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This is not over

johnson

Most Americans today won’t recognize his name. When he resigned in disgrace from the U.S. Supreme Court in 1969 he mostly disappeared from public life, remembered now only as a footnote in the evolving story of increasing partisan hostility over membership on the highest court in the land.

It wouldn’t be correct to say that the politicization of the court began with Abe Fortas – judicial nominations are and have always been inherently political – but what happened to Fortas does provide a cautionary tale for today’s Senate as it struggles with the tortured process of assessing Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s fitness for a lifetime appointment.

Fortas, like Brett Kavanaugh, was not merely a creature of the political process but a deeply partisan political player who, like Kavanaugh owed his appointment to a flawed process engineered by a flawed president.

Fortas was, like Kavanaugh, a Yale Law grad, and was one of the bright young lawyers who populated the administration of President Franklin Roosevelt. In the 1940s Fortas helped found a high-powered D.C. law firm – today’s Arnold and Porter – where he represented deep pocket corporate clients and maintained his extensive and lucrative political connections.

When his friend Lyndon Johnson needed legal help to make certain his contested 87-vote victory in a 1948 Texas Senate race would hold up under scrutiny he called Fortas. After Johnson won a landslide election as president in 1964, like most presidents he wanted to put his mark on the Supreme Court. Johnson being Johnson, he literally forced Associate Justice Arthur Goldberg off the court in order to appoint his pal Fortas. He was confirmed and that decision seemed, briefly, to cement a liberal lean to the Supreme Court for a long time to come.

But, in a variation of the old line that you can make God laugh by telling him your plans, Johnson – and Fortas – overreached. Badly. When, near the end of Johnson’s presidency in 1968, Chief Justice Earl Warren announced his retirement, LBJ was certain he could replace Warren as chief justice by ramming a Fortas nomination through a Senate controlled by Democrats. Shades of the current controversy – Johnson insisted on speedy Senate action. Don’t ask a lot of questions, he said, just confirm him - quickly.

Conservative southern Democrats and Senate Republicans refused to go along with the hurry up process, particularly after it was disclosed that Fortas had been the beneficiary of a sweetheart deal that paid him a tidy sum to teach at American University, a deal not financed by the college, but by former clients at his old law firm. It was also revealed that the justice had been a regular advisor to Johnson, counseling the president on PR strategy regarding the war in Vietnam, attending cabinet meetings and even drafting a state of the union speech for LBJ. Fortas, with the surety of a Brett Kavanaugh, dissembled about his involvement and ultimately a Senate filibuster killed his appointment as chief justice.

But even as Fortas stayed on the court, the drip, drip of scandal would not stop. And finally when another sweetheart consulting gig involving a shady friend was unearthed Fortas’s time was up. He resigned from the court in disgrace in the spring of 1969. He died in 1982.

So play this out 50 years later with another highly partisan court appointment. Kavanaugh has left not only a vast and still undisclosed paper trail of his activities and views of the George W. Bush White House, but now has had two appearances before the Senate Judiciary Committee where, to be charitable, he has been at best guilty of less than subtle obfuscation.

The president of the United States has outsourced judicial vetting to the most extreme partisans in the community of GOP special interests who want to complete the full politicization of the court. He has, like LBJ in 1965, looked beyond talent and temperament to put a politician on the bench.

No matter what happens with the Kavanaugh nomination – let’s assume he is narrowly confirmed amid continuing controversy about his past and his truthfulness – the scrutiny, just like with Abe Fortas, will not suddenly disappear.

There is a better than even chance that Democrats will win control of the U.S. House of Representatives in the fall and a feisty New Yorker by the name of Jerrold Nadler will become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Last weekend Nadler seemed to be reaching back in time when he said: "We cannot have a justice on the Supreme Court for the next several decades who will be deciding questions of liberty and life and death and all kinds of things for the entire American people who has been credibly accused of sexual assaults, who has been credibly accused of various other ... wrong things, including perjury. This has gotta be thoroughly investigated. I hope the Senate will do so. If he is on the Supreme Court and the Senate hasn't investigated, then the House will have to." 

Based upon what the Supreme Court should be – independent, free of obvious partisan taint, above politics to the extent that is possible – it’s easy to see that Lyndon Johnson made a historic mistake in 1965 appointing an unabashed partisan to the court. Johnson knew what he was doing. He wanted his guy in there. History shows us how that turned out. Donald Trump also wants his guy on the court, a judge who has wondered out loud if constraints on presidential power are appropriate and, credible questions of past conduct aside, believes he is being put upon only as “revenge on the behalf of the Clintons.” The lesson is clear: controversial, highly partisan nominees are bad for the court and bad for the country.

