexistent. If the 1st district congressional race continues to close, for example, it might be enough to switch that seat Democratic. (It would take a high tide.)

In August, we listed 10 state legislative seats where the contests appeared competitive; those too could be affected. And among others, a correspondent suggests, let's add a couple of state House seats in an unlikely place: Idaho Falls.

We're talking about the House seats in District 33, which is central Idaho Falls - the most urban area in Idaho (along with central Nampa) that hasn't demonstrated a substantial Democratic base. But even in central Nampa, you can find a significant number of Democratic voters, if not quite enough to elect someone to a legislative district. In District 33, the number has seemed to be just below that threshold. This year, there's the possibility it may poke above.

The Republican House members here are Jack Barraclough, who's been there for 14 years, and Russ Matthews, elected two years ago as a from-the-right challenger to Representative Lee Gagner. This part of Idaho Falls looks and feels not so different from parts of Boise's North End or the upper Lewiston bench, and you have to wonder if the right kind of Democratic campaign might appeal there.

We may find out, as an article in the Idaho Falls Post Register (no link available) suggests. It notes that John McGimpsey, running against Matthews, has substantially out-raised Matthews, and (independently) we have heard he is substantially outworking him as well. Jerry Shiveley's advantages against Barraclough in those categories are lesser, but he is a well-known figure in the area, a retired teacher whose students are voting. The Post Register: "Barraclough’s a successful campaigner, but Shively was an unusually popular music teacher at Skyline High School — and a proven vote-getter on the Idaho Falls School Board. Can a Democrat’s personal popularity trump Republican Party loyalty?"

Both have several issues at hand, notably the recent legislative special session on property taxes which, polls suggest, has not gone over well.

In an ordinary year, these races might be a footnote. This year, they are no slam dunks. But if you see the tide lifting them up on November 7, you'll know it's high indeed; it could get there.

Canary on the campaign trail

The initiation of negative campaigning is a sort of canary on the campaign trail: When it sings, the campaign has some problems.

Most candidates, most of the time, prefer to campaign positively, to talk about their wonderful selves and their wonderful plans. They tend to turn negative, most of the time, when they find that going positive isn't enough to clinch the deal. Going negative can (does not always) work; they wouldn't do it if iit didn't. From this you can draw some conclusions. When you see a campaign heading down the slash and burn highway early on, it's probably one that needs to close a big gap. A late start on going negative can mean the campaign is close but not quite making the sale, or a little ahead but watching the other guy catch up. It's a sign of a campaign scrambling. And add a layer of concern to that if someone other than the candidate is doing the deed - that suggests concerned parties are worried the candidate can't afford to be associated with it.

In Oregon, voters watched as the trailing Ron Saxton (Republican) campaign for governor unleashed a mass of negative ads aimed at Democratic Governor Ted Kulongoski, who was running warm-n-fuzzies on his own behalf. Then, as polls showed the race closing, Kulongoski started firing back at Saxton.

In Idaho, the 1st district congressional race (in the general election, not the primary) has been mostly positive, surprisingly so. But it made some sense. The Bill Sali Republican campaign seemed, a while back, to conclude that voters would simply come home to the Republican candidates by election day; and the Larry Grant Democratic campaign seemed to sense gradual building which might take them over the top.

That's gradually changing. From highly cordial initial debates and campaign materials, the heat is starting to pour on, and coming more from Sali than from Grant. There's a distinct change in tone since the last Majority Watch poll showing Sali ahead, but only by 49-43, hardly confidence-inspiring.

Thursday's Nampa candidate forum saw Grant take after Sali for misstating his position on immigration, and ask him to correct it. Sali declined, with this quote: “politics is a contact sport.” (Even real contact sports do have rules.) At almost the same time came reports of massive robocalls, not from Sali's campaign but from the Republican National Campaign Committee. The Grant campaign said there are two message, one starting, “When you go to the polls on Nov. 7 you’ll see the name ‘Larry Grant’ on the ballot. Let me tell you a little about Larry Grant…”; and the other, “Larry Grant needs a lesson in Economics 101…”

The tone is changing. That suggests a level of concern absent earlier.

The Rich project

Ae we've been saying for some time, the recent spate of land use and state finance initiatives are an abuse of the initiative process. More evidence of that today, from the Center for Public Integrity.

Center for Public Integrity

From their story:

"The Idaho group that’s pushing Proposition 2 is being kept afloat by large infusions of cash from out-of-state organizations controlled by Howard Rich, a wealthy political activist in New York. Records released yesterday by the Idaho Secretary of State’s office show that This House is MY Home, the chief proponent of Proposition 2, received $75,000 of its $76,764 in contributions from June 3 to September 30, 2006, from America at its Best, a Rich-funded organization."

Prop 2 is a New York idea, not an Idaho idea.

UPDATE Our usual practice is to run here emails sent to us only after communicating back, but in this case no name was attached to the mail - it was addressed simply as freedomworks(at), the latter being an ISP rather than a political site - its sender remains anonymous (not usually a good sign). The message:

Randy, re: your citation of the Center for Public Integrity's focus on Prop 2 funding by Howie Rich...

In the interests of balance and full disclosure, ever occur to you to ask who funds Center for Public Integrity?

Just wait a few days. It's a lot bigger (and wealthier) name than Howie Rich. And the Butches of the world are gonna wish they could go crawl in a hole somewhere...

Actually, just call up Laird and ask for his news release. AP is already on it.

By way of response: (more…)