Conventional wisdom tells us that a statewide campaign is a marathon of fundraising, handshaking and speechmaking. But the same wisdom tells us that there are critical moments when media, issues and candidates collide, and it is in those moments that a campaign's mettle is tested. Debates naturally fall into the critical category, and while each encounter between Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and Keith Allred has been engaging, neither side scored any punishing blows. But there have been other critical moments, some expected, most spontaneous, where both campaigns had ample opportunity to seize not only the moment but undecided votes.
One of those moments came at high noon, Jan. 11, 2010. Otter, in an overly long State of the State address, took dead aim at public school funding. He also proposed taking a cleaver to Idaho parks, public television, the Human Rights Commission and the Council for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Lawmakers, department heads and the media were shell-shocked. Allred, who had only launched his campaign a month earlier, made himself available for interviews. When the critical moment came to step before an anxious media, Allred asked if the cameras and recorders were rolling and cleared his throat.
"What Idaho needs right now is a governor who understands Idahoans are as capable as we've ever been, and we can come barreling out of this downturn if we have the right vision." The words were neither memorable nor appropriate for the moment. But Otter's speech showed him as ready and willing to take Idaho into a new era of austerity not seen in two generations. Through the next three months, while Otter and the Republican-driven legislature crafted wholesale changes to Idaho, Allred stayed in the weeds.
When headlines trumpeted budget slashing to public schools and Health and Welfare, Allred was fundraising in living rooms across the state. While Otter was setting the pace to the 2010 race, it would be months before Allred could begin catching up. Ten months later, on Oct. 23, Allred stood on the steps of an empty Capitol lambasting Otter on Medicaid (which saw its problems surface in July), mega-loads on Highway 12 (another controversy which erupted in July) and wolves (where a key ruling from a federal judge came down in August). At the same moment in Eastern Idaho, Otter was announcing the creation of a new Allstate call center with 500 new jobs. While Allred was catching up, Otter had shifted the issue again.
Through the final weeks of the 2010 campaign, Boise Weekly sent reporters to each corner of Idaho to question voters and pundits on how they would deconstruct the race for governor. Even voters who considered themselves independent or conservative told us they initially would have opted to vote for anyone but Otter, but in the end, probably wouldn't.
Some of our findings include:
• Wide swaths of voters were looking for a strong alternative to Otter.
• An equally large block of voters were only vaguely familiar with Allred, the man, but not at all with his issues or platform.
• Many voters north of the 45th parallel said they felt "disengaged" from the race and, at times, ignored.
• In spite of what either Allred or Otter said, or didn't say, in Eastern Idaho, a candidate's faith matters.
Understanding that anything from a full-blown scandal to a game-changing revelation could tilt the results come Election Day, here's what we found in the six regions of Idaho.
In the rural counties of the North Idaho Panhandle, people sometimes feel like they live in the land that electoral politics forgot. Pundits have a tendency to write the region off as a haven for extremists, while candidates most often just assume voters will side with whoever best tickles their conservative fancy.
This election, however, might see Northern Idaho end up playing a much bigger role.
"I think Allred is going to do much better in Eastern Idaho and the Magic Valley than Democrats have done in recent history," said Jasper LiCalzi, chair of the Political Economy Department at the College of Idaho. "Allred will do well in Boise also, and Otter will do well on the western side of the valley. So then that leaves it up to the North.
"It'll be the first statewide election in 20 years that we'll have to wait for the late returns from North Idaho," he said.
But that might come as a surprise to people who actually live in the counties north of Moscow. This election season--and the gubernatorial campaigns in particular--has been eerily quiet.
"Most people around here probably think it's a foregone conclusion, and it hasn't garnered much attention," said Richard Tanksley, an instructor of political science at North Idaho College in Coeur d'Alene. "The campaign ads, the media coverage hasn't been nearly that of the Minnick-Labrador race, simply because it's not considered to be as contested.