In his biography of Abe Fortas, historian Bruce Allen Murphy notes that a portrait of Fortas that once hung in a prominent place in the Yale law school has now disappeared from the New Haven campus. Does a similar fate await a new justice? We’re going to find out.
 

Searching for the argument against

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When it comes to ballot issues, the voter calculus ought to involve these questions:

What, at core, is the argument supporting?

And what, at core, is the argument against?

Maybe there’s a third as well: Are any of the core arguments something that would be better decided by the courts than by the voters?

In the case of Proposition 1 (you can find it at https://sos.idaho.gov/elect/inits/2018/init04.html), the historical horse racing initiative, the sides seem to be asymmetrical. I’m having a hard time locating the compelling argument against.

First, a political note: In a time when practically everything seems to have split along party lines, this one has not. Prominent Republicans and Democrats can be found on both sides.

Prop 1 would allow the return of historical horse racing (or “instant racing”) terminals at places where live horse racing takes place. They were legalized in Idaho in 2013, but the Idaho Legislature banned them again in 2015 after being persuaded they were too much like slot machines. The central benefits to the state noted are an increase in jobs at horse tracks - the Les Bois in Ada County shut down after the 2015 ban - and some additional revenue (probably a modest amount) going to the state school fund. The benefits are small in scale, but they are definable.

So that’s the pro side. And the argument against?

The anti group Idaho United Against Prop 1 (their site is at http://idunitedagainstprop1.com/) said that “Proposition 1 is all about gambling machines, not horses. The text of Prop 1 will allow historical horse racing machines to be permitted anywhere that live racing or simulcast horse racing occurs – but machines are permitted to remain on 24/7 even if no racing is taking place. Casino-style gambling could be expanded to every corner of Idaho unless voters say NO this November.” That (along with the point that revenue to schools would not be large) is evidently the core of the argument.

The Idaho Racing Commission lists active horse racing locations in Pocatello, Idaho Falls, Rupert, Jerome, Malad, Burley and Blackfoot. But in 2018, the commission said, none operated more than six race days during the year. The initiative wouldn’t allow the instant machines in any place that didn’t run races at least eight days a year. Presumably, that would entail a revival of the Les Bois operation, or something similar. But it doesn’t sound like a prescription for an Idaho overrun with gambling machines.

A second argument is that these historical racing machines are a lot like slot machines, and that’s a question I have raised in this space in the past. But if true (and it’s at least debatable) that seems more like a question for the courts (where this doubtless will go if the initiative passes) than it does for the voters.

The other criticism is about how the finances are structured and how much schools actually would receive. There’s no real debate, though, that the schools and the state would receive something, more at least than they do now. And if the amount funneled off to the state does strike people as too small, the legislature could adjust it.

So what’s left is a modest but real argument in favor, and a vaporous argument in opposition.

Unless someone has something more concrete to offer ...
 

How do we choose?

schmidt

Idahoans have chosen Butch Otter to be governor for the last twelve years, despite not thinking too highly of him. A recent poll showed he had a “net approval” of +12 while the state had a “Republican partisan lean” of +34, so he was actually 22 points behind any generic Republican. Idaho’s partisan lean was the third highest in the country.

A high-priced political consultant from back east presented some information to Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry 4 years ago about Idaho politics. He explained that Idahoans just weren’t politically engaged. His graphic evidence showed that ten times more Idahoans Googled “otter” meaning the cute river or sea mammal, than “Otter” the governor.

I always did a lot of door knocking when I ran for State Senate. I would knock and wait, then introduce myself, “Hi, I’m Dan Schmidt your state senator.” The most common response was, “You are?” and a look of surprise. I would ask about their concerns and explain why I thought they should vote for me. If the door didn’t slam, I would usually ask how they decided who to vote for. I’d hear: “Oh I decide based on the person, what I know about them.” That’s the myth people want to believe about their decisions, that they are informed and make wise choices. The truth is, most people can’t name who are their elected representatives, let alone what they stand for or any work they have done. It’s pretty hard to stay informed on all the details. And it’s boring. Netflix is better.

When an electorate is not engaged, there is usually low participation and certain default choices. Idaho voters show up in presidential year elections at a 70-80% participation of registered voters (which is less than 60% of eligible voters). Midterm years (like this year), it’s about 50-60% of registered voters.

