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Posts published in “Malloy”

A new turn?

malloy

If history holds true in this beet-red state, then the two Democrats running for Congress – Kaylee Peterson of Eagle (First District) and Wendy Norman (pictured) of Rigby (Second District) – will struggle to get 30 percent of the vote against two Republican incumbents.

There was a time when Democrats Larry LaRocco and Richard Stallings held both seats, but that was way back in the 1990s. More recently, Democrat Walt Minnick was the First District representative for one term (2009-2011). So, in this incumbent-happy state, there doesn’t seem to be a path of victory in November for two political newcomers.
Unless …

Well, it’s hardly worth mentioning. But there is a small chance that voters will catch “Trump fatigue,” given all the testimony in the Jan. 6 hearings about the former president’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. The chances of Idahoans getting their fill of Trump are small, mind you – somewhere between a Hail Mary in football, or a full-court buzzer beater in basketball. But there are plenty of talking points on the Democratic side, and stone silence from Republicans.

Peterson, a 32-year-old mom and sophomore at the College of Western Idaho, is taking the fight to Fulcher.

“A growing body of evidence … demonstrates that President Trump betrayed our Constitution, betrayed the legal framework of our nation, and betrayed his own conservative values when he demanded that Vice President Mike Pence unilaterally and illegally decide the outcome of the 2020 election,” she said. “The question I have, as a candidate for Congress, is, where is Russ Fulcher’s response?”

It has been crickets with Fulcher and most Republicans in Congress who have dismissed the Jan. 6 congressional committee as a political sideshow.

Jan. 6 isn’t the only area where Peterson is at odds with Fulcher. She’s trying to line up support from Republicans and independents who disagree with Fulcher’s approach. She notes that the Freedom Caucus, which includes Fulcher, has been described by other Republicans as “obstructionists” and “anarchists.”

She says he’s siding with the party’s far-right element at the expense of “very moderate people who just want effective resolution of the issues they are seeing on a daily basis.”

Peterson is involved with politics on various levels at CWI and is president of the college’s speech and debate team, but politics at a two-year school is a far cry from Washington, D.C. Peterson says that unlike some Democrats who run for high office, then disappear, she plans to stick around a while.

“This is not the end of my role in Idaho’s political scene,” she says. “The relationships I have built, the connections I’ve built and the solutions I have offered need to be carried through whether I win the congressional seat, or not.”

Norman’s criticisms about Congressman Mike Simpson are not as pointed. “I have appreciated him and have felt is Idaho’s most effective legislator. He has done good things for the Idaho National Laboratory and the Second District.”

Her complaint is that Simpson plays to Trump, the party’s far right and special interests – such as the National Rifle Association.

Simpson may be taking on Democrats in general during this campaign, but maybe not Norman. She’s a 50-year-old first-grade teacher who says it’s time to have “real people” serving in Congress.

“Why do you have to sit on one side of the aisle? Why isn’t it possible to be friends with someone who has a whole different perspective. Why couldn’t I be friends with someone with a whole different perspective. Should I be friends with Marjorie Taylor Greene? Absolutely,” Norman said.

Kudos to both Peterson and Norman for giving voters a choice in this election. It takes a lot of grit for people to put their names out there and take on the GOP establishment.

In Norman’s case, her experience with first graders might come in handy if she’s elected to Congress. She at least has some expertise in conflict resolution and creating peaceful outcomes.

ctmalloy@outlook. Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at ctmalloy@outlook.com
 

Survivor’s world

malloy

It’s easy to write glowing editorials about Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney, who has openly called out former President Trump for his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Her words during the first round of televised congressional hearings on the Jan. 6 Capitol riot were profound and courageous. “Tonight, I say this to my Republican colleagues who are defending the indefensible: There will come a time when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.”

History may prove her to be correct. But in the immediate future, the Idaho delegation is not about to side with Cheney, or Democrats who spent four years trying to figure out how to remove Trump from office.

Idaho Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo and Congressman Mike Simpson are political survivors. All held top leadership positions in the Idaho Legislature and now have lofty committee assignments in Congress. Crapo, who has served almost 30 years in Congress, is the ranking member of the Finance Committee and once chaired the Banking Committee. Simpson, who has held his job since 1999, is a senior member of the Appropriations Committee – which has been a cash cow for Idaho’s Second District. Risch has served 13 years in the Senate and is the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee. These are dream assignments for anyone in Congress.

