Deborah Silver, 58, never considered herself to be political—that is until she had a brother on the front lines of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. And she never considered running for office—that is until she says scandal soiled the Idaho State Treasurer's Office.
Now, she and her husband of 38 years, LeRoy Hayes, are crisscrossing Idaho in the final days of a campaign to unseat Ron Crane, who has controlled the treasurer's office since his first electoral victory in 1998.
"The only way to fire this treasurer is with your vote," said Silver in an Oct. 16 debate with Crane.
And Silver, who has partnered with her husband of nearly 30 years in a Magic Valley accounting firm, says she has the ideal combination of experience and tenacity to take over as treasurer.
You and your husband have been personal and professional partners for quite some time now. Do you have an idea of how many tax forms that you've processed?
Oh my, no. Tens of thousands, at least.
Did you grow up around politics?
Not particularly. I actually thought I was a Republican for much of my adult life. That is until about 10 years ago.
The George W. Bush era?
I had family on the front line. My brother was in Iraq and I thought there was a rush to war, but the only people willing to have a discussion about that were Democrats. Soon thereafter I became a Democratic county chair in Twin Falls.
And when did you come to the realization that you should challenge Ron Crane?
It was this past spring. Do you remember, at the height of his scandals, Crane said go ahead and read the audit [an independent state audit concluded that Crane's office had "inappropriately transferred investments ... resulting in a disproportionate share of investment losses incurred by the state"]. Well, I'm an accountant so I was definitely going to read that audit. I was appalled... absolutely appalled. I promise you that if a Democrat was in that office, the Legislature would never have allowed this.
It's one thing to be upset. But you made a pretty big decision to challenge an incumbent.
I honestly thought Republicans would have run someone else, but they didn't. I decided this could not be allowed to continue.
Did you have a sense of how considerable it would be to mount a statewide campaign?
My husband is working seven days a week to cover my clients.
And the money?
I've raised money for Twin Falls Democrats before.
But this is a much bigger task. You and I know that radio, television, full-page newspaper ads and glossy mailings are quite expensive.
It would be great to raise millions, but that's not realistic. I'm not going have the kind of money Ron Crane has; but I have the truth.
And what's the message you hear on the campaign trail?
That voters aren't crazy about incumbents.
I'm not sure if that's true. We have a tendency to re-elect incumbents at a pretty good clip.
But when I tell people that Crane has been there for 16 years, they're stunned. Even Republicans are saying it's wrong. Having a Democrat in that office would be quite healthy; I promise you that a Republican Legislature would keep an eye on things.
But you must acknowledge that, to be successful, you're going to have to secure a fair amount of Republican votes.
There are people who will never vote for a Democrat, but I think there's a huge middle ground. And anyone paying attention to this race is looking for a change. Allowing his kind of behavior in public office hurts every other public servant. The fact that we're not holding him accountable is especially disturbing and besmirches every public spirit.
How would you best characterize your investment strategies?
I'm extremely conservative in the truest sense of the word.
But Idaho traditionally has a healthy amount of money to invest on a daily basis.
But you don't risk the principal. When you invest your own money, you can have some risk.
When you're investing someone else's money, everything is different.
What's the one big question you present to Ron Crane in any candidate forums?
"What were you thinking? Your office inappropriately transferred investments from the Local Government Pool [public monies from cities, highway, school, sewer and water districts] to the Idle Pool [public monies that don't need to be spent immediately], resulting in a disproportionate share of investment losses incurred by the state" [auditors noted that the losses were nearly $17 million]. When Idaho's county treasurers meet, they always insist that you should never risk taxpayers' money. That's how the state treasurer must act.
Do you think there should have been a formal ethics investigation from the Legislature?
I haven't thought about that. But you know what? A lot of this is character. You shouldn't have to tell anyone at this level that they shouldn't have done these things. He's been called "Crafty Crane," and I get that. He always wants to talk about something else. It's admit nothing, deny everything and make counter-accusations.
How critical will voter turnout be to your campaign?
It's a challenge; but it's my only path to victory.
Do you know where the votes are?
Well, I got 85 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary. It's all about earning trust.
What's your level of energy in the final days of the campaign?
Sometimes I feel like a teenager. I get very excited about this.