There is no doubt partisan affiliation is the default setting when the voter decides to participate and only has limited information. The very strong Republican Party brand in Idaho right now is complicated by the question “Which Republican Party?” If the polling is accurate, Proposition 2/ Medicaid Expansion has pretty strong statewide support. Even a slim majority of Republicans seem to support it. Yet Republican Lieutenant Governor candidate Janice McGeachen successfully got the state Republican party to condemn Prop 2.

The last time Idaho Republicans went through this sort of test was when Otter (not the cute one) had the gumption to have a fight over establishing the state-based health insurance exchange (Your Health Idaho). Many Republican legislators were condemned by their local county party committees for their support of this brave initiative. YHI went on to be the most popular state exchange in the country; indigent and Catastrophic Health Care costs plummeted, reaping the general fund a tidy return and decreasing Idaho’s uninsured rate significantly. But that bitter fight left some deep scars in that big tent Republican Party.

Will Republicans shy away from an intramural fight before the November election? Some aren’t afraid to make their stance known. Twenty Republican House members signed on to opposition of Prop 2 last week. Most moderate Republican candidates I’ve heard aren’t willing to commit. And if their brand is strong enough, and the voters aren’t too engaged, maybe it won’t matter for them. They might welcome being mistaken for a cute water mammal.
 

Idaho Weekly Briefing – the campaign

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Local and regional journalism is in financial trouble and under attack from critics. That means we're all in trouble. Do you know what your elected officials are doing? If you don’t know, how can you keep them accountable? Studies are showing that governments are less efficient and more corrupt when the people see less of what they’re doing. And the same applies to other kinds of organizations.

For people in Idaho, The Idaho Weekly Briefing helps. We have been reporting about Idaho’s governments, business and other organizations, and the demographic and other changes sweeping the state, for many years. Our reports and analysis, some original and some curated from source documents, are packaged in an e-magazine 40 to 50 pages in length. Easy to scan quickly or read in depth.

I'm Randy Stapilus, editor and publisher. I’ve been reporting about Idaho for more than 40 years, as a newspaper editor and reporter, writing about a dozen books and editing periodicals about the state. My weekly column runs in newspapers serving Boise to Twin Falls, Lewiston, Pocatello and beyond.

The Idaho Weekly Briefing is read by legislators, activists, government and business leaders, and interested citizens, has always been sustained by subscription fees. We're launching this campaign to make the Weekly Briefing free of charge, freely available, through e-mail or download. No paywall, no ads, no subsidiary income stream.

We need $6,000 to underwrite the next year's Briefings - just enough keep the Briefing going free-access, for 52 issues.

But we hope to go beyond that, to continue into the future ... and to make the Briefing more than it is now. We want to add more features, news and investigative articles from writers around the state, mid-week updates, and much more. The more funding we receive, the more we can do.

As another organizer on IndieGoGo said about their effort, "This campaign is about so much more than money. It's about community - because success requires a huge backing of people who believe that it's possible, and want to be a force in making it happen."

We see the Idaho Weekly Briefing is a prototype. If we can make it work in Idaho ... with you as a contributor as well as a supporter ... it could inspire more efforts around the country. We want to be a part of that, and I’m asking you to become a part of it too.
 

The good, the perplexing, the ugly

jones

Ever since serving as state Attorney General in the 1980s, I have been pleased with the way Idaho’s Sheriffs run their offices.

Sure, they run on partisan tickets, but law enforcement should be free of politics and that is the way our Sheriffs generally conduct themselves. I was impressed when the Idaho Sheriffs’ Association recently came out in favor of the Medicaid expansion initiative, Proposition 2 on the November ballot.

Clearwater County Sheriff Chris Goetz, the government affairs chair, explained, “The vote for this was not even close. Sheriffs voted overwhelmingly to support Proposition 2 to save taxpayers money, to keep people out of jails, and to keep people out of the emergency room. By expanding coverage to low-income people with health issues or mental health issues, they’re more likely to contribute to society and less likely to end up back in the system.” Thanks to the Sheriffs for bringing common sense to the debate.

County sheriffs’ offices and city police departments are critical agencies in providing safe school campuses and protecting our kids. It is perplexing why Sherri Ybarra, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, did not call on their help in developing her almost $20 million school safety program. Other important stakeholders— associations of teachers, school boards, and school administrators—have indicated they were not invited into the process.

