Local politics

Two developments in local politics caught my interest now that filing for the Nov. 5 elections has closed: the Canyon County Elections Office was extremely slow in releasing the names of school board candidates and John McGee filed for Caldwell City Council.
For some–those for whom elections begin and end with choosing among candidates on a ballot–getting candidate names only 50 days before an election is no big deal.
Others, however, want to make sure someone they can support is on the ballot–even if they have to run themselves.
Yes, some candidates do decide to run on the final day of filing. I once helped a city council candidate get enough signatures Friday afternoon–not because he couldn’t afford the filing fee, but because he didn’t want everyone to know how late he made up his mind.
The Idaho Elections Office posts filings for 105 legislators, plus state and Congressional candidates, at the end of each work day and after lunch on the final days.
So it was disappointing this year to have the staff of County Elections insisting that callers wanting to know the names of candidates file an Idaho Freedom of Information request for days after filing ended.  .
This wasn’t an election. There were no ballots to count. It was simply a matter of 16 public-funded entities passing on the names on six or so applications.
Why wasn’t each one wasn’t required to post candidate information to an on-line document before 5 p.m. each day?  Will it take legislative action?
Am I as upset about John McGee running just seven years after his actions drove fellow Republicans to force his resignation from the legislature?
Not really
I was upset in 2010 when everyone seemed sure McGee had a straight shot to being governor. He’d been student body president at both his high school and college; he had the required wife and two kids–a son and a daughter; and was named “State Republican Legislator of the Year” in this first term in the House. Just four years later, he was elected chairman of the College of Idaho Board of Trustees–a position held by Cecil Andrus during his last term as governor.
Soon after the 2010 Sunshine reports came out, I wrote a piece titled “Who’s Buying Our Boy?”
In 2010, when half the Canyon County legislators campaigned with less than $20,000, McGee got $110,000 in donations.  Expenses for literature and advertising totaled nearly $50,000 for an election drawing less than 10,000 voters.
And travel expenses were over $6,500.
Admittedly, legislative district 10 was larger then–it extended from Caldwell to Wilder–but $6,500 seemed excessive. Even the $1300 paid to the Sun Valley Company and the $1600 to the Coeur d’Alene resort didn’t explain that amount of travel.
What was most upsetting, though, was that only seven percent of McGee’s contributions came from District 10 addresses.
Out-of-state donors chipped in three times as much.
And about $10,000 came from companies with leaders on the board of ALEC, the far-right American Legislative Exchange Council. That may not sound like much, but it was higher than most of the other 7,380 state legislators in the country received.
It seemed that megacorporations were selecting grooming candidates for higher office in states where relatively small donations could tip elections.
We could see no way to stop them.
Then McGee crashed and burned on his own.
He’s undoubtedly learned some lessons; I hope empathy is one of them.
Note that I’m not endorsing McGee; I know and trust one of his opponents.

Note this editorial by Judy Ferro published by Idaho Press – 2019

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