"Based on the governor's race in 2006 from Shoshone, Kootenai, Benewah and Bonner counties, Otter lost only in Shoshone County, and Bonner County was relatively close. I do not see why there would be that much change in Northern Idaho," Tanksley said.
Part of the reason for that is the difficulty of using media in the region. All the major television and radio stations broadcast out of Spokane, Wash., and the most widely read newspaper in the region--the Spokesman-Review--is also based in Spokane.
"You're wasting a lot of your money up there because it's going to a lot of people in Washington who can't vote," said LiCalzi.
That leaves good, old-fashioned handshaking, baby kissing and door knocking, but again, Otter and Allred have focused their attentions almost exclusively in Southern and Eastern Idaho. And while Allred visited Sandpoint and Lewiston as part of his forum series, and Otter drew a crowd for an event in Post Falls and passed through North Idaho on the GOP's bus tour on Oct. 22, it's hard not to notice how low profile the race has remained.
And that works to Otter's benefit, Tanksley said.
"Otter has the advantage of incumbency, and though the economy in Northern Idaho is far from its potential, Otter has not had any large mishaps that would derail his campaign," he said.
As governor, Otter has been on hand to cut the ribbon at several large road and bridge projects, including the $98 million Sand Creek Byway in Sandpoint. Holding a golden shovel is almost always campaign gold.
"It might be said that Otter can take credit for the federal government's shovel-ready projects in Idaho, while Obama and Congress can be accused of fiscal irresponsibility and have gained only the ire of many voters," Tanksley said.
"That's the advantage that incumbents have," LiCalzi agreed.
As political legend and 21-year Chicago Mayor Richard Daley used to say, "Challengers don't cut ribbons." And Otter has cut a lot of ribbons in the last three and a half years.
The sign outside the Church of Christ in Lewiston reads: "You Never Learn Anything With Your Mouth Open." KRLC, Lewiston's "hometown" AM radio station, broadcasts a call-in show that features very little sniping or arguments from the political fringes. While many Idahoans label themselves as independent, it is perhaps North Central Idaho that "walks the walk," with Nez Perce county sending Republican Joe Stegner to the Idaho Senate for 12 years, yet turning thumbs down to Otter in 2006 and even his predecessor, former Republican Gov. Dirk Kempthorne in 2002.
Pete Gertonson likes a side order of politics with his morning coffee at Sage Bakery, a downtown Lewiston hangout for the politically engaged. Gertonson, a Democrat, has decided to test the political waters himself, running for Nez Perce County commissioner.
"Our voter base is very independent," said Gertonson. "It can swing either way depending on the candidate. If there is no solid opposition, voters usually go Republican, but if there is a quality candidate waging a solid campaign, it doesn't matter which party they're in. They'll carry this region."
So what catapults a "quality" candidate in Idaho's second largest city?
"Robo-calls irritate the hell out of us," said Gertonson. "Here, it's all about good old-fashioned retail politics. Door to door. Person to person."
Gertonson said people in his region were pretty miffed when the Otter campaign opted out of a previously scheduled debate in Lewiston.
"If Otter had come here to debate, he'd have a really good chance of looking dumb," said Gertonson. "We had plenty of questions, especially about the possibility of mega-loads travelling across U.S. 12." He was referring to the controversy surrounding the possibility of huge pieces of oil equipment travelling across north-central Idaho (BW, News, "Taking the Scenic Route," July 7, 2010).
"People here are pretty upset about it," said Gertonson.
One might think that the Otter campaign would feel a little more love at North Central Idaho's GOP headquarters. But not so much.
"I'd personally like to get rid of Otter," GOP volunteer Denice Osterberg told BW while she was surrounded by Otter campaign signs in the middle of Republican headquarters for Nez Perce, Clearwater, Lewis, Idaho and Latah counties.
"I'm a staunch Republican," Osterberg said. "But I know a lot of us conservatives were really looking for an alternative to Otter. I think he sold us down the river."
Jocelyn Parkhurst keeps her eye on all things political. It's her job. She teaches national and international politics at Lewiston's Lewis-Clark State College.
