Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Republicans convene in Hailey

Gubernatorial candidates clash over Sempra

Express Staff Writer

Dale Ewersen

About 100 Blaine County Republicans packed into The Mint nightclub in Hailey Friday night for the annual Lincoln Day Dinner, which featured brief speeches from two members of the Idaho congressional delegation, Rep. Mike Simpson and Sen. Mike Crapo, and two gubernatorial candidates, U.S. Rep. Butch Otter and Dan Adamson, a Chubuck business man.

A Blaine County Commission candidate, Dale Ewerson, of Bellevue, and three Republican candidates for superintendent of public education—Tom Luna, Steve Smylie and Steve Casey—also spoke.

"That's going to be a real dog fight," Blaine County Republican Party Chairman Maurice Charlat said about the superintendent race.

The Idaho primary elections for county, state and congressional offices will be held May 23.

Sempra splits Gov. candidates

Another heated primary race seems to be developing between Otter and Adamson, who have taken vastly different stands on Sempra Energy's proposal to build a $1.4 billion coal-fired power plant in Jerome County. Otter, who has received $6,000 from Sempra, is supportive of the proposal.

If Sempra's proposal hurdles certain environmental regulations, the three-member Jerome County Commission will have the sole authority to approve the project.

Sen. Clint Stennet, D-Ketchum, is fighting Sempra's proposal in the state Legislature with a slew of bills, none of which have been granted a public hearing.

"They have the right to be the architects of their own county," Otter said. "If folks in Jerome don't want a power plant, it should be up to Jerome, not Blaine County."

Otter's comments drew applause from the audience.

Adamson claims the proposal will pollute Blaine County's air and water quality and criticized Otter for accepting money from Sempra.

"A lot of people have been eased along the way," he said, adding that "Sempra has treated the issue like thieves in the night."

Adamson also feels it's irresponsible to let Jerome County render a decision independently.

"This is not (just) a Jerome County issue," he said. "Anyone who thinks it is ought to have their heads put on straight."

Simpson and CIEDRA

The Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act will likely receive a hearing in the House Resources Committee in March, according to Simpson, who drafted the wilderness bill for the Boulder-White Clouds mountains.

While Simpson did not discuss CIEDRA in his speech—choosing instead to focus on the tense political environment currently dominating Washington, D.C.—he did criticize the Bush administration's federal land sale proposal earlier in the evening.

"What Bush is proposing in the budget is not a good thing," Simpson said. "To say we've got to (sell federal lands to) pay for the Craig-Wyden bill, that's the wrong reason.

"That's a bad deal."

Like the Blaine and Custer county commissioners, who support CIEDRA, Simpson has concerns that CIEDRA opponents "will try to tie (the land sales) to my bill."

He said making a clear distinction between Bush's proposal and CIEDRA—which could grant Custer County up to 6,000 acres of federal land—is an "education process."

"It's made it more difficult," he added, "but I think we're getting the message out."

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