Elections: Close state races

by Judy Ferro

Got the election spirit yet?

The debates are over except for an Oct. 30 meeting of candidates for lieutenant governor.  (You can still view them at the IDPTV and KTVB websites.)

The Idaho Press-Tribune has published the first segment of candidate answers to a wide range of questions.

A flood of TV ads and postcards are delivering candidate messages.

Early voters are lining up to fill in the dots at the Elections Office.

Callers and door-knockers are talking to voters, answering questions about candidates, and offering rides to the polls.

And this week legislative candidates will be squaring off in person at forums on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.

At times like this—when volunteers are out in force and candidates are pushing their limits—it’s easy for me to imagine big Democratic victories.  In the spring I remind myself what the odds are and vow not to get too optimistic, but by September I can’t help myself.  I’m like the kid who never quits believing she’ll get a pony next Christmas.

So, when a poll was released last week showing Democrats could possibly win three of the six state races, I was saying “just three?” while much of the nation was saying “Idaho?”  (With our low population and one-party history, Idaho politics usually gets attention only when things get weird; e.g., five versions of the Republican primary gubernatorial debate last spring have gotten a combined one million views on youtube.com.)

Although an incumbent Senator dropping nine points in the polls after his sole debate performance hadn’t cause ripples, a contested race for Idaho governor did.  Especially after the Republican National Committee moved not just once, but twice, to inject money into Idaho’s gubernatorial race.

This isn’t business-as-usual; the national parties seldom inject dollars into Idaho campaigns unless there’s a Congressional seat without an incumbent.

The three races that are close are Governor, Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Secretary of State.  Clearly, many Idahoans are getting informed and weighing their vote.

Does that mean that more voters will caste ballots this year?

Voter turnout drops without a presidential race.  Turnout of registered voters in Canyon County was 80% in 2012, but only 60% in 2010—or about 56% and 42% of potential voters.

Yet, state officials have a lot to say about your schools, your courts, your roads, even about when and how you vote.

Nationally, Senate races dominate the news.  Thirty-three of the Senate seats before the voters this year were last up for election in 2008, a presidential election year with heavy Democratic turnout.  A lot of first-term Democratic senators are facing the voters for the first time since the Tea Party sprang into being and the Republicans captured the House of Representatives.  Three additional seats are up because of mid-term vacancies.

Only nine seats are considered contested; seven are currently held by Democrats.  The loss of just three seats could give Republicans control of the Senate.  New polls are released daily indicating vote differences smaller than the margin of error.

Will citizens of these states show up to vote?  There’s a lot at stake.  Will the Affordable Care Act be repealed?  Will social security be revised or ravaged?  Will more conservatives be added to the courts?  Will immigration be reformed?

Idaho has a Senate seat up for election and a challenger of merit, Do we understand the difference our combined votes could make?

Get informed.  Vote.  Vote for your future, your kids, and your country.

Campaigns: IACI sells out for $$$

by Judy Ferro     [Original (adapted version published 8/18/2014 by the Idaho Press-Tribune]    


            The ad wars have begun—spots both for and against gubernatorial candidate A.J. Balukoff are running. 
            A corporate lobbying group’s ad accuses A.J. of being a liberal with (gasp) Democratic values.  To me that says he’s a pragmatist who cares about education and wage earners, but Republican spinners have put a lot of effort and money to making those terms derogatory.   
            Balukoff is a businessman.  He started his career as an accountant, then owned several health clubs, and now owns a chunk of The Grove in Boise. He could be described as an Eisenhower Republican; he prefers the term moderate
            Balukoff is also a 14-year veteran of the Boise School Board.  He believes in giving back to his community and wants every child to have the best education possible. 
            That ad really says that Idaho corporations fear Balukoff can’t be bought.  Check out these points.
            Keeping Idaho’s public lands in Federal hands. Yup, A.J. sides with those who like to camp, hunt, and fish in the great outdoors over those who want to see mining and water rights sold off. 
            Bringing change to Idaho.  Heaven forbid Idaho give up its near-bottom rankings in kids going to college, in school funding, in family income, and in domestic product growth.
            Supporting higher taxes.  A.J. backed every bond and levy requested by the Boise school board—as did a majority of the Boise voters.  Something had to be done after the Republican legislature made draconian cuts in school funding.
            Supporting Obamacare (also known as the Affordable Care Act). Republicans have spent a lot of money—including $75 million of our tax money (CBS estimate) on making Obamacare a dirty word.  That hasn’t deterred thousands of Idahoans from adding adult children to their policies or 76,000 Idaho residents (nearly double the expected number) from signing up through Idaho’s insurance exchange.
            That last accusation is pure politics.  You see, the ad’s sponsor, the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, has lobbied hard to bring the final piece of Obamacare—expansion and reform of Medicaid—to Idaho.  According to IACI President Alex LaBeau,It’s pretty clear from the information and the numbers that Medicaid expansion would save industry a lot of money,” somewhere around $12 to $18 million a year. (Right Medicine for Idaho, a coalition of over 50 lobbying groups, estimated reforming Medicaid would also save Idaho taxpayers $85 million a year.)
            Well, Gov. Otter and Republican legislators regarded backing more Obamacare as political suicide, so no action was taken. 
            So why is IACI spending thousands backing Otter?
            Because Otter supports IACI on an issue that the organization chose not to mention—repeal of taxes on business equipment.  By and large, the taxes benefit cities and counties around the state.  Now Republicans control the budgets of a majority of Idaho’s cities and counties, and enough legislators listened to those officials that the tax has not been repealed in its entirety.
            IACI wants that to change.
            Now 90 percent of Idaho businesses do not pay this tax.  As far as I know, agricultural and medical enterprises have always been exempt.  A 2013 statute exempts all property with an acquisition price under $3,000 and the first $100,000 a business owns IN EACH COUNTY.
                In other words, only the major players have to pay—and those players make up the IACI board.  They trust Otter to go along with tax breaks for the very rich.  They want him re-elected.