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Posts published in April 2021

Maybe next time


After the U.S. Census reported that Idaho was the second-fastest growing state in the nation in population (as well as speedily in some other ways), some Idahoans may be surprised their home was not among the roster of states gaining an additional congressional district. It hasn’t gotten a new one, after all, in a long time. Isn’t it overdue?

Texas, Florida and North Carolina gained, to no shock. But so did Colorado, Oregon and even Montana.

You might think that Idaho, after 110 years at the two-seat level, a state that’s been growing for several decades, could spread its wings a little further to add one more.

The problem is where Idaho sits in relation to the “bubble.” There is this to consider: It may be in a little more advantageous position for that after the 2030 census.

The “bubble” is the point at which a state, relative to all the other states, crosses over the statistical line in needing a new district, which of course comes at the disadvantage of other states. That border line between states can be close. New York, which lost one congressional seat with this year’s census (rather than the widely-expected two), came within a population count of less than 100 from not losing any at all. (The state on the positive side of the bubble, which came almost as close to losing a district, was Minnesota.)

Idaho started, decades ago, relatively well behind the bubble, and it has had a long way to catch up. (Montana, which had two congressional districts for 80 until the 1990 census, remained close to the bubble and crossed the line this time.) The other problem is this: Even a substantial percentage increase in population may result in a smallish increase, compared to larger states, in “raw” numbers, which is what matters for redistricting.

So, for this year, Idaho’s congressional redistricting won’t be a hot topic of discussion, as it hasn’t been for a long time. (It will be in Oregon, where a sixth district will be added, and the battle may be close and fierce over whether the state’s House delegation goes from its current 4-1 Democratic to 4-2 or 5-1; either outcome is plausible.) In Idaho, where Ada County long has been split between the two congressional districts, the only question has been where exactly in the city of Boise the line will be drawn. Neither Republican district has any realistic prospect for becoming competitive.

Looking ahead, the question for 2030 is where Idaho will be in relation to the bubble - and here we find basis for cautious optimism.

Will Idaho’s population grow relative to the nation, or will it recede? Idaho is eighth in line for one more House district than they got this time. Since just a half-dozen states this time added to their House delegation, that makes Idaho’s position look iffy. But remember that these counts are relative to other states. Several of the states ahead of Idaho this time for another district - New York, as already noted, is one of them - have been in recent decades falling back compared to other states, so Idaho may get closer to the mark as the decade wears on.

Idaho’s growth ever since the mid-80s has been steady at least, and sometimes stronger than that. If the trend lines hold, Idaho may cross the bubble.

Of course, the fact that Idaho has been growing rapidly in recent decades doesn’t necessarily mean it will in the next one. One point to consider: Quite a few people from expensive-living states such as California came to Idaho thinking, correctly, they could buy houses and live cheaper there. That equation is changing as Idaho housing prices roar skyward, faster than in most of the country.

If Idaho does wind up getting a third district, that would dramatically change the map. The simplest and maybe most logical split might involve an Ada-Canyon district, with another district to the north and the third to the east. But the possible variations are endless.

Idahoans have another decade to think about it.

Killing budgets


During the four years I served on the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee (JFAC) I worked with many fellow members to craft budgets for where the state should spend the taxpayers’ dollars. Most of the time, as a minority Democrat I was working with Republicans, since that’s the main flavor in the Idaho Statehouse. But when considering how money should be spent, it really was about common sense, not political idealism.

We would get together and pore over the information and negotiate. Sometimes you could get something cut here, then someone would want to add something there and there would be honest negotiating. It was hard work but rewarding.

We knew our job was not to make policy but balance the budget.

So, when the Idaho House votes to kill budgets, I’m scratching my head. Are they saying their colleagues on JFAC aren’t doing their work? If so, they should be lobbying to get onto JFAC and do the work themselves. It’s tough work, but not beyond their effort, I am sure.