"I'm pretty certain my students cover all sides of the political spectrum," said Parkhurst. "If anything, they lean more conservative."
But Parkhurst bemoans a lack of engagement in Idaho's political season.
"I look out the window and all I see is green space," said Parkhurst. "Not just on campus, but throughout the region. Where are the billboards? Where's the campaign signs? You'd be hard pressed to determine if there was an election coming up."
At least Gertonson knows that an election is coming up. He'll be sharing the ballot with Allred.
"I think Keith Allred will carry Nez Perce," said Gertonson. "But I think there are a lot more votes on the table. I like Allred, but I've gotten to know him. I think if people saw him in the Lewiston area more often, retail politics would give him a solid plurality."
When it comes to politics, Idaho's great divide is neither the Rocky Mountains nor the 45th parallel, but where the Treasure Valley is split at the Ada-Canyon county line. Simply put, Ada leans toward Democratic candidates, Canyon tends to vote Republican. In 2006, Democratic challenger Jerry Brady handily defeated Otter in Ada County by 7,000 votes, and Otter swamped Brady in Canyon County by more than 10,000 votes. [Disclosure: Michael Ames, a contributor to this article, worked for the Brady campaign in 2006.]
But if insiders are looking for nuanced trends come election night, they may want to look deep inside Ada County, where four key districts could readily indicate whether Allred can break through Otter's political armor. In the heart of left-leaning Ada, these four neighborhoods continue to grow in size, and with them, Republican inroads:
• Ada County's ninth precinct is bordered by State Street and Chinden Boulevard and Meridian Road. Otter picked up 62 percent of the vote there four years ago.
• Precincts 42 and 43 are bordered by Ustick, Franklin, Ten Mile and McDermott roads. While Democrats won smaller, surrounding neighborhoods, Otter secured precincts 42 and 43 by 62 percent of the vote.
• Precinct 117 in southwest Ada County is bordered by McDermott, Meridian, Amity and Hubbard roads. In a neighborhood that grew by more than 33 percent since 2000, Otter won in 2006 with 62 percent of the vote.
Poll watchers will be keeping a close eye on each key precinct come election night.
Across the Ada County line sits Idaho's fastest growing county and, according to the U.S. Census, Canyon County is the 39th fastest growing county in the United States.
Canyon County's biggest media outlet, KTRV Fox 12, recorded Allred and Otter's advertising spending at roughly even in September with $8,500 and $8,800 respectively. But the numbers shifted dramatically in October to $4,700 for Allred ad buys and a whopping $17,500 for Otter ads.
Otter recently joined a GOP bus tour in Canyon County, stopping at schools and private and public clubs along the way. But according to campaign records, Allred hasn't hosted a high-profile event in Nampa, Caldwell, or surrounding towns since appearing at a debate at Caldwell's College of Idaho on Oct. 13.
Of the county's estimated 186,000 residents, Idaho's Department of Labor reports 21.5 percent are Hispanic, a 62 percent leap from 2000.
The Nampa-based Idaho Hispanic Caucus, anxious to participate in the hotly contested race, sent out a questionnaire to both candidates with questions surrounding issues that it says are important to Hispanics.
A caucus official said he was surprised by the response and the non-response to the questionnaire.
"The only candidate in the gubernatorial race that responded was Keith Allred," said Alex Zamora. "The candidates say they want us to be a part of the conversation. The lack of response from the Otter campaign doesn't necessarily mean they don't want Latinos involved, but I think that's pretty telling."
In the end, the caucus opted to throw its support behind Allred.
"We're supporting Mr. Allred because of his involvement with the Latino population of Idaho," said Zamora.
The Otter campaign chose not to comment on the questionnaire or endorsement.
Zamora said Canyon County and its ever-growing Hispanic population could be the gubernatorial race's biggest wild card.
If Idaho politics had a custom-themed Monopoly board, the Wood River Valley would be where politicians "Pass Go." For candidates of both parties and for nearly any office--from governor to congress and even local county commissioners--having deep-pocketed friends in Sun Valley is smart politics and a fundraising necessity.
