In a substantive 60-minute debate Oct. 6, the two people vying to become Idaho's next secretary of state made it crystal clear that no other race on this year's ballot offers such an authentic difference in candidates.
"Neither of you is qualified to be the Idaho secretary of state," quipped moderator Jim Weatherby. "You're not Basque."
The line got a good laugh, noting the grip on the office from current SOS Ben Ysursa and successor Pete Cenarrusa.
Democratic candidate and Idaho House Rep. Holli Woodings adeptly and repeatedly referred to Ysursa's and Cenarrusa's integrity as a model for her own presumptive tenure. Meanwhile, GOP challenger Idaho House Rep. Lawerence Denney repeatedly called himself a farmer, miner, logger and businessman.
But Denney's political career defines him most--he's a 10-term member of the Idaho House and three-term speaker of the House, which he also reminded the audience.
But it was Woodings who added that Denney was ousted from his speakership in 2012, in large part, Woodings said, "because he showed a lot of partisanship."
The widest ideological gap between the two emerged as they debated Idaho's electoral process, the chief responsibility of the Idaho secretary of state. In particular, Denney and Woodings wildly disagreed when weighing in on the closed Republican primary.
"That's a misnomer. The primary is not an election; it's a nomination process," said Denney. "In fact, I think the primary shouldn't even be run by the state government. It should be run by the political parties."
Denney said political parties not private funds should fund the primaries.
Woodings pounced fast.
"I'll oppose any effort of putting artificial barriers between voters and the ballot."
With that, Woodings aligned herself with Ysursa, who publicly challenged his own GOP for closing its primary. When an audience member asked Denney where independents would go to participate in a primary election, Denney delivered a startling response:
"You shouldn't even be wanting to select from Republicans if you're not a Republican."
Woodings pounced again.
"I think we should respect that Idahoans are independent," she said.