Congressman Russ Fulcher, serving his second term, hasn’t been around long enough to be called a “survivor,” but he knows the rules of the game for longevity. Don’t be fooled, it works exactly the same for Democrats.

The first rule in the survival kit is that you don’t buck leadership. If Republican leaders say that the hearings are “political theater,” then (unless you are Liz Cheney), it’s all Phantom of the Opera. And, until further notice, Donald Trump remains as the leader of the Republican Party – with at least a fair chance of taking back the White House in 2024. Political survivors on the GOP side know better than to cross him.

Risch, a strong leader during his time as pro-tem of Idaho’s Senate, knows all about political pecking orders. He was not going to use his position as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to openly disagree with Trump. Risch thought he could be more effective being a confidant to the administration. Risch’s reward was generous access to the president, something that only a few senators have.

Crapo has made a political career of being a loyal soldier for Republicans. He slipped briefly when he pulled his endorsement of Trump a few weeks before the 2016 election, but quickly came back to the fold after heavy criticism from Republicans. He has not waivered since then.

Simpson took an even bolder approach in 2016, declaring Trump “unfit” for the presidency. He then spent the four years backing Trump, as a political survivor would do. If Simpson went along with Cheney’s approach, chances are he soon would be known as a “former” congressman. There’s a good chance that Simpson’s opponent, Bryan Smith, would have won this year’s primary election by a healthy margin.

Fulcher was the lone member of Idaho’s delegation who voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election results. It has not hurt him politically, even though commentators have had a field day mocking Fulcher for his stand. People in the media talk about the “big lie” that Trump has been promoting about the 2020 presidential election being stolen, but for a good number of Republicans in Idaho’s First District, it’s the “ultimate truth.”

I doubt if anyone in the delegation stands behind everything Trump has said or done, or totally agrees with his bombastic approach. Secretly, they may wish that the GOP finds another “conservative” candidate to head the presidential ticket in 2024. But if it comes down to Trump vs. President Biden in 2024, there is no question over who the delegation would support. And there’s little question that Trump would carry Idaho by a wide margin.

Political survivors like to go along with the “will of the people,” especially when conservative principles are on the line. Political survivors also like the power that goes with having their party’s candidate in the White House.

In a survivor’s world, power – and party solidarity – are the keys for getting anything of substance accomplished. For the most part, “courage” can be relegated to the short-timers.

ctmalloy@outlook. Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at ctmalloy@outlook.com
 

Ukraine aid

malloy

During their 13 years serving together in Washington, you probably can count on one hand the number of times that Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch canceled out one another with votes – and not use all five fingers.

The exceptions, says Crapo – Idaho’s senior senator – is when there is justification for voting both ways. Such was the case with the recent vote on the $40 billion aid package to Ukraine. Risch, the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, voted for it (not surprisingly). Crapo, the ranking member of the Finance Committee, voted against.

On the House side, Rep. Mike Simpson voted for, and Rep. Russ Fulcher voted against. It’s not as unusual for them to cast opposing votes. Simpson is obligated to vote for some spending bills as a senior member of Appropriations. Fulcher, as a staunch conservative, has no such obligation.
All four say they stand solidly behind Ukraine’s effort to curtain Russian President Vladimir Putin’s vicious assaults to the country, although their approaches are different.

Crapo thinks the $40 million aid should be offset with reductions somewhere else in the budget.

“We need to send a message to the administration that it can’t expect Congress will pass legislation without being fiscally responsible,” Crapo told me. “We are going to be seeing other bills calling on us to spend hundreds of billions of dollars. The administration is using certain threats to justify big-spending bills and (Democrats) don’t seem to care about the fiscal policy of the administration.”

A $40 billion reduction would be simple, Crapo said. It could be taken from the $1.9 trillion COVID-relief package that Congress approved. It could be a matter of “repurposing” the money approved for the infrastructure bill that both Crapo and Risch voted for.

“That said, I fully understand Sen. Risch’s vote,” Crapo said. “Additional debt can be allowed in the interest of national security, and in this case, there is a national-security justification for voting for additional debt. I felt we needed to put the line down and say we needed to offset the spending.”

Simpson, in a statement from his office, gave reasons for going in a different direction. He supported the aid package “in order to help Ukraine defend itself against the unconscionable Russian aggression to show China, Iran and North Korea that the U.S.’ security partnerships remain strong. Republicans fought to keep unrelated matters (such as COVID-19, or immigration provisions) out of this bill and focus on the real issue at hand – such as supporting democracy in Europe while keeping our troops out of the conflict.”