Politically, this is Democratic territory, a liberal island in a conservative sea, a place where NPR plays on two stations--but good luck finding Glenn Beck on your AM radio dial (seriously, try it). So when the Idaho GOP bus tour rolled through the valley on Oct. 22, it was a change of scenery in the usually static stage-craft of Idaho political theater.
The first stop of the day was in Hailey, and the bus--plastered with signs for every statewide Republican candidate--parked across the street from the Sun Valley Brewery. Days earlier, the brewery's roof had been freshly painted a brilliant red, but Republicans shouldn't get too excited. The owners said they just needed a new coat of paint.
"If anything, I think just about everybody here is a Democrat," one of the brewery's bartenders told BW.
A hundred yards or so down the street is the Blaine County Democratic headquarters. Otter didn't seem to notice.
"The politics is changing dramatically," Otter told BW. "I've had a lot of Democrats come out and say, 'We are usually on the Democrats' side, but we appreciate how you balanced the budget and are encouraging business creation, so we're crossing over.'"
The GOP road show had been met by substantial crowds earlier that day. A reception in Burley met the bus with more than 300 residents. Republican operatives said the response in Gooding was "incredible." But in Hailey, not so much. Only about 15 stood in the Sun Valley Brewery parking lot.
Otter faces a tough sell in most of the Wood River Valley, but the Idaho GOP could certainly get some overflow from independents caught up in the national anti-President Barack Obama frenzy, even in Sun Valley.
How realistic are Otter's hopes?
In 2006, Otter was clobbered by Jerry Brady's 70 percent of the vote in Blaine County. Otter won a few districts in the county, like Carey and Picabo. He also fared well in Sun Valley, an enclave of Republican retirees.
But in Ketchum, Hailey and Bellevue, Otter didn't top 32 percent in 2006. In all of Blaine County, Hailey was the most lopsidedly Democratic town, where 76 percent of voters chose Brady.
Allred is poised to not only win Blaine County but potentially outdo Brady's success here. Though Allred is from Twin Falls, the Allred family goes back a long way in Central Idaho. At campaign events, Allred notes that his family was one of the original ranches to drive cattle and sheep up over Galena Pass to the Sawtooth Valley.
"If you go into the Pioneer Saloon and you order one of their giant steaks, they bring it out on a plate with the brands of all the family ranches in the area," said campaign spokesman [and former BW editor] Shea Andersen. "The 'A' on that plate stands for Allred."
Local elected officials, like Wendy Jaquet, former Idaho House Minority Leader, are in full-throated support of Allred. And in the closing weeks, quiet fundraisers will help bankroll Allred's insurgent attacks.
Blaine County votes Democratic, and this year will be no exception. For Otter, the best he can hope for is to minimize the damage. For Allred, this is his base.
When the sun sets in Twin Falls, the huge, neon martini on the roof of the Turf Club comes alive. It's an inviting beacon at one of the oldest and most beloved social halls in the Magic Valley.
But on Oct. 21, the Turf Club was host to a more sober kind of business. The Kiwanis Club of Twin Falls was hosting a Meet Keith Allred luncheon for the Democratic challenger for governor.
The Turf Club "is world famous," Alex Allred said as he unpacked boxes of brochures and bumper-stickers for his older brother's bid for Boise's highest office. The Allreds are from Twin Falls, but one gets the sense that they have spent substantial educational time outside of their native Magic Valley.
"I've been in other countries, and when I tell people that I'm from Twin Falls, Idaho, they ask me about the Turf Club," the younger Allred said.
Keith Allred still likes to remind voters that he's a real Idahoan--a horseback-riding, cattle-ranch-tending kind of guy.
Kay Hummel, an Allred supporter from Boise, made the trip to Twin Falls to champion Allred's cowboy credentials.
"Butch is always out there on his horse," said Hummel. "But I bet Keith could outride Butch any day."