Or are they wanting this state agency to behave differently? If that is the case, they can write a law directing the agency with new policy and direction. I can see they are doing that with “Social Justice”, “Critical Race Theory” legislation. Read House Bill 377 please. The bill states it is a public policy that no public school shall:

“direct or otherwise compel students to personally affirm, adopt, or adhere to any of the following tenets…” I guess the legislature, and the Freedom Foundation don’t trust our public-school teachers to behave professionally.
Indoctrination is not education. Wayne Hoffman and Richard Butler both graduated from public schools and attended public colleges. Maybe that was before this “social justice” threat. They both managed to grow up and think for themselves.

Maybe the “NO” voters just want this branch of government to go away. For the four years I built the Idaho Health and Welfare budgets, there would be 5-10 “NO” votes in the Senate, and 20-25 “NO” votes in the House. Nobody every spoke to me about the specifics of how this money should be spent differently. If there was any debate against the budget in the Senate, it was about “too big” or “not the role of government”. Which again, could have been addressed with legislation to eliminate the Division of Welfare, or the Division of Medicaid, or any of the other parts of DHW. But those bills never came up.

A colleague explained it to me. Legislators get negative points on the Idaho Freedom Foundation Index if they vote for a budget. And LOTS of negative points for voting for the Health and Welfare budgets. IFF keeps score. If you want a good Freedom Index score, vote the way they tell you to. I would argue the IFF is working hard to indoctrinate legislators. And they are doing a great job of it.

It looks like this session the IFF has put the bullseye on education funding, both higher ed and K12, with the social justice boogeyman as the excuse.

The Idaho House killed a budget for K12 teacher pay. They also killed the higher ed budget. And the Federal Money from the Trump administration for preschool support got killed. Representative Shepherd (R-Riggins) said it clearly, when asked if he would support the Preschool grant. “And if I cannot educate them (the voters) on what the bill actually does in time, at this point it’s almost political suicide for me to support the bill.” I guess he’s not free to think for himself. He’s watching his Freedom Index.

Promoting good schools is a noble cause. I just don’t see the boogeyman the IFF has carted out for us. If Idaho legislators want to fight indoctrination, they should start thinking for themselves and not pandering to their Freedom Index.

Fulcher going retro?


In Washington, Idaho Congressman Russ Fulcher is playing “oldies, but goodies” with his latest series of legislative proposals, the greatest hits from the Republican Party over the last 40 years. He’s even added a nostalgic twist to the name, calling it the “drain the swamp” package, in honor of former President Trump.

However, Trump had nothing to do with promoting any of Fulcher’s proposals that he is sponsoring or co-sponsoring. Some of those initiatives, which once were part of the GOP’s heart and soul, go all the way back to the Reagan years.

The congressman isn’t naïve. He knows these old ideas won’t get a hearing with the Democratic majority in the House, let alone a floor vote. But as Fulcher explains, “We have to change the messaging and the narrative here.”
So, he’s turning back the clock. Let’s check it out.

Balanced Budget Amendment. President Reagan talked about it in the 1980s and former Idaho Sen. Larry Craig was one of the leading proponents during his years in Congress. With the national debt at almost $28 trillion and federal spending showing no signs of slowing down, it’s almost laughable to be talking about a balanced budget amendment. But Fulcher makes a nice pitch: “Each year in Idaho, we are required to balance the budget and act as responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars. It is past due for our federal government to do the same.”

Elimination of the Death Tax (also called “estate” taxes). As Fulcher says, “Rural families should not be punished for their family’s success, and I urge my colleagues in urban settings to take a moment to consider this detrimental impact.” Members of Congress have taken many “moments” over the years to repeal the death tax, and it’s still with us.

Congressional term limits. If enacted, House members would be limited to three terms (six years) and senators would be maxed out after two terms (12 years. It’s a good idea, for sure. The problem is convincing career politicians in Washington to go along with it.

Opposition to the return of earmarks. Democrats are looking to restore earmarks under a different name, called “Community Project Funding.” Fulcher and other Republicans fear that earmarks, under any label, would open the door for more pork spending. Of course, discretionary spending is only a miniscule part of the problem with the national debt. The bigger issue is with so-called “entitlement” programs such as Social Security and Medicare, and Congress has no appetite for curtailing those.

One Subject at a Time Act. Fulcher is in just his third year in office, but he has seen enough of these massive spending bills and his eyes are glazed over from looking at the hundreds (if not thousands) of mind-numbing pages that go with those packages. “On these big bills, there are some good reasons for not supporting them and good reasons to support them,” he said. “If Congress were to take these issues one at a time, it would take longer and be more difficult, but that’s the responsible thing to do.”

