Time for our annual "kiss of death," our endorsements of candidates in the coming election.
The endorsements represent the majority of the members of the Mountain Home News editorial board.
In local races, the board unanimously endorsed Republican Wes Wootan for election over independent Doug King for the Second District commissioner's seat. The board felt Wootan's common-sense approach to decision-making would be a welcome addition to the county commissioners.
In the Third District race for county commissioner, the board also strongly endorsed the re-election of Democrat Connie Cruser for a third term to the board over Republican challenger Al Hofer. Cruser's knowledge and expertise in some of the crucial aspects of the job, especially those relating to senior citizen and health issues, had earned her re-election.
Although unopposed on the ballot, the board was quite pleased with the remaining slate of county office seekers -- Barbara Steele for county clerk, Rose Plympton for county treasurer, Ron Fisher for county assessor and Jerry Rost for county coroner. Plympton is the only Democrat and she and Rost are the only incumbents.
For the District 22 state senate race, Republican Tim Corder was unanimously endorsed by the board over "Tea Party Democrat" Henry Hibbert. Corder is regarded as one of the smartest members of the Idaho legislature and should begin moving into key leadership positions with his re-election.
Republican incumbent state representatives Rich Wills and Pete Nielsen have no opposition on the ballot.
At the state level, Gov. Butch Otter was endorsed by a majority of the board for re-election as governor. Otter has been forced to make a number of unpopular decisions as he faced the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression, but the board believes he tends to represent the general thinking of Idaho's citizens. The board recognized that Kieth Allred has probably run the best campaign for a Democrat since the days of Cecil Andrus, but he would have no hope of governing effectively with a Republican-dominated legislature and the last thing we need in government these days is more gridlock.
The board unanimously endorsed all the incumbent Republicans in the remaining state races, except one. Lt. Gov. Brad Little, Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, State Comptroller Donna Jones, State Treasurer Ron Crane and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden have done nothing to cause voters to seek any alternative. They have done good, competent jobs and deserve re-election.
The one exception was for Superintendent of Education, where the board unanimously endorsed Democratic challenger Stan Olson over Republican incumbent Tom Luna.
Long before he was elected, Luna was a critic of public education, stressing home schooling and charter schools, instead. He had no real background in education and it has shown.
As superintendent Luna simply has not stood up and fought adequately for public education, and it was under his watch that education funding was essentially flat for several years and then took the only true cut in funding in the state's history last year, leading to the disasters of slashed programs and crowded classrooms being faced all across the state. He has little respect among educators.
On the other hand, Olson spent his career in the education system, retiring as superintendent of the Boise School District. He fully understands the nuts and bolts of the education system and has a track record of getting a good return on dollars spent. He pays more than mere political lip service to educating our young people in the public school systems. He believes in it. He would serve the people of Idaho well.
For federal offices, we unanimously endorse the re-election of incumbent Republicans Sen. Mike Crapo and Second District Congressman Mike Simpson. Both men are outstanding representatives for the state of Idaho and, upon re-election, would finally be moving into the upper reaches of leadership positions in the U.S. Senate and House, where their reasonable, common-sense approach to problems would go a long ways toward helping solve the gridlock in Congress.
Finally, there are four constitutional amendments on the ballot. A majority of the board have endorsed a "yes" vote on all of them.
Three of the amendments are an attempt to clarify and correct some language in the constitution that arose out of a court case involving the city of Boise's airport expansion project. They would allow infrastructure improvements by local governments to not require a vote of the citizens if the improvements can be paid for out of user fees from the projects. In the case of hospitals, for example, this is a long-standing procedure (fees for an MRI machine, for example, would pay for the machine) that was halted by the court case. No property tax dollars could be used for any of the projects. They give some flexibility to local governments without raising property taxes.
The fourth amendment goes back to the creation of the University of Idaho as a land grant college. Currently, the U of I is the only university that cannot charge tuition. Instead, they rely on fees, but fees can only be used for limited purposes directly related to the classes being taken by a student. Tuition provides the university more flexibility to allocate its limited dollars.
Finally, on a separate ballot from the general election ballot (you'll have to go to a separate table at each polling site), there is the election for two members of the Western Elmore County Recreation District.
Incumbents Marsha Sellers and Jana Borgholthaus, who were appointed to their present positions, are being challenged by Art Nelson and Judy Mayne. This race resulted in the greatest amount of disagreement and discussion within the editorial board, but in the end, a majority of the board believes the voters should cast their ballots for the challengers, Nelson and Mayne.
The board's majority believes that the rec district is in serious need of new blood and, more importantly, new direction, which they believe the challengers would provide.
In the end, whether you agree or disagree, it is vital that your own voice be heard and counted in the ballot box on Nov. 2. While the majority of races may be foreordained, there are several where clear choices are being offered, and it is crucial that you do your duty as a citizen and participate in the election process.