Fulcher had multiple reasons for voting against the aid, starting with the way it was presented to the House. As he told me, it was another one of those bills – hundreds of pages long – that came to the floor with just a few hours of notice. Members had little time to study the contents.

“If you are going to present something like this, and not give me a chance to review it, you can pretty much understand that my default is to vote no,” he said.

Also, Fulcher said, the U.S. has provided $100 billion in aid, and not all of that money has been spent.

“We’re trying to get the Ukrainian military trained on what we sent to them – equipment that they don’t know how to use,” he said. “We can’t willy-nilly ship resources without watching where it goes, because they will misuse it. There are too many red flags. It was the right decision for me.”

As with other Republicans, Fulcher also had reservations about the administration’s policies on Ukraine. “I have walked out of briefings wondering where in the world we are trying to take this. Do we even know? Do we have an objective, or series of objectives? My confidence in our leadership is very low, and that lack of confidence extends to Taiwan. We’ll be talking about that more in the future.”

The argument from the other side, of course, is that $40 billion is a bargain if it keeps Russian forces at bay and U.S. troops out of the conflict.
There’s no definitive “right” or “wrong” with our delegation’s split votes – but shades of gray attached to the issue. Over time, there may be more clarity over who was on the correct side.

ctmalloy@outlook. Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at ctmalloy@outlook.com
 

Common sense?

malloy

Let’s face it, nothing significant is going to happen with curbing gun violence as long as the issue revolves around politics. For the foreseeable future, politics will remain as the focal point.

And even if (by some miracle) politicians do get together on a “common sense” resolution or two, I don’t know how Congress or any other body can legislate against “crazy.” Passing layers of new laws on top of the thousands of layers of laws that are on the books won’t do it. And neither will banning the sales of the AR-15 and other weapons.

Crazy people will find a way to pass screening, no matter how sophisticated it is, and get their weapons of choice. Crazy people are not deterred by the likelihood of being killed after a shooting spree.

I can understand President Biden’s outrage about the recent school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. But instead of projecting calm and uniting the country, as presidents have been known to do, Biden poured gasoline on the fire. His call to action was to stand up to the gun lobby and (without saying it directly) those awful Republicans who accept campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association.

A few days later, the NRA holds its annual meeting in Houston where the likes of Sen. Ted Cruz talked about how those daffy left-wing Democrats were trying to disarm law-abiding Americans. The headline speaker at the conference was none other than former President Trump.

So with this backdrop, don’t expect Congress to come up with common sense gun laws, or common sense anything for that matter.

In Idaho, gun control suddenly has become a front-burner issue for Democratic congressional candidates – Kaylee Peterson of Eagle and Wendy Norman of Rigby. Terry Gilbert, who is running against Republican Debbie Critchfield, is promoting a “School Children’s Right to Life” law.

Traditionally, running against the NRA and gun-happy Republicans is a losing proposition for Democrats. But in this state, Democrats have little to lose by bringing up the issue. They hope that, in addition to major policy differences with Republicans, that people will be fed up with school shootings. After all, if they can happen in Texas, then Idaho is not immune.

Gilbert says that, if elected, he will propose a law that prohibits those under 21 from buying assault weapons or ammunition for such weapons. “I chose 21 because the brain is still forming until then, especially in young men. Indeed, most of the mass shooters have been males with immature brains,” he said in a news release.

Peterson offers stern criticisms to Idaho’s congressional delegation and, specifically, the Republican she’s challenging -- First District Congressman Russ Fulcher. “It is difficult to look at our representatives’ and senators’ lack of action and find any reasonable explanation. We may not agree on how exactly to solve this problem, but apathy is unacceptable. To do nothing is unacceptable.”

She says leaders such as Fulcher should be held accountable “for their inability to sit at the table, reach across the aisle and find a solution that saves the lives of our children.”

Norman, a 25-year teacher, slams Second District Congressman Mike Simpson for “kowtowing” to the gun lobby. “The gun lobby likes to say that restrictions like the 1994 assault weapons ban didn’t work, but it did. Gun massacres of six or more decreased by 37 percent for the decade the ban was active, then shot up to 183 percent during the decade following its expiration.”
She calls for enacting “sane” gun laws.

