It’s important for voters to participate in the May 20 primary elections. Even non-partisan voters need to weigh in because two local property-tax levies, one countywide and one in Hailey, will be decided. One judge’s seat is also up for grabs.
Voting in the Republican Primary is open only to voters who declare themselves to be affiliated with the party. The Democratic Party and others are open to all registered voters. Winners of the balloting will go on the general election ballot in November.
Finding out about the candidates for state-level offices this year is a challenge. With few notable exceptions, most candidates haven’t spent much time or money on voter-education campaigns. That leaves it to voters to find out what they’re about. One online source is idahostatesman.com/elections, where biographies of each candidate and some position information can be found. Idaho Public Television also has video debates between state-level candidates online at idahoptv.org/elections/ 2014.
For endorsements, this newspaper looks for practical candidates who know there’s a job to do and whose purpose in running is about more than ideology.
Local Tax Levies
Vote Yes on Road Levy: The requested levy of $5.24 million, or $5.5 million per year for two years, would cost taxpayers approximately $64.87 per $100,000 of property value. Half of the proceeds would go to the county and half to cities in the county. The choice here is simple: Do we want good local roads or not? The Legislature has shoved the costs down to local levels by refusing to increase gas taxes that used to fund a lot of local roads. Development-impact fees also have dried up, but people haven’t stopped driving on improved roads. Either way, voters will pay in taxes or in time and car repairs.
Vote Yes on Hailey Sewer Bond: Hailey needs to fix up its aging Woodside wastewater treatment facility built in the 1970s. It needs up to $6.5 million to do it and, if the plan is approved, household sewer fees of an average user would increase by about $3.50 per month. Sewer plants allow us to live in cities without polluting our drinking water, so it’s essential that they work properly. Delaying repairs will just put off the inevitable.
For Idaho Supreme Court Justice Seat 1: Incumbent Joel Horton has widespread bipartisan support in this race, but voters who want to send the court a message about keeping its distance from big business and ensuring fairness may want to vote for challenger William “Breck” Seiniger, an attorney with more than 30 years of private practice representing ordinary people. Seiniger called out Horton for not disqualifying himself in a case involving Simplot Corp. when, prior to an unreleased decision Horton wrote, Horton named Simplot’s associate general counsel as his treasurer for his re-election bid.
For U.S. Senator, Nels Mitchell: Thirty years a lawyer following University of Idaho Law School, the candidate is a former enforcement director and regional trial counsel for the Securities and Exchange Commission. His opponent doesn’t even live in the state of Idaho, let alone know much about it. No contest here. He will run against Republican incumbent Jim Risch in the fall.
For Governor, A.J. Balukoff: He’s been a public accountant and businessman for many years. He served on the Boise School Board for many years and as a member of the board of St. Luke’s Treasure Valley and Ballet Idaho. His opponent filed for candidacy and has not campaigned. Another no-contest vote here.
For State Treasurer, Deborah Silver: A Jerome-based accountant, Silver outshines her opponent in knowledge of the job and the rectitude it requires. She’s got her eye squarely on making sure the state’s money is handled and invested safely—where a treasurer’s focus should be.
For Representative in Congress Second District, Mike Simpson: The no-holds-barred ad campaigns in this race have been full of distortions. Nonetheless, to say that incumbent Simpson is a liberal is laughable. He’s served the state well enough to get a bid to try to bring his own kind of pragmatism to Washington, D.C., again. His challenger is a radical right-winger supported by the same. Idaho deserves better.
For Governor, C.L. “Butch” Otter: Unlike his challengers, the two-term incumbent is less likely to let his conservative ideologies get in the way of trying to find sensible and fiscally responsible solutions to major problems like funding for education, roads and health care. Otter seeks out the advice of state committees before acting. And while he is no fan of the federal government, he sometimes tempers his distrust with pragmatism.
For Lt. Governor, Brad Little: This incumbent ranks higher incomes, better careers and a more highly trained workforce over his one-note challenger’s single-minded push to wrest control of public lands from the federal government, an effort that will tie the state up in knots and leave it on the hook for the impossible-to afford care of those lands. He’s not an all-cuts and no-revenues politician.
For Secretary of State, Phil McGrane: This young lawyer, who is now the Ada County Chief Deputy Clerk, has taken a liking to the nuts-and-bolts responsibilities of this office and a seat on the Idaho Land Board. McGrane comes unencumbered with political baggage that weighs down many of his opponents and has been endorsed by retired Secretary of State Ben Ysursa. Unlike his opponents, he has actually managed an election. He seems to be a straight shooter.
For State Controller, Brandon D. Woolf: He was appointed to this office after Donna Jones, whom he served as chief of staff, was sidelined by an auto accident. Compared to his challenger, Woolf is a moderate. He holds an MBA from Boise State and has done a commendable job as a first-time officeholder. He sits on the Idaho Land Board and says he does not like the board’s ownership of commercial real estate. That’s a position he should stick to when voters give him the chance to run.
For State Attorney General, Lawrence Wasden: This three-term incumbent has brought a fairly even hand to the office and has preferred to lean on the law more than trending political issues in giving advice to the state. He supports the Idaho Land Board’s direct ownership of commercial property, which may compete with private owners. That leaves most business owners with a sour taste, but he’s still the best for the job. On the other hand, he’s been a consumer advocate—a plus for ordinary people.
For Superintendent of Public Instruction, Andrew Grover: In a tight race among four candidates, Grover is the only one with experience as superintendent of the Melba School District. His hands-on experience in managing a school district in a state where state and local cuts have left districts oxygen-deprived could be critical. He holds a master’s degree in education administration—a relief for an office where the previous incumbent was vastly underqualified—and the state suffered for it.