Idaho Politics Update
As we're now a little less than three months from the election, I thought I'd compose my thoughts on what we'll be seeing here in Idaho as November draws closer. We've got two real races of potential national interest that have open seats: the race for Governor, and the 1st Congressional District. While Idaho really hasn't been in play for the Democrats since 1994, I think it might change this year. (Disclaimer: I posted a while back about how I was planning on voting for Democrats this year, and nothing's really changed, except that as I learn more about the candidates, I'm realizing that I'm voting for the Democrats as much as, or even more, than voting against the Republicans.)
In the Governor's race, we've got a respected newspaperman, Jerry Brady, representing the Democrats; he ran for the same office in 2002, losing to the incumbent Governor 56-42%. This time, he's coming into the race with better name recognition, and his opponent doesn't seem nearly as formidable. The Republicans nominated current 1st District Congressman "Butch" Otter (or, who as his official House website is currently calling him, "Rep. C. L. "Butch" Otter"), who seems to have something of a tin ear politically, as well as not exactly reflecting the type of "family values" that Republicans are used to. (Kind of off-topic, but I'm curious: Otter's previous 28 year marriage was "annulled" by the Catholic Church -- what's the status of his kids from that marriage? Is it as if the marriage never happened?) I think this election will be closer than many people think; if the Republicans were to lose the Idaho Governor's mansion, I'm thinking that would maybe be the kind of "wake-up call" the national party needs. (Note: I tried to link to Otter's campaign website, but I'm getting a "Server Not Found" when I link to the address I found on the State GOP Candidates page.)
I've blogged about the Congressional race before, and the last three months have seemingly been about fund-raising for the candidates, so there's not much new news. One interesting development, though, has been that it appears that the national Republican leadership is starting to worry about the race. The big-name Republicans only have a certain number of days to travel around and support candidates; that's why it interests me that the GOP has seen fit to send both Vice President Cheney and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert out here to raise funds for the Republican candidate, Bill Sali; they've also made him one of the ten candidates to benefit from a special D.C. fundraiser -- if they weren't worried, there are better places they could be spending the money.
While Democratic candidate Larry Grant has been getting pretty good press, it's been a bit tougher for Mr. Sali and his supporters, and it could get worse. The big event in Idaho this month will be a special legislative session to consider a property tax reform bill that a lot of people don't like. There's more on why it's a bad bill here, but I'm going to be interested to see how Mr. Sali, who's still a State Representative, is going to vote on it. See, the plan includes a 1% increase in the sales tax. Up to now, no matter how many Republicans call Sali an "absolute idiot" or other bad things, no one has questioned his integrity -- he generally stands for what he believes, and doesn't allow politicial expediency to get in his way. That's why I was surprised to see him listed as "undecided" about the bill in an article from today's Idaho Statesman. On his campaign web site, he makes a big deal about never supporting a tax increase. Here's what he said (in case it goes down the memory hole):
In the Legislature, I made a pledge that I would never vote for a tax increase. I am proud to say that I have kept that promise for my entire career. Not only did I vote against the recent 1-cent increase in sales tax that the Legislature imposed on Idaho taxpayers, I led the fight against it!In my mind, he's moved a long way from "led the fight against it" to "undecided". My guess is that he'll eventually vote "no", but if he doesn't, it might be hard for him to avoid being labelled as a flip-flopper and pledge breaker... and that's the one thing he had going for him.
More as the election gets closer.
Update 0759 15 August: Adam responds to my post, and we talk a little bit in his comments. Adam points out that Mr. Sali voting "yes" on the upcoming bill might not break the letter of his pledge, but the reasoning has a little bit of a "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is" vibe to it -- and we know that Mr. Sali would like to avoid sounding like that. That's why I think he'll vote "no".