At the Turf Club, when Allred told the story of a challenging summer on his grandfather's cattle ranch, there was a clear sense of what this Harvard-educated, Ivy League professor was up to. It wasn't just about proving that he's not really, not by blood at least, a Democrat. The cattle ranch story is ultimately about the fact that no one political party can claim title to a state's heritage. A Republican Idahoan, Allred seemed to say, is no more authentic than any other Idahoan.
This year, some Idaho Republicans are in full agreement.
Laird Noh is a GOP veteran from Kimberly and a Republican who served Twin Falls in the Idaho Legislature for 24 years. In 2006, he chaired Jim Risch's campaign for Lieutenant Governor in Twin Falls County. This year, he switched sides; Noh is the state co-chair for the Allred campaign and one of a dozen outspoken Republicans for Allred.
Twin Falls businessman Mark Melni said that there has been a perennial "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy about supporting Democrats in Twin Falls. But according to Noh, this year might be different.
"It's hard to find negatives with Keith Allred," Noh said of the silver-haired professor with the sterling resume. As polls tighten--Allred trailed in the Magic Valley and Eastern Idaho by just 6 points in the most recent poll--Noh thinks the Otter camp is "getting desperate."
"His opponent wants to somehow say that because Keith taught at Harvard, that is a negative," Noh said. "To that I say: Harvard-graduate Mike Crapo is a capable U.S. senator for Idaho. Harvard-graduate Walt Minnick is a capable Congressional representative. The Boise Cascade Corporation was founded by Harvard Business School graduates."
But how does a Democrat win in Idaho? What about anti-Democratic fervor in the Magic Valley? What about the 3,000 more votes that Otter won over Democrat Jerry Brady in Twin Falls in 2006?
Noh is a soft-spoken politician. He's not into fervor. Before now, he had never set foot in a Democratic event. But when he looks at today's GOP, both within Idaho and nationwide, he sees "real angst about what has happened among practical Republicans."
In the Tea Party, he said he sees a movement of "ex-John Birch Society types" and infighting between the establishment and the fringe that "is not serving us well."
Sitting in a high-back, black-leather booth at the Turf Club, Noh--the Republican co-chair of a Democratic campaign--seemed free of all that turmoil. He even seemed confident.
In Twin Falls, Noh said, "Butch is running scared."
On the morning of Sept. 21, the Allred and Otter campaigns woke up to a minor political tremor. Not enough to crack the foundation, but certainly enough to shake things up. A survey conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research indicated that Southeast Idaho was very much in play. According to the poll, Otter's margin in Southeast Idaho was only 6 percent over Allred with 13 percent of those questioned saying they were still undecided.
David Adler, director of the University of Idaho's James A. and Louise McClure Center for Public Policy said what many had been thinking.
"I think Allred's religion is one of his niches in this race," said Adler.
A lot of Eastern Idahoans BW spoke to agree, at least privately. With few exceptions, none wanted their names printed, yet almost all said their faith mattered in every part of their lives, including politics. Each was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Each said they were voting for Allred.
Allred is a former LDS missionary to Germany, a Sunday school teacher and has twice served as a bishop in the Mormon church.
However, Allred did everything but run away from the issue when BW asked him about the importance of his faith.
"I hope that no one will vote for me or against me because of my faith," Allred responded.
The most blatant exploitation of faith in the gubernatorial race came on Oct. 6, not from the Allred camp but during two Otter campaign rallies, one in Idaho Falls and another in Boise. Otter wrote a political IOU when one-time presidential hopeful and one of the nation's most famous Mormons, Mitt Romney parachuted in for some politicking. It wasn't Romney who took direct aim at fellow Mormon Allred, but rather Idaho Falls multi-millionaire Frank Vandersloot.
"Keith Allred has been sending Eastern Idaho Mormon's the message, 'I'm Mormon so vote for me because I'm one of you guys.' My answer to that is, well, Harry Reid is a Mormon."
Democratic Sen. and Majority Leader Reid is in the fight for his political life in Nevada.