Doing as Fulcher describes also would require members, from both parties, to work together, which is not happening. The House allows for proxy voting, which was instituted during the height of the coronavirus pandemic and zoom committee meetings are part of the norm. House members basically can operate from their home districts, if they wish.

“There is very little discussion between the parties, or opportunities for discussion between the parties and that’s by design,” Fulcher says. “It’s hard to build relationships, negotiate or gain trust, and the leadership knows that. Democrats have the narrowest of majorities, yet they are ramming things through – which is a testament to their discipline and ability to control each other.”

Fulcher also isn’t seeing bipartisan breakthroughs from President Biden, who pledged to work with the GOP.

“He’s not working with Republicans on anything,” Fulcher says. “Our Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy, hasn’t even met with the president. To my knowledge, the president is not meeting with members of Congress from either party on any kind of a regular basis.”

So don’t expect the president to call Fulcher about his “drain the swamp” proposals. These “oldies” are not all bad ideas, but the records are warped and there are many scratches to go with the sound.

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

The Equal Voice Voting option


Not all but a great many of us have serious complaints about the electoral college, the constitutionally-mandated collection of people that, most directly, elects the presidents of the United States.

Established in the constitution as a sot of uncomfortable compromise, it has shaken and wobbled through the years and when pressed given us some unfortunate results. Because electoral votes are counted in a winner-take-all approach state by state, the national results won't necessarily match the preferences of America's votes. Just that happened in 2016 (and 1888).

There's not a lot we can readily do, however, to get to the simplest and most logical result, which is to elect our presidents by direct popular vote. As a practical matter, since the EC is embedded in the constitution, the job of getting that change made would be a political lift beyond the superheroic. In anything like the near term, that simply isn't going to happen.

There are alternatives for working within the system. One, which almost a third of the states has signed on to, involves a compact in which a large group of states would agree that their electoral votes would go to whichever presidential candidate receives the most popular votes nationally. (It would have to be approved by states accounting for at least 270, the number needed to elect a president, to go into effect.) It might be better than the current system, because at least the will of the people is more likely to be directly carried out, but it does have a series of problems of its own, including some questions of constitutionality.

A new book out this year, All Votes Matter, by game theorist Jerry Spriggs, of West Linn, Oregon, proposes another way to use the current electoral college system in a way that offers some significant benefits.

There's a hint of what could be in the states of Maine and Nebraska, where the electoral college votes are awarded in a split fashion, two of them (in each state) reflecting the statewide vote but the others matched to the presidential winner in each of the congressional districts. (Both of those state split their electoral college votes between the candidates in 2020.)

What Spriggs calls Equal Voice Voting would involving splitting every state's electoral college vote based on the portion of the vote each candidate received. As a practical matter, that would mean major-party presidential candidates rarely would receive all the electoral votes from any state, in a block; they would be split depending on how strongly or poorly the candidates did. That would have meant, in 2020, that Donald Trump would have gotten some of the electoral votes from California, and Joe Biden would have gotten some of the votes from Texas - even, very likely, one of Idaho's four electoral college votes.

Part of the idea is that, for voters, no one would be shut out because they live in a "red" or "blue" state - even the underdogs are likely to collect some votes there. Another idea is that this approach would mean the electoral college vote would much more closely reflect the actual popular vote. Spriggs reviewed the national results over the last 16 presidential elections and found those electoral college votes were a close match for the popular vote.

He has some concerns I don't share or think as critical as he does - the significance of votes by states and the risk of abuse in elections, for example. And he tends to elide, as the book closes, the extreme difficulty of getting all 50 states to adopt such a system, which is what they'd have to do to make it work. (Say you're in a red or blue state: Do you want to go first in surrendering some of your party's advantages? Probably not until the other side puts up as well.)

But he makes an excellent case for the usefulness of Equal Voice Voting as a means of developing one-man one-vote system without having to take a run at the constitution. Check it out. And maybe give a little thought to launching some support for it.