The manager of the Idaho Office of School Safety and Security said, “We didn’t even know she was looking at doing any kind of safety initiative until she announced it to the general public.” You would think this office, which the Legislature established in 2016 “to enhance the safety and security of students and educators,” would have been a primary participant in the program. Ybarra’s go-it-alone approach is symptomatic of the way she has handled her office.

Members of the Legislature have urged that she work more closely with them to advance education programs. Her attendance record at Land Board and Board of Education meetings is less than stellar. My high school English teacher, Mrs. Murphy, told me you can’t get much done if you have too many absences.

The ugly part of this column is the President’s lowball refugee cap for the next fiscal year. Our great country, which has been a leader in giving refuge to people fleeing persecution, will admit less than 25,000 endangered people next year. That is a record low in the 40-year history of the refugee resettlement program. The current year’s cap is 45,000 and we will probably admit only half of that number. It is likely that actual admissions next year will be just a fraction of the 25,000 cap.

The historical average of refugees being taken in by the U.S. is 80,000. That should be the very floor for the coming year. This country has been responsible for creating more refugees than almost any other country in the world since the turn of the century. Our involvement in wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen has created an historic global refugee crisis and we are shirking our moral responsibility by turning our back on the victims. If we don’t at least triple our intake of refugees next year, it will be stain on the honor of our country long into the future.
 

A very sorry mess

rainey

It’s absolutely impossible to look back on last week’s Senate Judiciary hearing with anything but disappointment, shock, anger and disgust.

Regardless of how one feels about the nominee, the entire proceedings were shameful. Members of the panel more than characterized the divisions in this nation. By their noxious, immovable and completely partisan behavior during the whole sorry affair, new and horrendous political and societal fissures were created that won’t heal in a generation. If ever. In the process, Republicans, especially, ignored the time-honored method of selecting, vetting and impartially examining merits of a U.S. Supreme Court pick.

Against the knowledgeable and politically accurate advice of his own Majority Leader, and with deadly malice aforethought, the president lit the fuse. He turned the selection process over to a right wing think tank after placing his own asterisk by Brent Kavanaugh’s name.

There was no vetting process. Documents were secreted. Outlandish attempts were made to conceal important information about the nominee’s legal career and personal history. Millions of dollars were spent on a whitewash ad campaign. Republican members of the committee staff were openly partisan and blocked attempts of Democrat counterparts to develop and present their own findings.

The nation has seen the outcome. Two badly damaged people, pitted against each other like gladiators in some coliseum, encouraged by partisans to “do battle” as witnesses. The whole damned thing should never have been allowed to proceed after the first wisps of smoke appeared in the candidate’s background.

The prostituted process lacked the one ingredient that could have saved the whole sorry affair: a thorough FBI check into the various claims arising from the nominee’s past. A week’s impartial examination - maybe even only a few days - could have produced necessary information for the Committee to make a just and informed recommendation. Republicans repeatedly refused anyone who asked. They, uniformly, would not yield to even common sense.

There is now an FBI investigation in progress. But, look at the cost of the accumulated wreckage. Look at the career and personal damage to witnesses and politicians alike. All of it - all of it - could have been avoided.

There’s enough blame in this whole sorry mess to go around. Democrats also played a role in fouling the deal.

But, Republicans are in charge. They have the dominant numbers. They have the gavel. They call the tune - set the stage - direct the show. They have complete responsibility that goes with all those facts. To our everlasting shame, with the world watching, they conducted this demonstration of barbarous partisanship and may have set despicable “standards” for future judicial proceedings.

You can choose to believe the accuser(s). You can believe the nominee. But, one thing you must personally believe was the visible demonstration of intemperance, overwrought emotions, combativeness and deep anger displayed by Kavanaugh. Then, regardless of political outlook, you have to ask yourself “Are those characteristics ones you want sitting in judgement on all issues brought before the U.S. Supreme Court?” What if it’s your “issue?” How trusting would you be your issue would be judged impartially?

Finally, the entire tragedy could have been avoided with the selection of someone not carrying the baggage of years of political partisanship. Someone characterized by demonstrated legal acuity, possessed of emotional and other personal traits desired in a Justice of the highest court. Someone known by peers to be capable of withstanding the pressures and rigors of serving on a panel carrying the full weight of one-third of this nation’s constitutional governance.

This tragic affair could have been avoided if those charged with conducting the matter had relied on tradition, rules, common sense, compassion and law. They did not.

Regardless of the outcome of November’s election, the bad feelings, anger, resentment, emotional damage and political ruptures will linger. For a long, long time.
 