Of course, there is considerable dispute over the definition of “sane.” What seems to be perfectly reasonable for Democrats is seen by Republicans as attempts to dismantle the Second Amendment. And the debates go far beyond those usual disagreements between the political right and left.

It gets into utter hatred on both sides. If Congress could pass a law that would end political hatred, then maybe we could make inroads to stop crazy.

ctmalloy@outlook. Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at ctmalloy@outlook.com
 

No help for Souza

malloy

When Sen. Mary Souza of Coeur d’Alene decided to leave her seat and run for secretary of state, she assumed she’d have generous support from North Idaho – and especially her longtime friends on Kootenai County’s Republican Central Committee.

And why not? Former Lt. Gov. Jack Riggs was the last person from North Idaho to hold a seat in a state constitutional office, and that was 20 years ago. No one from North Idaho has held a seat on the state Land Board.

Souza was hoping to change that, and she seemed to have all the credentials that her hometown folks would want. She served eight terms in the Idaho Senate and probably would have been a lock to win a ninth term if she had run. Before that, she made her mark by aggressively challenging the spending practices and decisions by local government entities. She also backed conservative candidates in local elections.

There was nothing “liberal” about what Souza was doing back in those days, and she’s hardly viewed as a liberal in the Legislature. Except for the Idaho Freedom Foundation, that is. That organization has given Souza failing marks on its “Freedom Index,” aimed at defining conservatism.

Suddenly, Souza was not “Republican enough” for Kootenai County’s central committee. That group endorsed Rep. Dorothy Moon of Stanley, who has based her legislative career on getting near-perfect marks on the Idaho Freedom Foundation’s scorecard.

“Overnight, when my name was not chosen for endorsement, they went from being my friends and biggest supporters to not speaking to me,” Souza said.

The Coeur d’Alene senator finished a distant third in a race won by Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane.

Kootenai County wasn’t the only place where Souza received the cold shoulder. Central committees in Bonner, Boundary, Nez Perce and Shoshone counties also backed Moon and other right-wing candidates. She said the Bonneville County central committee invited Souza for a “personal” interview – after endorsing Moon and giving her $5,000.

“They thought I should go all the way to Idaho Falls to interview with them after they had already chosen their candidate,” Souza said. “That was not happening.”

Central Committees shouldn’t be the ones endorsing candidates, she said. “The voters in a Republican primary are supposed to be the vetting process. That’s why we have a primary. Some of the central committees have been taken over by libertarian/anarchists.”

Says Souza, “The Republican Party is the party of Ronald Reagan, where there are differences. But if we agree about 80 percent of the time, then we can work together. Libertarians say we have to agree 100 percent of the time, and you are a terrible person if you don’t.”

And those who don’t agree with the IFF almost down the line are viewed as a RINO (Republican in Name Only). Souza has been called that many times in the last year.

As Souza sees it, the Idaho Freedom Foundation has done much to influence people moving to Idaho to escape the liberal policies of other states. “They’re saying that ‘if you don’t vote down this line, then Idaho will end up like California, Oregon.’”

In her conversations with voters and constituents, Souza explains the diversity in Idaho. The citizen’s Legislature is a mix of people representing different cultures, geographic areas and industries. And laws passed affect parts of the state in different ways.

“The Idaho Freedom Foundation doesn’t take any of this into consideration,” Souza says. “Idaho doesn’t work that way.”

Idaho’s GOP will suffer if central committees continue to be taken over by libertarians, or the John Birch Society, she says. “They operate with intimidation and ridicule. They are mean and really dishonest, and yet they call themselves Christians. They are not Christians, I can tell you that.”

Although Souza lost her bid for secretary of state, don’t expect her to disappear from politics. She won’t say what’s next in her immediate future, but she’s not one to sit on the sidelines. As folks from Coeur d’Alene can attest, Souza is a relentless fighter. Knowing her, don’t be surprised to see her making life at least a bit uncomfortable for the Idaho Freedom Foundation.

Stay tuned.

ctmalloy@outlook. Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at ctmalloy@outlook.com
 

Risch on Ukraine

malloy

It’s painful for me to see President Biden talking about what’s happening in Ukraine.
His tough talk about Russian President Vladimir Putin committing war crimes, along with waves of economic sanctions, seems to have the effect of an angry parent taking away a teenager’s monthly allowance. His actions have done nothing to slow down the bombings and killings in Ukraine.

