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Showing Up is a Start

Primary debates are notable for their no-shows

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It's primary season, which means candidates can achieve a lot just by showing their faces to voters. So far, the season is showcasing some stumbles in that department.

At a recent Boise Rotary Club meeting, four of the five candidates for superintendent of public education showed up. The one that didn't--Tom Luna, a Republican--thus opened himself to a little dig from opponent Rep. Steve Smylie, also a Republican. Referring to his father the former governor, Smylie told the crowd that "one thing my father taught me: If it's important, show up." Luna's campaign spokesman Wayne Hoffman explained by e-mail to BW that Luna's campaign didn't know about the event, and that he'd spent the day visiting schools. That was news to Rotary organizers who thought he was due to arrive until he didn't. They are joined in the Republican primary by Steve Casey, the principal of Couer d'Alene High School and the only candidate in that primary running from within the education system.

Likewise, Republican governor candidate U.S. Rep. Butch Otter is finding lots of reasons not to show up at the Idaho Public Television debates sponsored, in part, by the Idaho Press Club. Otter would have debated fellow Republican Dan Abramson but has found his congressional schedule too busy to talk politics with his longshot opponent in the only televised debate scheduled. IPC president Betsy Russell of the Spokane, Wash. Spokesman Review said even though debate organizers tried three different alternative dates, they got nowhere with Otter's campaign, who said Washington business was keeping the Congressman off the air and away from his opponent. Predictably, Otter's out has been noted by Jerry Brady, the Democratic candidate for governor, who said Idaho "needed a champion, not a chicken."

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