Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Hailey Democrat taking run at Senate

Robert Blakeley once ran for office as Libertarian

Express Staff Writer

Robert Blakeley is campaigning for election to the District 25 Senate seat. Photo by David N. Seelig

Come May 25, Robert Blakeley will enter a tough primary election to choose the Democratic candidate for District 25's state Senate seat.

Blakeley, a Hailey resident, will take on fellow Democrats David Maestas of Hagerman and Michelle Stennett, who stood in for her husband, Sen. Clint Stennett, during the 2010 Legislature.

The primary winner will face Republican Jim Donoval of Sun Valley and Carey's Randall Patterson, a member of the Constitution Party, in November's general election.

Blakeley said he thinks the race for the district, which includes Blaine, Camas, Gooding and Lincoln counties, will be decided during the primary.

"The district has voted pretty heavily for Democrats in the past, and I don't know why it would change this year," Blakeley said.

To have a better chance at being successful in May, Blakeley said, he will need to increase his name recognition, especially outside of Blaine County.

Within the Wood River Valley, there is already some familiarity with Blakeley because of his involvement with the Liberty Lobby, which began in 2004 to advocate locally for pro-marijuana laws. In 2007, the organization put four marijuana legalization or reform initiatives on the ballot in Hailey. Three were approved by voters, including legalizing the medical use of marijuana, making enforcement of marijuana laws the city's lowest police priority and legalizing industrial use of hemp.

However, due to their conflict with state law, none has yet to become law in Hailey.

Blakeley said that if he makes it to the Capitol, in addition to his continuing effort to legalize hemp for industrial uses, he would also be a labor advocate, stumping for better representation of workers around the state. He said he is also a proponent of installing term limits for elected officials.

Blakeley made an initial foray into politics 10 years ago when he was a candidate for a seat on the Ada County Commission, a race in which he ran as a member of the Libertarian Party. In that race, he lost soundly, but, he said, largely because his campaign budget was significantly smaller than that of his challengers.

"For this Senate race, I thought, 'Why not throw my hat in the ring again?'" said Blakeley, who works at Atkinsons' Market in Hailey. "But Libertarians don't win elections or get paid a lot of attention."

Blakeley, who stated his age at "29 forever," said he has been doing most of his campaigning so far on foot, knocking on doors to introduce himself and finding mostly a warm reception.

Blakeley said he expected more people to wonder why he would be running against Stennett, whose husband held the district seat for nearly 20 years, but has found that people are indeed open to change.

"It's important to give people a choice," he said.

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