Idaho Weekly Briefing – October 1

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for September 24. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

Campaigns roared ahead last week as candidates from governor on down hit the trail around the state. The climate cooperated, cooling down and tamping down the remaining wildfires from summer.

Senator Mike Crapo, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today voted to refer the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court to the full Senate. The committee voted 11-10 to report the nomination favorably to the full Senate for consideration. Timing on proceeding to the nomination will be determined by the Majority Leader.

A trade mission headed by Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter and put together by the state departments of Commerce and Agriculture was slated to take off for Toronto on October 1.

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality is seeking public comment on a draft hazardous waste storage and treatment partial permit renewal for the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project on the Idaho National Laboratory.

The city of Idaho Falls City Council passed a resolution on September 27 authorizing Idaho Falls Power to begin a pilot program to examine the costs associated with providing high-speed fiber optic access to Idaho Falls residents.

Representative Mike Simpson voted this week for a series of bills aimed at protecting and expanding the historic wins accomplished by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

The Bureau of Land Management Idaho Falls District and Caribou-Targhee National Forest on September 28 released a draft environmental impact statement analyzing different alternatives for expanding the phosphate mine at Smoky Canyon, east of Soda Springs.

Attorney General Lawrence Wasden has announced that Idaho, 49 other states and the District of Columbia have all reached an agreement with California-based ride-sharing company Uber Technologies, Inc. The settlement addresses the company’s one-year delay in reporting a data breach to affected drivers.

Friends of the Palouse Ranger District on September 25 personally delivered over a thousand signatures to the Boise offices of Senator Jim Risch, Senator Mike Crapo, and the Idaho Lands Department.

IMAGE After a second failed attempt in a year to pass a bond issue, the Idaho Falls School District is again reconsidering ways to upgrade its schools. The school board met Wednesday to discuss possible paths forward and to address why its $99.5 million request to rebuild Idaho Falls High School and remodel Skyline High School failed in August. (photo/IdahoEdNews)
 

What we learn from history

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Just when it seems that our politics can’t possibly produce yet one more head spinning moment we get one.

An amazing thing happened this week. The world laughed at the American president. While he was making a speech. At the United Nations.

Oh, I know, Trump fans will discount the importance of a spontaneous outburst of chuckling from the world’s diplomats. European elites, they will scoff. A reaction coming from African nations that are, well, it rhymes with lit holes.

While it’s tempting to toss off yet another Trump moment as just the latest Trump moment the reaction to the president of the United States boasting about his greatness at the U.N. is really a symptom of a larger, more serious problem for the United States and the world. At the same time the United States has retreated from a position of international leadership we continue to suffer a difficult to correct deterioration of democratic practice at home. Unfortunately we are not alone.

As Edward Luce, a writer for the Financial Times, notes in his brilliant little book The Retreat of Western Liberalism, “Since the turn of the millennium, and particularly over the last decade, no fewer than twenty-five democracies have failed around the world, three of them in Europe (Russia, Turkey and Hungary.)” Luce is, of course, using the term “liberal” in the classic sense: liberal democracies encourage people to vote in free elections, they welcome dissent, they value a free press, they respect differences and find ways to compromise in the cause of an unruly, yet broadly universal understanding of progress.

Yet, the prevailing momentum in the world is not toward greater equality either political or economic. By one recent estimate, a third of the world’s people now live in democracies in decline. All the energy from the British exit from the European Union to new U.S. trade wars is in the direction of isolation, retrenchment and conflict. We see the telltale signs of this new world order playing out in real time. For 70 years the NATO alliance has provided security for Europe, Canada and the United States, yet the current administration, apparently ignorant of that history, picks fights those allies and plays nice with a Russian dictator. Rather than thoughtful engagement with China – Ed Luce calls the emergence of China as world power “the most dramatic event in economic history” – we apply time dishonored methods of tariffs and taxation that will soon enough hurt Idaho potato growers, Montana wheat farmers and Iowa soybean growers. China, meanwhile, consolidates its influence across the Pacific basin, while we tax ourselves thinking we will bring them to heel.

Americans are badly, one hopes not fatally, distracted at the moment. The constant political turmoil, the blind partisanship, the disregard for fundamental political and personal decency is part of a pattern across the globe. As the European scholar Anne Applebaum put it recently, “Polarization is normal. More to the point … skepticism about liberal democracy is also normal. And the appeal of authoritarianism is eternal.”

