I'd like to take a moment and extend my personal congratulations to all the candidates who earned a vote of confidence from local voters on Tuesday. For the first time in quite a while, the primary election offered voters in Elmore County and across the state a solid field of contenders, each one hoping to make things better for those who live here.
But now the real work begins. With six months to go before November's general election, those who won this week will face an uphill battle to not only maintain their group of supporters but to earn the trust of those who didn't support them, regardless of their political affiliation.
From my perspective, the biggest challenge each candidate now faces is developing a solid game plan and sticking to it. So far this political season, it seems the main focus on the minds of many candidates was to state their political position or to cast doubts on the credibility of their opponents.
Case in point: During the political forum in Mountain Home, I saw instances where candidates wanted to spout off their political ideology or, even worse, started quoting the Constitution. Quite honestly, this doesn't concern me.
What I do care about is how they plan to make my life and the lives of my family and others in this county better -- even if it's just a small improvement.
I don't need someone standing in front of me thumping a copy of the Constitution trying to tell me what it says. Obviously, these same candidates don't understand that you have to include all the case law that goes along with what's outlined in the Constitution to make anything relevant.
And don't get me started on when a political candidate wants to throw their religious views into this mix. All they've done is disenfranchise anyone that doesn't follow their specific religious views. But then, I digress.
What I really want to hear from the candidates that will appear on the November ballot is how they will fix the state's economy. I want to know how exactly they will bring in the companies and corporations to Idaho that will create the jobs people here desperately need.
They also need to convince me how their plan will actually work. For example, I sure would like to know how many jobs are actually needed to remedy the state's unemployment figures and get the economy moving like it was prior to the 2008 real estate market crash.
At the same time, I want these candidates to tell me how they will improve our public schools, especially in rural communities like Mountain Home, Glenns Ferry, Bruneau and Grand View. I want to hear how they will ensure our school buildings are in good repair -- that the roofs don't leak and their heating systems aren't on their last legs.
I want our candidates to tell me how this state will recruit and hire the additional teachers and staff needed to alleviate our crowded classrooms that are making it extremely difficult for children to learn effectively. I want those running for office to say they will use my tax dollars to purchase the technology needed to prepare our children -- our future -- for the challenges of tomorrow.
After all, this was a problem our lawmakers created in the first place when they cut funding for education. Maybe if these candidates had actually stepped into the schools in communities like Mountain Home and saw the damage they helped create, maybe we'd get better representation.
What I've seen them do instead is worry about their personal pet projects or promoting their political agendas. This last session, they spent a whole lot of time, energy and money worrying about gun legislation, which really won't help the state in the long run.
Here's something else to think about when you look at who will get your vote in November. Last week, this newspaper published the results of a questionnaire we sent to the candidates running for county, state and federal office. It was our way to share with you, the reader, where these candidates stood on these issues.
The level of response we received was disappointing. Of all the candidates we reached out to, about half of them didn't respond.
Granted, I can understand that our newspaper was one of literally dozens of media outlets that were asking for the candidates to respond to what I can only guess was a mountain of questionnaires. I just wish they could've taken 60 seconds to call me and let me know that they didn't have enough time to respond, which I would've appreciated.
After all, if a candidate doesn't have the time to answer the questions from the press, how will they ever find the time to respond to all they questions and concerns they will get from the hundreds of thousands of residents in this state?
Here's something else I hope that each candidate understands. Government tends to work extremely slow at times, even at the city and county levels.
To a point, it serves as a type of "safety valve" to prevent our elected officials from making "off the hip" decisions without giving them sufficient time to consider the benefits and, more to the point, the consequences.
Consider the situation in Payette County just a couple of years ago where the county commissioners tried to rush through a plan to bring a nuclear power plant to their county -- the same proposal Elmore County faced at one point.
It was a plan that seemed too good to believe, and unfortunately, it was.
Payette County's rash decision came just as the developer backing the nuclear power deal came under investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC on charges of securities fraud. It was something that blew up in the faces of the commissioners there.
But consequences like these are just some of the issues elected officials accept when they run for public office. For those new to the political arena, being an elected public official is a lot harder than it looks.
-- Brian S. Orban