candidates in tight race
Express Staff Writer
for Idaho attorney general this year is widely viewed as the only
remotely close race for state office.
office is charged with advising state officials and the Legislature on
legal matters, representing the state in lawsuits and handling criminal
Attorney General Al Lance chose not to run for re-election. He has since
been nominated to serve as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for
Lawrence Wasden, Lance’s chief of staff, and Hailey Democrat Keith
Roark are vying to replace him. The race pits Wasden’s administrative
experience of 13 years in the AG’s office against Roark’s 25 years
of experience in the courtroom.
Republican-dominated Idaho, Wasden’s party affiliation may be his
biggest advantage. He will benefit not only by party-line voting, but
also by the fact that he can claim a better working relationship with
the likely winners of elections for executive branch and legislative
endorsed Wasden, who was involved in negotiating the state’s agreement
with the U.S. Department of Energy on nuclear waste, the national
tobacco lawsuit and the dispute over President Clinton’s roadless plan
for national forests.
one of the state’s best-known trial attorneys, has tried to put a
negative spin on that affiliation. He has contended that the office
under Lance failed the state on several occasions, pointing to its
losing land under Lake Coeur d’Alene to the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and
to its court losses in redistricting and land board cases.
interview, attorney general’s office spokesman Bob Cooper contended
that those losses were due not to shoddy legal work, but to substantive
problems with the cases. In the redistricting controversy, he pointed
out, the attorney general’s office found itself having to defend a
position contrary to the advice it had given the Legislature.
responsibility of the attorney general is to sit on the five-person
state board of land commissioners, which decides how to use state lands
for grazing and timber harvests.
issue that affects Blaine County is an attempt by the board to allow
gravel mining on a parcel of state land in Ohio Gulch, despite a county
zoning ordinance that prohibits such a use. A 5th District
Court judge has ruled against the state’s argument that its
constitutional mandate to earn the maximum financial gain from its land
supersedes local zoning laws. The case is now before the Idaho Supreme
to Roark’s campaign amount to almost $155,000, including about $68,000
of his own money in loans and in-kind contributions.
campaign has received about $125,000, of which $25,000 has come from
companies affiliated with Melaleuca Inc., a multi-level marketing
company based in Idaho Falls that sells health, beauty and home-care
attorney general’s office investigated Melaleuca’s sales practices
in 1991 after receiving complaints from prospective distributors. Brett
DeLange, deputy attorney general in the Consumer Protection Division,
said the investigation concluded that some of Melaleuca’s
representatives had misrepresented products, but that the company’s
marketing program was sound. He said the company agreed to enforce its
program to eliminate improprieties. DeLange said the attorney general’s
office has received 81 complaints about Melaleuca since then, of which
66 were resolved to the satisfaction of the complainants.
told the Idaho Falls Post Register that the Melaleuca contributions
would have no effect on his decisions in office if he were elected.
additional point of controversy arose in the race Monday when the Idaho
Republican Party modified a radio ad attacking Roark for "taking
money to testify on behalf of a convicted murderer who sits on Idaho’s
death row." Roark objected to the ad on the grounds that even
though he had testified that double murderer Mark Henry Lankford had
been inadequately represented, he was not paid for that testimony. The
reference to receiving money was eliminated from the ad.
Republican Party Chairman John Sandy told The Associated Press that the
party was not trying to disqualify defense attorneys from running for
attorney general, but only to alert voters of the nature of Roark’s