What’s missing to me is a show of strength – the kind displayed decades ago by Ronald Reagan in bringing down the Soviet empire. Biden could get Putin’s attention by pushing for Ukraine’s membership into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – and dare the Russian thug to take one more inch of Ukraine. But, no, Biden doesn’t want to offend the Russian president. Instead, our president he given the Soviets an outline of what he won’t do – which includes not pushing for NATO membership for Ukraine.

Well … I’m just an old guy who writes political columns. But Sen. Jim Risch, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has plenty of expertise in foreign policy and can talk about the Ukraine crisis from almost every angle. He, too, thinks that Biden has not done a good job overall standing up to Putin.

As Risch told me, “There’s only one thing that Putin respects, and that’s strength. The main thing he is most disrespectful of is weakness. If you show weakness, he will come after you like a shark to a bleeding dolphin.”

Risch gives the president more credit for his recent statements and actions, but says they should have come sooner. “They are trying to make up for that to a degree, it has been like somebody wanting to jump in a pool, but couldn’t make up his mind about putting a toe in the water for backing away. It’s incredibly frustrating.”

Risch is not shooting from the hip. He has talked with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and various diplomats and NATO allies. Risch has hashed out the issue with colleagues on the Foreign Relations Committee, where he sees a bipartisan commitment to resolve the crisis. Members have different ideas and approaches, but not on a party-line basis.

“I have a pretty good handle on this, and the only one that is happy with what’s coming out of the White House is the White House,” Risch says. “(The president) needs to rachet up the rhetoric, with a blend of good old-fashioned strategic ambiguity. Make Putin wonder what we are going do to do. Don’t telegraph what we are not going to do.”

And keep a sharp eye on other potential trouble spots, such as China, North Korea, Iran and Cuba.

“Regardless of the country you’re talking about,” Risch says, “if they see that we will stand by with our hands in our pocket while they decide to take over another country, that’s something that will go on and on.”

Of course, there’s no telling how long the conflict will continue or how it will end, but the senator thinks the economic sanctions are working without sending American troops to fight the battle. Americans would be widely opposed to having boots on the ground, he says, “and secondly, with our technology, we don’t need to do that in order to engage.”

One immediate impact in Idaho, and across the nation, is that people are feeling the pain at the gas pump. But Risch says that Idahoans should appreciate the plight of the Ukrainians.

“These people are going through exactly what we went through in 1776. They want their freedom. They want to govern themselves. They want to be a democracy and they want a rule of law. Those are our kind of people,” Risch said.

“This war is not just about Ukraine. The fight in Ukraine is a strategic challenge with long-term implications for the free world,” he said. “Ukraine is the opening move to tip the balance of power toward Russia and China to dominate the world for the next century or more. For the sake of our country, and the sake of the free world, the administration needs to get serious about supporting Ukraine with war-fighting materials so we can prevent a more sweeping conflict from coming to our shores.”

The stakes that Risch outlines are about as high as they can go.

ctmalloy@outlook. Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at ctmalloy@outlook.com
 

Not just lieutenant governor

malloy

The primary election race for lieutenant governor amounts to more than who Idaho Republicans want in the No. 2 position of state government, although that is an important thing to consider.

The bigger issue is that the primary race will determine who voters want as our next governor in four years. Will it be Rep. Pricilla Giddings of White Bird, or House Speaker Scott Bedke of Oakley?

This assumes that Gov. Brad Little will win re-election and not seek a third term – and, of course, there never are guarantees in politics. At this point, Little appears to be on track for defeating Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin. She has former President Trump’s endorsement, but he has not held rallies on her behalf or issued negative comments about Little. She has strong support from the GOP’s right wing, but has made little effort to expand her base.

If this were a normal year, when top elected officials in Idaho tend to be anointed rather than elected, you’d say that Bedke has paid his dues and that it was his time to move into the lieutenant governor’s office. Don’t expect anything flashy if he’s elected. He’d do what the Constitution prescribes – presiding over the Senate when the Legislature is in session and quietly serving as “acting governor” when Little is out of the state.

He’d also be an asset for the administration, opposed to a liability.
But there’s nothing “normal” about this election cycle with a fireball like Giddings in the mix. If she wins, expect her to carry on with what McGeachin started – calling out the governor for his “liberal” ways and labeling as “RINOs” the Senate’s president pro tem and other legislators who get low ratings on the Idaho Freedom Foundation scorecard.