It must end


There are many of us who’d like to believe our national - and in some cases local - political divisions will be smoothed over one of these days and we’ll get back to “normal.”

NEW FLASH: It’s not going to happen! Not in the next 50 years!
The reasons are many. And pretty plain.

Our system of governance has been under continued stress the last 70 years as never before. Wars with no goal - no defined ending. Military spending - on an annual basis - more than the next eight largest countries combined. Out-of-control spending that’s left national needs unmet, stoking resentment and hatred among people who’ve suffered because of societal needs going unanswered.

Unlimited dollars pouring into PACs and other political coffers virtually assuring politicians of continuance in office has meant less turnover for seating newcomers with their own views to offer. Voices of division daily driving wedges between people, assuring continued political division between political parties - drowning out efforts to reunite - efforts to overcome past differences.

Even issues of a national pandemic killing over half–a-million Americans and efforts to keep guns out of the hands of killers have been politicalized, causing death and continued destruction. Even the unwarranted deaths of children.

The fires of hate and division are stoked daily. By those in office, those civilian voices making seven-figure incomes spewing lies and hatred. By those following a leader, astride a golden calf, who’s blinded them to fact, honesty and truth, in numbers sufficiently large enough to dilute reason and comity for the rest of us.

At the moment, there’s no functioning Republican Party - no core of reasonable values and goals sufficient to attract mass support. Unless - and until - such a viable center can be established, millions of voters seeking a political “home” of honest, goal-driven effort and shared beliefs will drift aimlessly in a world of distortions and untruths.

More and more of us will avoid both political parties and become disaffiliated, turning deaf ears to plaintive political voices, uninvolved in matters of political importance. Unaffiliated with political interests.

Maybe the largest cause of division is in the ranks of those who’ve achieved some political success and have shamefully used the powers
of their office to stoke anger and lies. Cruz, Hawley, Kennedy, Biggs, Gosar, Greene, McConnell, McCarthy and dozens more have shown - thru word and deed - they’re committed to no political achievement; only to continue current divisions.

The one common thread dealing with those named? They’re what national republicanism is today. Deliberately small “r.”

For the last 12 years, they - and others of the same party - have decried “Obamacare” without producing a single, workable alternative. Not one in 12 years! Just more empty voices of distraction.

Over the last four years, Mitch McConnell kept a stranglehold on any legislation from a Democrat-controlled House. The thousands of hours of work represented in those bills were killed - DOA. And his Party produced what? Nothing. Nothing.

Some of those named participated in - or otherwise supported - the vandals that attacked our national Congress. Actually lent the authority of their political office to the death and vandalism that resulted. And those congressional enablers continue in office.

It’s not Republican versus Democrat keeping us apart any more. It’s honesty versus lies. It’s hatred versus comity, regardless of political affiliation. It’s unfounded bigotry versus inclusion. It’s creating continual verbal and legislative barriers versus coming to the table to reason. It’s “us versus them.”

It’s interesting that recent polling shows many Republicans are supportive of a Democrat President. In less than 100 days on office, a Democrat has accomplished not just his own party’s work but has received positive feedback from the other side. Maybe we’re seeing the beginnings of creation of some common political ground.

There is no short-term answer to return us to “normal” - whatever that was. This milieu of disparate voices will continue unabated for the near future. Maybe the long future. What will come of that - what danger it poses for our Republic - no one knows.

But, eventually, there will come a new political structure - a new organizational order - some mutually agreed-upon political environment we cannot predict. It may not involve political parties as we know them now. There may not be the traditional Democrat or Republican system we’ve lived with for centuries.

Whatever this nation is bound for, one thing is clear. We cannot - we must not - continue the way things are today if we want to reclaim our position as a world power. The discord, the divisions, the wedges that have separated us one-from-the-other have become cancerous and threaten our national future,

There will be - there must be - a time when the current discord - the current anger - the current distrust - the current animosity - will end.

There must be!

Stealing the people’s power


In a brazen heist at the Statehouse, Idaho’s Legislature has robbed Gem State voters of their sacred right to take legislative matters into their own hands--to get around a non-responsive, lobbyist-driven Legislature. On April 17, Governor Little, playing the role of accessory-after-the-fact, signed legislation depriving Idahoans of their most precious power-- the power to legislate when the Legislature stubbornly refuses to act.