Allred responded cautiously.
"It's unfortunate that Frank Vandersloot wants to use religious and partisan labels to distract people from the actual positions held by the candidates."
A week and a half later, Sharon Parry of Idaho Falls stirred the faith pot once more. Parry knows a thing or two about politics, and a thing or two about Otter. She's an Idaho Falls Republican who coordinated Otter's campaign in Bonneville County in 2006.
In a guest column in the Idaho Falls' Post Register, Parry said Allred had been endorsed by Clayton Christensen, a prominent Republican Mormon. The op-ed set off a tornado of blog posts, opinions and personal slams aimed at Parry, Allred and anyone who supported, or for that matter, opposed them.
The Post Register's government reporter Corey Taule even weighed in, writing, "Parry should have known better than to play the Mormon card."
The El Herradero in Pocatello is known by locals as the place to get the most food for the least money. Most lunch hour patrons identified themselves to BW as Republican and members of the LDS faith. And most said they were voting for Allred.
"What's he afraid of?" asked Jacob Lam, a 50-something early retiree. "Allred should just start talking publicly about being Mormon. It's a good thing."
Meanwhile, Otter hasn't mentioned Allred's faith once, at least publicly. As for his own, when BW asked him to explain how his faith informs him, Otter wasn't shy at all. He replied: "As a Catholic, I turn to my faith often. My faith is most definitely a guiding principle in my work and in my everyday life."
In the wake of our reporting, we fielded several questions to both the Allred and Otter campaigns. Below, you'll find our questions and their answers.
We posed the following to the Allred campaign.
We heard from a good number of Idahoans in the north central (north of Riggins) and panhandle regions that were familiar with the candidate's name, but not necessarily with his personal history or his platform issues. Understanding that a longer campaign would have required more financing and more resources, do you think it might have been beneficial to run a longer campaign (15 months or more) to secure greater "brand" recognition?
We knew from the beginning that running a candidate who wasn't a career politician like Butch Otter would have its inherent challenges. But Otter has shown us that your premise has its own risks: He has been running for office for almost 30 years without actually doing anything with the job he's in now. As Keith Allred makes his way around Idaho and engages with voters, we find an audience eager to hear from a practical problem solver who isn't in this for political points.
A good many Idahoans we heard from in northern Idaho said they felt disengaged from the gubernatorial contest. And a healthy cross section told us they were seriously considering not voting. How might you react to such comments?
The more we meet and talk with people around Idaho, the more we encounter people who were despondent over the absence of a good choice for governor. Then Mary Lou Reed, a former lawmaker from Coeur d'Alene who is supporting our campaign, wrote for the Spokane Inlander that, "if you want to vote for a person, not a party, Keith is your man." We've found support and excitement about this race all over Idaho, whether it's in Benewah County, where a county commissioner appointed to her seat by Butch Otter has announced her support for Keith Allred, or in Kootenai County, where we continue to hear from voters excited about the possibilities under an Allred administration.
When asked about campaign ads, the most quoted television spot tagged the candidate as someone who would raise taxes. What is the candidate's most efficient response to those who think that's true?
It's a lie.
We heard from likely voters in Eastern Idaho that the candidate should be more direct in telling the story of his faith and how his faith informs him. Is it possible that the candidate might consider a high profile examination of the importance of his faith?
Keith has made it plain in public and private forums alike: "I hope that no one will vote for me or against me because of my faith."
We heard from a number of Idahoans who considered themselves "independent" or "moderate" and disagreed with the governor's cuts to education and health and welfare, yet supported his fight against health care reform. How does the candidate interpret the large number of Idahoans who say they're against reform, yet are unfamiliar with the specifics of the affordable care act?
Keith agrees with those who are frustrated by the approach of the federal health care reform law. But now that it's the law of the land, he's got a solution that will actually bring us three things that Otter's pointless lawsuit won't. Keith Allred's plan to develop an Idaho health plan is a way to get out from under federal mandates, take advantage of federal funding and actually deliver better health care for Idaho.