Essentially, you could expect her to spend four years campaigning for the state’s highest office. If she gets to the governor’s chair, she would be the first woman to be elected to that position. Some would argue that she would be the first libertarian to win the office.

Do not under-estimate Giddings. She’s smart – a commodity not always found in politics. Her supporters are not consumed by her well-documented fallouts with Bedke over the years, ethics issues with fellow House members or publicly doxing a rape victim. To her supporters, she’s a “principled conservative” and that’s all that matters. She wants to put government on a diet, starting with repeal of the state’s grocery tax.

As a governor, don’t expect Giddings to have any kind of cordial relationship with the media – as other governors have had. Don’t expect the usual news conferences before, during or after legislative sessions. She has made it clear that she doesn’t have a high regard for the mainstream (liberal) media. But to Giddings’ core supporters, who also have a long-standing hate affair with the media, Giddings would provide the kind of leadership Idaho needs.

For Bedke, he’d also use four years as lieutenant governor as an audition for the governorship, but it would be more in a traditional fashion. More than likely, he’d be a working partner for the Little administration – as Little was to Gov. Butch Otter during his time as lieutenant governor. By the end of Bedke’s term, the governor likely would raise Bedke’s profile with an “important” assignment or two.

If Bedke gets to the governor’s chair, he’d be in the line with the likes of Little, Otter and Dirk Kempthorne – all of whom boasted about being conservative, but with a pragmatic side to governing.

The race for lieutenant governor is a classic clash between a fixture of the political establishment (Bedke) and a rebel (Giddings) who wants to put state government on a much different course.

Can she win this race? Absolutely … if the outcome is based on hard work and ability to rally supporters. If it comes down to money, and a stretch-run advertising blitz, then Bedke seems to have a sizeable advantage.

ctmalloy@outlook. Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at ctmalloy@outlook.com
 

Ybarra’s case

malloy

State Superintendent Sherri Ybarra often reminds people that “I’m a teacher, not a politician.”

But make no mistake about it – she’s a pretty good politician, at least when it comes to winning elections. She’ll never get the nickname of “Landslide Sherri.” To win election and re-election, she defeated two Democrats in races that were “too close to call” hours after the polls closed. Those were the only statewide races in which a Democrat was close to beating a Republican.

In politics, winning is all that matters – and Ybarra does that. And she does the political stuff quite well, such as making speeches, working crowds and holding her own in debates. Critics will say that she misses meetings at the statehouse when the Legislature is in session and her record for attending State Board of Education meetings is spotty. Over the years, there are those who have kept track of days that her car was missing from her assigned space – with the suggestion that she isn’t doing her job.

Ybarra dismisses all that as “rubbish, garbage and gossip.” Its not deserving of her attention.

Politicians are not lining up to support her. Sen. Jim Patrick of Twin Falls is the only active legislator on her steering committee. Former Sens. Shawn Keough of Sandpoint and Jeff Siddoway of Rexburg also are listed as supporters.

Political support is much higher for Ybarra’s opponents – former State Board president Debbie Critchfield of Oakley and former Rep. Branden Durst of Boise. Twenty-seven Republican legislators are backing Critchfield, making her the favorite of the political establishment, and Durst has carved his niche with the GOP’s right wing.

As Ybarra sees it, it’s clear what separates her from her opponents.

“I am the only educator in the field – the only certified teacher, the only certified principal and the only certified superintendent … and a track record to prove it. I think people understand that you want a lawyer as your attorney general, and you should want a teacher for your superintendent of public instruction.”

The track record is open for debate. Idaho is at, or near, the bottom in several funding categories, including per-pupil spending. Idaho Education News, which provides aggressive coverage of education in the state, points out that while ISAT scores have inched upward in recent years, K-3 reading proficiency has been sliding – even before the pandemic.

Ybarra points to different numbers that reflect progress.

“In my first two terms, Idaho has risen from 31st in the nation for student achievement to 17th. We are now fifth in the nation for college and career readiness. Idaho student scores on the ACT and SAT continue to increase while scores for the rest of the nation decline. Idaho ranks first in the nation for the number of students taking dual credit courses.”

As for funding, she said, “we’ve received $100 million or more in new money for education in each year since I took office. That speaks for itself.”

Ybarra supports the demise of Common Core in Idaho, a favorite whipping post for Republicans, in favor of new standards that will go into effect in July – created by teachers. She says she’ll do everything to keep out Critical Race Theory in Idaho schools, but don’t look for her to demagogue the issue.