Ask yourself a question: How much of what you hear and read about politics today do you really trust? Authoritarians like Putin in Russia or Erdogan in Turkey have mastered manipulation on public opinion, they control the sources of information if they can, intimidate those they can’t and dominate and denigrate the rest. Democracy does not thrive in spaces where leaders label as “fake” or a “hoax” that with which they disagree. But demagogues do get ahead in societies where distracted citizens come to believe that nothing is real, that there are versions of the truth. More and more political leaders, even a candidate for governor in Idaho, seem comfortable with their own versions of Trump’s “fake news” mantra.

It used to be that political leaders, real political leaders, practiced the old political game of addition. How do I add to my support? How do I bring people together? How do we solve problems even if my side can’t prevail completely? How do we strengthen the often-fragile norms that define acceptable behavior? How do we strengthen the rule of law rather that assault it? Those were the days. Now it is all about juicing the base or perhaps even worse, depressing the vote.

The retreat of western liberalism is happening at precisely the moment the United States is fighting to lead the retreat. At a moment that demands American leadership, fresh thinking about old problems and a commitment to pluralistic societies, we are hunkered down building walls and denying climate change. And the world is laughing at words like, "my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country." 

Ironically, Donald Trump’s moment at the United Nations this week is, like so much of the man’s story, a fulfillment of his own expectations. Trump “has always been obsessed that people are laughing at the president, says Thomas Wright, a European expert at the Brookings Institution. “From the mid-’80s, he’s said: ‘The world is laughing at us. They think we’re fools.’ It’s never been true, but he’s said it about every president. It’s the first time I’m aware of that people actually laughed at a president.”

The laughter is on us, as is the future. It is nowhere ordained that American democracy will forever flourish and carry on. In fact the opposite is true. Modern world history is the story of one democracy after another – Italy, Germany and Spain in the 1920s and 1930s and Poland, Brazil and India today – facing internal turmoil, political polarization, decline or worse. We are not immune.

Friedrich Hegel, the great German philosopher put it succinctly, “We learn from history that we do not learn from history.”

(Marc C. Johnson was press secretary and chief of staff to Idaho Gov. Cecil D. Andrus. His biography of Montana New Deal-era Sen. Burton K. Wheeler will be published early next year by the University of Oklahoma Press. He lives in Manzanita, OR)
 

What should we talk about?

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On Tuesday, the two main candidates for governor - Republican Brad Little and Democrat Paulette Jordan - will meet for their first face-off, at the College of Idaho at Caldwell.

What should they talk about?

Here are a few topics they, and the panel of questioners, might consider.

The cost of housing: The sheer ability to get housing - in the parts of Idaho that are growing - has become something close to a crisis. This is a regional, not just a local, issue. What can and should the state do?

As the housing problem suggests, the parts of Idaho are growing, or slipping, in different ways. How can the growth in some parts of Idaho be harnessed to avoid the troubles of boomtowns, but help and boost the parts of Idaho that are stagnant or in decline?

Should the Medicaid expansion ballot issue pass? (Jordan has endorsed it, Little has declined to state a position.) If it does, what will you do to make it work in a frequently hostile political climate? If it doesn’t, what will you do to help solve the problems that have led to its placement on the ballot?

This year’s Idaho Republican convention called for punishing businesses that employ undocumented workers. What do you think the state should do about that?

Pause for a look at the big picture on taxes: Is Idaho’s tax structure taken as a whole fair? How can it be improved?

How do you plan to communicate with the public? Please explain how that relates to your, or your party’s, relationship with the news media in Idaho.

Tell me something - one specific thing, a law, a rule, a process, a program or whatever - that another state does that Idaho would be wise to emulate; and other specific thing from another state Idaho would do well to avoid.

A one-off for Jordan: You’ve accumulated a long and growing list of campaign missteps, from uncertainty about keeping your legislative seat, to involvement with outside issues, to campaign administration problems, to (this isn’t too strong a description) attacks on news reporting, and beyond. If all this doesn’t suggest a lack of preparation for the top elective administrative job in Idaho, what does it say?

A one-off for Little: How are you and your prospective governorship anything other than the Otter Administration Mark IV? Granting some successes (and a strong Idaho economy, attributable only in part to state government), plenty of Idahoans, including plenty of Republicans, would like to see something else after 12 years. Will there be anything substantial other than new names on the doors? And if so, what is that?

And: What do you think is the biggest piece of unfinished business the Otter Administration is leaving behind, and how would you deal with it? How as a practical political matter would you get it done - and why hasn’t it been done yet?

For that last question, at least, there are more than a few reasonable answers. Maybe allow an extra minute on that one.