The Legislature has passed and Governor Little has signed Senate Bill 1110, a bill designed to make it impossible for the people to use their constitutional initiative and referendum powers. The initiative has been sparingly used by people across the state to propose and approve popular legislation that the Legislature refuses to consider, like the Sunshine Law, Medicaid expansion and the homeowner’s property tax exemption. The referendum allows the voters to kill wretched legislation, like the unpopular Luna Laws.

Senate Bill 1110 gives our Legislature a complete stranglehold over the public policy that will guide our State into the future. The clear danger of eliminating the voters’ check on legislative power is demonstrated by the bizarre and irresponsible behavior of our legislators throughout the current session. With such a dysfunctional Legislature, it is essential that Idahoans retain their constitutional right to enact or repeal legislation.

Although it will be difficult to undo the Legislature’s theft of the people's power, there are two avenues available to rescue our democracy. Reclaim Idaho, the organization that forced Medicaid expansion upon our recalcitrant Legislature, is preparing to file suit to have the bill declared null and void under the law.

Reclaim Idaho has also filed an initiative petition to repeal the exhausting signature requirements of Senate Bill 1110 and restore the historic signature requirements for initiatives and referendums. Every registered voter in Idaho can help in this effort by signing the petition to get the initiative on the 2022 general election ballot. Voters can also donate to Reclaim Idaho to support this important work.

The Legislature played some slight of hand with Senate Bill 1110, falsely claiming there was an emergency that required this odious bill to immediately go into effect upon the Governor’s signature. They did not identify an emergency because there was none. The emergency clause was included to prevent the people from running an initiative or referendum to overturn their dirty work. Reclaim Idaho anticipated this chicanery and filed its petition before the Governor signed Senate Bill 1110, so as to take advantage of the previous, less-surmountable signature requirement.

An election with the initiative/referendum question on the ballot could be a defining moment in Idaho history. Legislators who voted to strip Idahoans of their constitutional right to fashion public policy with the initiative and referendum will have to answer for their arrogance. Many of them are the same people who have been so very disruptive in the current Legislature. It could present the people with a real opportunity to thin the herd and elect legislators who are responsive to the people and supportive of good government. This theft of the people’s precious legislative power must not go unaddressed.

I just shot him


“Oh, shit! I just shot him!”

Do you get it now? All of you who badmouth and mock the people who believe Black lives matter, do you understand why Black people are no longer staying silent and taking it on the chin? No, probably not. I don’t expect even the events of this week could move you to take a stand for Black lives.

Because I know many of you like to add an “only,” thereby completely and selfishly changing the message to one of twisted superiority, allow me to point out the statement “Black lives matter” is simply a reminder to those who need to hear it. Sadly, there are there a lot of you. So if you must add a word, please make it “too.” As in “Black lives matter, too.”

I’m not talking about an organization. When I say “Black lives matter,” I refer to what should be a universal element of human relationship — we’re all human beings so why should our worth be tied to the color of our skin? It shouldn’t, but I am ashamed so many of you retreat into that defensive white preservation posture the moment you hear someone proclaim that Black lives matter. You know what? Black lives do matter.

This week painted what may be the most vivid picture yet of exactly why some of us must take a specific stand for Black lives. When a young Black man can be “accidentally” killed by “very senior” training officer Kimberly A. Potter who is unable to tell the difference between her service weapon and her Taser, people like me get angry. The video demonstrating the panicked incompetence of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota law enforcement personnel as they fumbled about trying to arrest 20-year-old Daunte Wright was almost unbelievable, considering it took place just minutes from the courthouse holding the trial for the infamous murder of another unarmed Black man. When the world’s attention is focused on your area as it conducts the trial for the murder of George Floyd, you’d think police would be on their most professionally restrained behavior.


Was it worth it, Brooklyn Center police? Reportedly, you stopped Wright for an expired tag or the air freshener hanging from his rear-view mirror but then you discovered he had a misdemeanor warrant so you decided to try to arrest him. Unfortunately, three fully-kitted Brooklyn Center police officers were unable to subdue an evidently sober, unarmed man who looked like he weighed about a hundred pounds. And when he panicked and tried to flee, you panicked and killed him.