It’s not running rampant in Idaho schools. In fact, from what she’s seen, it doesn’t exist in the Gem State. She also has put together a game plan for administrators to follow when there are allegations about CRT.

“I have investigated every allegation that has come to my attention,” she said. “Usually, it amounts to a word or two, or maybe a line, in a textbook. I have not had a person coming to me saying a particular teacher is teaching Critical Race Theory in a classroom. I’ve heard anecdotal stories, people saying ‘I heard’ … but no clear examples.”

Her immediate focus is more on the big picture.

“When I first took office, people told me they wanted me to look into student achievement,” she said. “They told me, ‘I’m tired of being last in achievement, last in funding and last in everything.’”

Ybarra says that, with her leadership, Idaho is going in the right direction with its public education. She thinks even more can be accomplished with another term in office.

ctmalloy@outlook. Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at ctmalloy@outlook.com
 

The new fashion trend

malloy

Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson appeared to be getting himself into hot water with his recent refusal to debate his opponent, Idaho Falls attorney Bryan Smith, on Idaho Public Television.

As it turned out, Simpson was setting a trend. Days later, Rep. Pricilla Giddings of White Bird – who is running for lieutenant governor – backed out of her televised debate with Scott Bedke. Then, Gov. Brad Little – who is being challenged by Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin and Ed Humphreys of Eagle, among others – became the first sitting governor to duck a debate.

All had their reasons. Basically, Simpson, Giddings and Little wanted nothing to do with the political food fights that were certain to occur.

Simpson’s campaign issued a statement that “voters heard enough from Bryan Smith.” It’s more accurate that Simpson has heard all he wants from Smith. Voters will hear plenty more from Smith about the need to replace Simpson after 22 years. But it won’t happen on a debate stage.

Giddings backed away, saying she was concerned that reporters serving on the debate panel would be biased. She has a point. These biased reporters, no doubt, would grill her on things like releasing the name of a rape victim and her blind loyalty to the Idaho Freedom Foundation. With this thing called the free press, politics can be a brutal career choice for people who don’t like hard questions.

Little’s departure, while somewhat surprising, makes sense politically. His campaign says the governor’s record is “non-debatable,” which is not the smoothest choice of words. Of course, his record is debatable – as is the record of any governor in any state. But he has no interest in engaging with McGeachin, who has spent the last two years hammering on the governor for one reason or the other. As Little might see it, there’s no reason to give McGeachin free air time.

The question is whether ducking debates will have any impact on the races. My guess is, probably not.

Debates do hold value in political campaigns for undecided voters. In these races, those who have not made up their minds must be living in caves. They obviously don’t follow politics, and it’s likely they won’t vote anyway.

For campaign staffs and volunteers, televised debates are better than the Super Bowl, with every word (and gaffe) being the difference between life and death. The reality is, viewers who are not political junkies are more likely to be at home watching a sporting event or favorite program than the debate.

To supporters of various campaigns, televised debates are nice excuses to hold watch parties. Of course, their candidate will be the “clear winner” no matter how well or poorly he/she does.

Debates provide a snapshot of a candidate’s relative strengths and weaknesses, to the extent that two-minute responses and one-minute rebuttals provide. But televised debates in Idaho, which have been going on for more than three decades, rarely (if ever) make a difference in the outcome of an election.

If there’s a candidate who might be hurt with his decision not to debate it’s Simpson, who may be facing the toughest challenge of his political career. Smith is eager to call out Simpson for supporting dam breaching as well as the congressman declaring Donald Trump “unfit” for the presidency a few weeks before he was elected to the office in 2016.

“It’s his choice if he wants to debate or not, I’ll give him that. What’s not his choice, and is the hallmark of arrogance, is for a congressman to say that voters have heard enough from his opponent,” Smith says.

“When I found out he wasn’t going to debate, I was really disappointed for the people of Idaho,” Smith said. “Debates have been a tradition, and part of our culture, for more than 30 years. I’m disappointed that the voters are not going to watch what was going to be one of the most anticipated political debates in this election cycle.”

Of course, not all is lost for Smith, who can spend the remaining weeks of the campaign talking about how Simpson is “hiding” from his record. Smith is gaining some generous attention – and rallying points for his supporters – with Simpson’s decision to skip the debate.

Smith might not have gotten that kind of traction after a debate.

ctmalloy@outlook. Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at ctmalloy@outlook.com