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.

Elections: Woodings can save us

Judy Ferro    [Rejected for publication]

Holli Woodings may not look like the Lone Ranger, but that’s the role she’s been called upon to play this year. You know the scenario: the cattle baron and his ranch hands run roughshod over the citizens and drive out one, two, three challengers. Things look bleak. Then the music stills, and a silent hero, calm and fearless, rides into the fray.

            Over nine legislative terms, including three as Speaker of the House, Lawerence Denney has developed major political clout.  In May he defeated three other candidates for the Republican nomination for Speaker of the House, including Phil McGrane.  McGrane, a law school graduate who has worked with Ada County elections for years, shares Ben Ysursa’s philosophy: Never forget who you work for – the people; and that transparent, fair, and efficient elections have no room for partisanship.” 
            Now the fate of Idaho elections depends on Woodings. As a principle in a family business, a Democratic legislator, and a mother of two, Woodings didn’t really need new challenges.  Yet, she foresaw the danger of a Denney victory and rode to challenge him.            
            What is so bad about Denney? 
            Two things:  he will sell public lands to wealthy investors, and he values partisan gain over the democratic process.
            Admittedly, no Idaho Republican has ever said they fight to control our national forests so they could sell them.  No, they claim the millions to be made from selling timber would spark our economy.  But the numbers don’t add up.   For one thing, the $58 million the Feds now give counties to compensate for timber cutting nearly equals the estimated $50 to $75 million to be made timber sales.  The Feds also spend about $392 million managing lands within Idaho’s borders.  In fact, some U.S. Representatives are arguing that states should HAVE to take over public lands within their borders. 
            So Denney and allies are either figuring Idaho has $350-$400 million lying around to spend on managing former Federal lands or they plan on selling the land.    
            As co-chair of the legislature’s committee on federal lands, Denney and co-chair Dick Winder hired a private attorney to work on the Federal land issue at a cost to Idaho taxpayers of at least $41,000.  Other committee members were not informed of the action, much less asked to approve it.
            And Denney has two black marks concerning elections.  While founder and sole director of Victory Fund, he raised funds from Republican legislators which were used to fund their uber-conservative challengers.  Denney claimed he’d given the funds to the Gun PAC and was totally unaware who would receive the money.  Other Republicans, however, rejected his argument and defeated him as Speaker of the House.
            Denney was also active in the fight to close Republican primaries.  Thanks to him, independents are barred from voting in the primaries and each voter’s party affiliation is announced at the polls.  The number of primary voters is lower than ever.      
            For the 45 years Pete Cenarrusa and Ben Ysursa have served Idaho’s State Department, Idahoans have benefitted from competent administration dedicated to fair elections. Now, with Denney in the running, there is already talk of ending same-day registration and early voting. 
            And I can’t imagine Denney successfully handling the 2012 primaries where new district and precinct lines were still being just before absentee voting started.  For all his experience shaping public policy, Denney has very little practical experience in administration.
            So, hold your breath while the music stills and the challenger rides to battle.