Over a misdemeanor and an expired tag or a stupid air freshener.

I guess “law enforcement” is taken with a particularly deadly gravity in Brooklyn Center. Jaywalkers get five-to-ten, right? I know, I know, it was just an accident. Anybody could’ve done it. Sorry, but it’s not just an accident when you are given the power of life and death and you misuse that power. When I screw something up, no one dies.

If the bumbling incompetence of Minnesota’s finest hadn’t resulted in the death of yet another young Black man, it would’ve been eclipsed by the dull-witted screaming of the rubes who play police officer in Windsor, Virginia. This time, the unarmed Black man they assaulted and humiliated was as innocent as innocent gets.

Actually, innocent doesn’t do U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario justice. Nazario, who is Black and Latin, was returning from drill duties with the medical corps when Windsor police officer Joe Gutierrez and an unidentified officer had trouble seeing the temporary license paper legally and appropriately taped in the rear window of his new Chevrolet Tahoe. As a Black man who has abundant reason to be leery of law enforcement, Nazario turned on his four-way flashers and slowly drove to the closest well-lighted area, which happened to be beneath the canopy of a nearby gas station.

This caution apparently infuriated Gutierrez, who escalated a simple traffic stop — a stop initiated over no violation — into a guns-drawn felony-level stop, exactly the sort of situation Nazario was trying to avoid. Screaming at Nazario, the police officers seemed utterly out of control, a state contrasted by the very careful calm of Nazario. When a Black man who happens to be a commissioned officer in the U.S. military is treated like an animal by enraged redneck cops, it is almost physically painful to watch. That these bumpkins with guns and badges are allowed the authority of life and death over honorable men like Nazario is sickening.

“I’m honestly afraid to get out of the car,” Nazario said, his hands held up in supplication.

“Yeah,” Gutierrez shot back. “You should be.” What a professional.

“I’m serving this country and this is how I’m treated?” asked Nazario calmly. “What’s going on?”

“What’s going on is you’re fixing to ride the lightning, son,” Gutierrez screamed back.

It got worse when the out-of-control Gutierrez pepper-sprayed Nazario. I was disgusted to see these two cops acting like, well, pigs. Yes, they behaved like pigs. The calm man in the car being detained should never be the one carefully asking the police to calm down. Gutierrez and his partner unnecessarily escalated this situation to one that could easily have ended like the ones in Minnesota.

Maybe the worst part came at the end when things had calmed down and Gutierrez seemed to be having second thoughts about his awful conduct. Then, Gutierrez the pot-bellied hick had the chutzpah to lecture Nazario the dignified soldier. In a sane world, the erudite army lieutenant would’ve been lecturing the doofus cop.

The Windsor incident occurred in December 2020 but didn’t receive widespread media attention until Nazario filed suit against both officers on April 2 in U.S. District Court. Of course, Virginia’s attorney general jumped aboard the bandwagon on Monday when he announced an investigation into patterns or practices of unlawful conduct at Windsor P.D.

Like clockwork, the resignations and firings in both incidents began.

Brooklyn Center’s Potter and Chief of Police Tim Gannon have resigned. Windsor’s Gutierrez was fired but the unidentified officer with him and Chief of Police Rodney Daniel Riddle remain — many are calling for their termination. But aside from these appropriate firings and resignations, why are we hiring these people in the first place? Why aren’t we considering measures that would minimize the risk of hiring morons and, failing that, making sure they didn’t get re-hired by another jurisdiction after a previous for-cause firing?

People close to me wear badges — I am no stranger to the difficulties facing law enforcement today. It is probably the most difficult, thankless job on the planet at the moment. But I’d be naive to believe that much of law enforcement’s difficulties weren’t self-inflicted when police agencies emphasized arming over training, control over de-escalation, a sense of power over a sense of community. More broadly, waiting for the powder keg to explode before listening to the concerns of the Black community might have been the worst blunder of all.

No young Black male can be criticized for being afraid of a simple traffic stop. Not when kids can be shot for an expired tag, when a dad can be asphyxiated for a crappy misdemeanor, or a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army can be treated worse than a dog. I could list dozens of other examples.

