There's just under two weeks left before the election, and if the race at the top doesn't excite you there are some crucial "undercard" elections that could be even more important for Idaho voters.
The editorial board of the Mountain Home News was split straight down the middle on the presidential candidates. Like the polarization in this country, the divide was sharp and more anti-candidate than pro-candidate. There were those who really didn't want to see Obama re-elected, so by default they wanted us to urge a vote for Romney, and there were those who really didn't want to see Romney elected, so by default they were urging a vote for Obama. Nobody seemed genuinely excited about either candidate, so the consensus seemed to be: hold your nose and vote your conscience.
It got a lot easier when it came to endorsing the race for Second District Congressman. In another day, another age, on another planet, Nicole LeFavour might be a good choice. But she's running against a great choice. Incumbent Congressman Mike Simpson is one of those rare politicians who's a public servant first -- and a very good one, especially representing the interests of the people of Idaho. He's smart, wise, hardworking and reasonable. We've often ranted and raved about the problems with Congress, but Mike isn't the problem. If anything, he's one of those you look to as being part of the solution. We cannot urge you strongly enough to vote to re-elect Mike Simpson for Congress.
In our new Legislative District 23, which is all of Elmore and Owyhee County and a tiny fragment of Twin Falls County, Republican Bert Brackett gets our nod for his solid, responsible, honest work. Independent Bill Chisholm just didn't reach Bert's standards.
The board was split on the District 23 Position A House seat, with a small minority favoring Democrat Jody Bickle but the majority encouraging re-election of Republican incumbent Rich Wills.
However, for District 23 House Seat B, the board was united in its opposition to incumbent Pete Nielsen, and urged a vote for Democratic challenger Pam Chiarella. The board felt that while Pete may be one of the nicest guys on the planet, he's been a poor legislator, essentially nothing more than a pawn for his political party leadership to move around on the board.
He's repeatedly voted to cut funding for public education and didn't bother to attend the local public forums on the Luna laws where citizens were able to ask questions and offer their opinions.
He hasn't enamored himself with our local cities and counties for issues important to them, and he's had some bizarre moments in his career (remember the little breast feeding tempest in a teapot?).
Nor has he demonstrated, by actual words and action, any belief in the value of the voters themselves. He got conned by the seriously right-wing leadership of his party to be a key sponsor of a resolution calling for repeal of the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Apparently, he doesn't feel the voters are smart enough or should be trusted to elect U.S. senators on their own, that they should be selected by a small handful of party leaders (before that amendment, most senators were appointed by their governors with the advice and consent of their legislatures).
Being a nice guy isn't enough. It's time for a change in that seat and Chiarella is a smart, fiscally conservative option this time around.
For the First District County Commissioner seat, the board unanimously endorsed Independent Larry "Slick" Jewett, citing his long involvement with government (on the rural fire district and fair boards) and his sharp mind. No one on the board spoke ill of Republican Bud Corbus, they just thought Slick would do a better job.
For Third District Commission, the board unanimously selected Democrat Mike Crawford over Republican incumbent Al Hofer. Board members expressed concern with Hofer's decisionmaking when it came to huge developments such as the planned cities in the Mayfield area. Hofer is, himself, a developer. Crawford is a lawyer and former deputy public defender.
No one is challenging any of the other local races, so they're all shoo-ins for re-election, and the board strongly and unanimously urged the retention of the two excellent magistrate judges in Elmore County, George Hicks and David Epis.
Finally, there were two amendments to the state constitution and three voter-petition resolutions to repeal the three key provisions of Luna Laws.
On SJR 102 it makes sense to put felony probation and parole under the direction and management of the state board of correction. Vote yes on that amendment.
On HJR 2aa, the amendment essentially affirms the right to hunt, fish and trap in Idaho, and we urge a yes vote.
Finally, there were the three Luna Laws, where the board urged a No, No and He** No! vote. A no vote means you object to what the legislature did two years ago and want to repeal the Luna education plan.
Individually, Proposition 1 asks if you are in favor of limiting bargaining rights of teachers to just compensation and one-year contracts, allow school boards to cut salaries without due process and end some retirement incentives.
Proposition 2 is the "pay for performance" law that sounds good in general until you actually try and make it work fairly in practice, since only a small percentage of classes (at the high school level at least) are actually tested (and then only once a year) to evaluate student "progress." The law also functionally means that every school district in the state may have a different criteria. Voting no means essentially that you want to keep the current system of pay based primarily on experience and training.
Proposition 3 is the famous "laptop" law, in which Luna and the legislature hope to eliminate 800 teachers in Idaho and replace them with computers. Two years into the law the laptops still haven't shown up and the state has cut the requirement from essentially one class every semester to only two classes for all four years of high school. But the cuts to pay for teachers go on. This was a poor and hastily conceived law, thrown together between the time Luna was elected and the start of the legislature two months later. As much as educators would love to have more technology in the classroom, they want it as an extra tool, not to replace trained flesh-and-blood teachers. This law is why class sizes have been climbing to terrible levels all across Idaho. This is the most important of the Luna Laws that needs to be rejected. Vote no.