For those likely voters who said they were against the candidate, many hitched his campaign to an anti-Obama/Pelosi/Reid sentiment. How might you react to such comments?
They should take note of the historic numbers of prominent Republicans who have endorsed Keith, and read about them at republicansforallred.com, or see Keith's appearance on the Fox Business Channel where he befuddled the host by saying that he supports the Bush Tax Cuts and adding, "I don't think I'm a very good spokesperson for liberal spending habits."
We posed the following questions to the Otter campaign.
We heard from a number of Idahoans, particularly in the north central (north of Riggins) and panhandle regions that considered themselves "independent" or "moderates" and didn't necessarily agree with the governor's sentiment that "Idaho is on the right track" in a recent television ad. Could you please expand on that theme?
The USA Today just credited Idaho with being one the top states to emerge from this recession. National accolades don't just happen without true leadership. Gov. Otter made the necessary changes to government and got people working together to better our economy. And, it's working!
There are currently more than 100 companies looking at Idaho as a place to do business. This is far more than has ever looked at this state in recent years. They are interested in Idaho because of its great business climate and the fact that we can ensure taxes remain low, stable, and predictable. C3 in Twin Falls is creating 1,200 new jobs. Empire Air is adding 100 in northern Idaho. Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories just announced it's expanding across the border from Washington into Idaho. And Premier Technology is adding up to 70 jobs in Blackfoot.
A good many Idahoans we heard from in northern Idaho said they felt disengaged by the gubernatorial contest and were disappointed that the Lewiston debate was canceled. Why was there no effort to schedule an opportunity for voters to see the candidates speak specifically to regional issues?
Every Idahoan has multiple opportunities to hear my thoughts on the issues affecting the state.
When asked about campaign ads, the most quoted television spot tagged the governor as someone who "cut funding to public education." What is the governor's most efficient response to those who think that's true?
I am about results-based leadership and our students are achieving! Here are the real facts!
• In 2007, only 26 percent of Idaho's schools met our state academic goals. Now, 62 percent achieved their goals!
• Today, only eight states are performing better than Idaho's eighth graders in mathematics, as measured by a national math assessment.
• There has been a 15 percent increase in the number of college credits earned by high school students in just one year as a result of the Idaho Education Network. The IEN connects every high school and college to unprecedented learning opportunities thru the use of technology.
This year, we are spending 50.9percent of the general fund budget on education. That's the largest percentage since 1989. We insulated education with more than $394 million. On top of that, we put additional $50 million into the classroom for technology, textbooks, classroom supplies and materials, and remediation programs.
Did you know we invested $10 million in the Idaho Math initiative or $40 million to connect every high school and college or university to unprecedented learning opportunities through the Idaho Education Network.
We heard from likely voters in Eastern Idaho that the issue of faith was important yet not addressed openly. How does the governor tell the story of his faith and how his faith informs him?
As a Catholic, I turn to my faith often. My faith is most definitely a guiding principle in my work and in my everyday life.
We heard from a number of Idahoans who supported the governor's fight against the affordable care act, yet they were unfamiliar with the specifics of the new law. Does the governor consider this an integral issue for voters?
No Idahoan should be forced to buy a federally mandated health plan or be forced to pay a penalty. Obamacare is an egregious and unprecedented overreach by the federal government that will do nothing to reduce costs for most patients and in fact will restrict access and choice. The recent ruling by a federal judge in Florida that our multi-state lawsuit against the federal government can proceed indicates there is constitutional merit in our case, and I expect it eventually to be resolved in our favor by the United States Supreme Court.
A good many voters said this race, like many others are hitched to an anti-Obama/Pelosi/Reid sentiment. How might the governor interpret voters' dissatisfaction with Washington politics?
Washington, D.C., is the problem; Idaho is the solution. States are and always were intended to be the laboratories of the republic, where public servants are more accountable and where good ideas can become effective public policy. We need to restore our self-determination and once again become the architects of our own destiny.