So I ask again: do you get it now? Do you understand why Black people are angry? Do you understand why Black mothers are worried sick about their sons? No, I didn’t think so.



Just as the pandemic fades, Idaho politics will be confronted by another “big deal” issue: the 10-year census and what it will mean for the state. Idaho legislators are wrapping up this year’s contentious session, and those disputes will continue in the redistricting process.

From a national perspective, Idaho’s number of Congressional seats isn’t likely to change, despite then state’s huge surge in population over the past decade. At just over 1.8 million residents, the state will still have just two Congressional districts, although they may change some due to population shifts. It would take about 710,000 people in each district and Idaho hasn’t grown enough for a third Congressional seat.

Still, we can expect to see plenty of political fireworks within the state, among Idaho’s rapidly-growing cities and slower-growth rural areas. In some 15 states including Idaho, a redistricting commission determines how districts are configured. Idaho’s commission has six members, equally divided between Republicans and Democrats, with at least four members needed to approved any plan.

The US Constitution leaves to the states how to allocate each district but since the 1960 court rulings, states must follow the ‘one man-one vote” principle that districts should be equal in population, plus or minus five percent.

In Idaho, with a population estimate of about 1.826 million, roughly 52,000 people per legislative district would be needed across 35 districts. That’s about 7,000 more people per district than the 45,000 population per district in the 2010 census.

But we all know the growth has been uneven. Some districts have exploded in population, particularly in the Boise area and in Idaho’s other urban communities. Rural areas might well have seen declining populations, so they’ll be larger geographically to get 52,000 people in each one.

Against this background, there will be large disputes between Republican and Democratic parties over how to maximize their strengths and minimize weaknesses. Democrats, with less than 20 percent of the legislative seats, will fight hard to hold what they have.

A good example is district 26 which now includes Blaine, Camas, Gooding and Lincoln counties. The area has both liberal Wood River Valley towns as well as the three other more conservative counties. The district has remained one of Idaho’s few Democratic strongholds due to Blaine County, so Democrats will certainly try to “hang tough” to keep their local dominance.

On the other side, Republicans have their own intra-party fights, Arch-conservative rightists hope to expand their influence within the party with even-more rightist and ideological candidates, while more centrist Republicans will seek to bolster their numbers in the May, 2022 primary.

Both the Magic Valley and the Pocatello region are likely to reflect these contests. In the Magic Valley, legislative seats have been held by traditional Republicans. In Southeast Idaho, it’s been a more mixed picture among Democrats, traditional Republicans and arch-conservatives, who latch onto many issues but whom rarely determine long-term policies. And all of this will have to be decided before the May primary, just 13 months away.

It’s said that politics is a never-ending contest, as differences are rooted in both ideology and values as well as local circumstances. We’ll likely see plenty of these the coming redistricting contests.

Stephen Hartgen, Twin Falls, is a retired five-term Republican member of the Idaho House of Representatives, where he served as chairman of the Commerce & Human Resources Committee.  Previously, he was editor and publisher of The Times-News (1982-2005). He can be reached at

In praise of good politicians


In a political age too often dominated by performance outrage and petty grifting where conspiracy theories shoulder out known facts it can be difficult to remember that we once had more people than not – in both political parties – committed to the messy, but essential work of politics. Let us praise one of them.

On only one occasion did I have the pleasure of spending time in the company of Walter F. Mondale, the former Minnesota senator, vice president and U.S. ambassador to Japan. The occasion was a big public policy conference in Boise in 2003 jointly sponsored by the Andrus Center for Public Policy and the Frank Church Institute. The world was still reeling from the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and U.S. troops were in combat in both Afghanistan and Iraq. It was a dangerous and unprecedented time, but the timing of the gathering focused on “freedom and secrecy” was close to perfect and we drew a big crowd and an impressive line-up of experts.

Slade Gorton, the former Washington senator, came to the gathering fresh from his role on the special commission that investigated the 9-11 attacks. Gorton made his first public comment about the investigation at the conference. The distinguished Washington State University historian and Frank Church biographer LeRoy Ashby explained the legacy and importance of the Idaho senator’s investigation of the nation’s intelligence agencies more than 20 years earlier. A former CIA director, federal judges, the lawyer who represented John Walker Lindh, the so called “American Taliban” and Dave Broder, the Washington Post reporter all participated.

