Holli Woodings probably won't be reading this interview anytime soon. As Boise Weekly was hitting the streets, she was hitting the beach in Cozumel, Mexico--along with husband Ryan, 4-year old daughter Mary and 1-year-old son Arthur. It's a long way, literally and figuratively, from her high-profile campaign for Idaho secretary of state. Fresh off the Democratic Idaho House member's loss to Republican state Rep. Lawerence Denney to be Idaho's next SOS, BW sat down with Woodings to talk about lessons learned from the campaign trail and her future plans.
What event or series of events led to your decision to run for SOS?
It was my experience on the House State Affairs Committee, learning that there are people in Idaho who want to limit people's ability to vote and have no interest in increasing people's participation in our democracy.
Did anyone ever tell you, face to face, that you shouldn't run?
You know who told me that? Republicans I served with in the Legislature. They said, "You're going to lose. We like working with you but you're going to lose."
That's a terribly backhanded compliment.
A few of them came up to me as recent as a couple of weeks ago and said, "You're going to lose. I would say good luck but I wouldn't mean it." It was nasty sometimes, just nasty. But I don't have any regrets.
Let's return to that comment regarding Idahoans' access to the ballot. That's a bit stunning.
I remember it like it was yesterday. A colleague told me that we shouldn't be doing anything to make voting easier. He expressed a view that we should go back to the day when everyone had to vote on Tuesday.
I'm guessing that you're not going to tell me who said that.
I won't. He knows who he is. But he's not alone. What we're seeing around the nation is that instead of people picking their politicians, some politicians think they can pick their voters. It's not right.
That message was rather prevalent in your television ads, which I must say were very well produced and included a level of sophistication that we haven't seen in Idaho heretofore.
A couple of years ago, my very good friend, and now premier documentary filmmaker, Gregory Bayne said, "I you ever need a commercial, I want to do that for you." I gave him a call and asked, "Is that offer still on the table?" He said absolutely and he did my commercials for pennies on the dollar.
That said, putting those commercials on the air doesn't come at a discount. How much of your own money did you put into your campaign?
We invested about $190,000. That was half of our total campaign. And our broadcast buys were about $167,000.
I'm assuming that once a politician runs a statewide campaign, win or lose, she has a pretty good idea of what it takes to win.
I just don't think in the current political climate that a Democrat can win a statewide race here.
What should the Idaho Democratic Party be doing differently?
Work from our strengths. Look at where our numbers were. I won significantly in Ada County. What would it look like if we spent more time and resources on increasing our participation in places where we know we can win?
I'm wondering if any particular Idaho office-holders told you privately that they supported your candidacy but wouldn't say so publicly.
Many of them. It was both encouraging and frustrating. They were saying, "I know you're the best person for the job, but I can't say this publicly because of allegiance to my party." My frustration is that they put their party above what may be best for the state.
Do you believe that Idaho is as Republican as this year's vote indicated?
What did you learn about Lawerence Denney in the general election campaign?
He's an amenable guy on a personal level. He never showed anything other than generosity and good sportsmanship. I didn't emerge victorious in the end result. But now I know who my opponent is. And I know the things we need to look out for as long as he's serving as our secretary of state. He has a desire to limit people's access to the polls. You may remember that he also said he wanted to use technology as an additional barrier between people and their ballots [Denney suggested fingerprint scanning at the polls].
What's the fiscal reality to that?
It's impossible. It showed a lack of understanding for what our election really looks like. That was something I took very seriously in the campaign.
To the degree that you want to continue with that cause?
It solidified my commitment to voter rights. I now see an opportunity to continue that work as a private nonprofit and continue the work of getting more people engaged in a nonpartisan way.
What's the chance of you returning to the Legislature?
At this point, I don't think it's very good. I like the Legislature and it would be a comfortable, easy place. But I don't always like comfortable and easy.
I've never heard a Democrat describe the Idaho Legislature as comfortable or easy.
But from a pragmatic, realistic viewpoint, you know what to expect.
So, is there a slightly better chance that you might run for statewide office again?
At this point, my career will be in public service. Whether that's in elected office or a nonprofit, I don't know what that's going to be. In the meantime, yes, you'll be seeing me at the Statehouse defending voter rights.
There's an opening on the Boise City Council. Might you consider that?
It's interesting that you ask. Yes, I'm considering it it. The more I thought about the possibility about the Council, and the more people asked me to consider it, the more I thought I should consider it.