Mondale, his flat Minnesota voice strong and authoritative, was the eloquent star of the show, both for what he said, which is still memorable and important all these years later, and also because of his warmth, decency and commitment to democracy. Mondale came to Idaho not as duty, but as a favor to both the memory of Church and to acknowledge his long-time friendship with former Governor Cecil Andrus.

Mondale, before his death this week at 93, was one of the last remaining direct ties to Church’s historic investigation of the CIA, FBI and other intelligence agencies. That investigation disclosed, among other things, evidence of assassination plots against foreign leaders, illegal spying on American citizens, including FBI spying on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and, as Mondale noted, “that every president from Roosevelt to Nixon had pressed these secret agencies to go beyond the law. This was a bipartisan problem.”

While acknowledging that even in a democracy there are some secrets that must be kept, Mondale reminded the audience, and heads nodded all around, that Americans should never “underestimate the lengths administrations of either political party will go to protect themselves from public disclosure of erroneous, unethical, or illegal behavior — or just plain embarrassment. The instinct for self-protection is often disguised in the name of national security.”

Mondale, as Bloomberg columnist Jonathan Bernstein wrote this week “belonged to a generation of outstanding liberal Democratic senators, serving from 1965 until he assumed the vice presidency in 1977. Birch Bayh, Frank Church, Fred Harris, Ted Kennedy, Ed Muskie and others took the job seriously, legislating and performing oversight. (They were joined by a very talented group of moderate and conservative Democrats, and a similarly excellent group of conservative, moderate and even liberal Republicans. It was a very good era for the Senate.)”

It was indeed a good era for the Senate, not perfect by any means, but a vast improvement over the many grubby political strivers – Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley and Rand Paul come easily to mind – that dominate the Senate today. Beyond performing for two-minute cameos on Fox News, the typical Republican senator today inhabits a policy-free zone where faux anger and manufactured grievance substitute for any agenda that might actually address a national priority.

Mondale inhabited a wholly different political world. In addition to his work with Church to bring oversight to the intelligence community, Mondale was the key driver in defeating a filibuster and passing a landmark fair housing bill in 1968, a political and legislative accomplishment that still provides the basis for prohibiting discrimination in the rental or sale of housing nationwide. Mondale’s political skill helped secure bipartisan support for the legislation. Idaho’s bipartisan Senate delegation, the liberal Church and conservative Republican Len Jordan, supported the fair housing legislation that was passed in the wake of the murder of Dr. King.

Jonathan V. Last, a conservative who knows his political history, remarked that Mondale was long considered a political “punchline” due to the landslide blowout he suffered at the hands of Ronald Reagan in 1984, a humbling defeat that Mondale accepted with good humor and genuine grace.

"It’s funny to think,“ Last wrote this week, “but Mondale came from a day where most national politicians had served in the military and not all of them—not even many of them—were products of the Ivy League.

“His father was a minister. His mother a music teacher. He graduated from the University of Minnesota and then enlisted in the Army. He wasn’t a war hero or a super soldier: Just a normal middle-class American who served his country honorably for a couple years.

“He went to law school and had politics in his blood.”

You don’t have to agree with Walter Mondale’s policy ideas to acknowledge, as his biographer Finlay Lewis wrote, that he “never emulated the crude, politico macho of Lyndon Johnson and despised Nixon’s brand of partisan hardball.” Mondale’s toughness was of a different, better type. “It is a toughness,” Lewis observed, “born of an understanding that progress, even in minute, incremental steps, is still progress.”

In our fraught and fractured political times, it bears remembering – and the passing of Fritz Mondale is an appropriate reminder – that there have been times when we had better people in politics and better outcomes, too. He was no punchline, but the first major party candidate to have a woman as a running mate and a model of vice presidential influence that every successor has followed.

“It is impossible to view his life as anything other than a beautiful, quintessentially American story,” Jonathan Last wrote of the Methodist preacher’s kid from Ceylon, Minnesota. We need some role models right now and the Senate needs some members like Walter Mondale.