• Andrus and Carlson

"I've long thought that Governor Andrus has never been given the full credit he deserved for the critical role he played in leading the way to passage of the greatest single piece of conservation legislation in American history. So I set out to make sure the history books properly reflect this excellent piece of his legacy." - Chris Carlson

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Soon, courtesy of all Idaho’s taxpayers, Republican voters will march to the polls to state their preference for the nation’s next commander-in-chief.

Whether this exercise has any impact upon the presidential sweepstakes remains to be seen, especially since Idahoans will be voting one week after Super Tuesday, the big enchilada that will see over a third of the delegates being selected.

With Michigan and Mississippi also holding primaries, it’s a safe bet the national media will congregate that night in Detroit, not Boise.

Still, it is fascinating to examine which aspirant is being supported by which major Idaho Republican figure. To date one could say Idaho has covered itself with prominent Idahoans having spread their support across most of the candidates.

The one big exception is the current GOP frontrunner, Donald Trump. He has a posted list of 860 supporters, but who they are and how well organized they are remains to be seen. It is doubtful that endorsements by any one figure will carry real influence. Far more likely is the scenario that the one or two top winners in Super Tuesday will likewise do well in Idaho.

In 2008 and in 2012 Idaho Republicans went with the eventual party nominees, John McCain and Mitt Romney. In 2016, Idaho GOP rules for selecting delegates to the National Convention in July in Cleveland will probably result in more than one candidate picking up Idaho delegates.

If one candidate receives over 50% of the vote he will garner all 32 delegates. If the winner has less than that, to receive delegates, the threshold is more than 20%. This will guarantee that Idaho has a split delegation at least for the first round of balloting in Cleveland.

In late February the Idaho race appears to be shaping up as a contest between Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Mr. Trump with Florida Senator Marco Rubio closing in on the frontrunners.

Rubio has two aces in his hand – U.S. Senator Jim Risch and the “shadow shogun” of Republican politics, Idaho Falls billionaire businessman Frank VanderSloot. Risch and Rubio serve together on the Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees. Both are devout Roman Catholics.

VanderSloot is a member in good standing of the LDS Church. Speculation as to why he would support Rubio over Cruz goes right to the heart of the major difference between Cruz and Rubio regarding the issue of illegal immigrants, who Cruz would ship back, but Rubio would allow to remain if they go to the back of the line of those applying for citizenship.

VanderSloot reportedly employs a goodly number of legal immigrants at his Melaleuca company. A major fund-raiser last time around for Mitt Romney were the National Convention to be brokered one could expect VanderSloot to switch back to Romney.

Approximately one-third of the Idaho electorate belong to the LDS Church. These voters tend to be quite conservative, but some would argue this does not mean they would go for Cruz. After all several million evangelicals stayed home in 2012 rather than vote for Mormon.

This fact alone caused some to arch an eyebrow when First District Congressman Raul Labrador threw his endorsement to Cruz following the collapse of Rand Paul’s campaign. Other Cruz supporters include former party chair Norm Semanko and State Treasurer Ron Crane.

Jeb Bush enjoys the support of former Governor, U.S. Senator and Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, as well as that of former Attorney General and Lt. Governor David Leroy. Phil Reberger, former Kempthorne chief of staff and major domo in his own right in GOP circles is also thought to be a Bush supporter.

Ohio Governor John Kasich has the support of two Idaho state legislators, Merv Hagedorn and Robert Anderst.

Idaho’s other major officeholders – Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter, Senator Mike Crapo, Second District Congressman Mike Simpson and Lt. Governor Brad Little are all remaining studiously neutral.

To this writer’s thinking, the best of the GOP lot, and indeed the best of the whole bunch is the Ohio governor, John Kasich.

As to the Democrats, they caucus on March 22nd. Last time around Hillary Clinton’s team overlooked Idaho and to their chagrin Obama’s team captured a majority of Idaho’s delegates.

This time around Idaho will be a contest that will come down to whether the young voter’s adoration for Senator Sanders translates into attendance at their caucus vs. the Clinton team’s ability to turn out her base.

One word of caution to Senator Sanders – he’d best back off of his plank calling for free higher education to be treated as a birthright. Universities in states like Idaho or California, where there are private religious affiliated schools, would rapidly be driven from the field – the College of Idaho, Northwest Nazarene, BYU-Idaho, and Gonzaga simply could not compete against public schools offering free higher education.

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The people of the state of Iowa are getting ready to attend their precinct caucuses in a few hours as this is being written. It is the first balloting by the people expressing their views on who should lead this nation for the next four years.

Regardless of who comes out ahead for either political party, the question the rest of us should ask is whether the winners expressed optimism about our future as a nation and appealed to our hopes and aspirations or did they win by utilizing cheap demagoguery and appealing to fear?

Unfortunately, too many elected officials today take the easy path of motivating by fear and tapping into anger. For this writer watching two events this past week crystallized the difference in approaches.

The first was an interview in Davos, Switzerland at the annual World Economic Forum with the recently selected Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau. Trudeau is the son of Pierre, perhaps Canada’s most famous Prime Minister.

By no means was he groomed to succeed his father someday and his path to the Prime Ministership saw him spend several years working as a teacher and part of another year as a snowboard instructor at Whistler outside of Vancouver.

He did, however, spend time often traveling with his father as the then Prime Minister criss-crossed Canada. The most important thing he said he learned was how to listen to what Canadians were saying they wanted from their government and then channelling those desires into programs that deliver services effectively and efficiently.

He ended the interview by saying that Canadians had a choice to make which was whether they would be motivated by hope and optimism or by fear and pessimism. He offered the former and the Canadian voters gave young Justin’s Liberal party an overwhelming victory this past October.

This contrasted greatly with a Legislative Forum held this past weekend by eight of the nine member, all Republican Kootenai county delegation to the Idaho Legislature. It was a disappointing display of pure pandering to the Tea Party element in attendence as well as supporters of permitless gun carry.

Most in the audience seemed to see the federal government as an out and out enemy. Yes, there are too many examples of agencies and individuals over the years lying about everything from atomic testing to deceptive practices by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Nothing, however, can justify any one taking the law into their own hands, seizing federal property and engaging in outright sedition. Yet when one member in the audience asked if the Legislature would take up or would one of them in front introduce a resolution of support for the outlaws at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, not one legislator had the guts to look the guy in the eye and say “Hell no. No one is above the law in this country and there are long established processes for obtaining redress from the excesses of government.”

Another person expressed his frustration with what goes on in Washington, D.C. We all know inside the Beltway is a surreal world, but rather than propose a real solution of say term limits for both elected officials and public servants in the civil service we would rather just rail against our government that for all its faults does a pretty good job of taking care of those who legitimately cannot do so themselves.

This person though asked “why vote?” Now there’s a question every one of them should have knocked out of the ballpark. Only State Senator Mary Souza, to her credit, pointed out the obvious. If you want change you have to participate and vote for people who reflect your views and hope (there’s that word) that they’ll do what they say when they get into office (and yes, too many don’t).

Someone should have reversed the question: if you don’t vote why should I even listen to you?

Six of the eight at one time or another gave out misleading information. Another person in the audience decried the many rules and regulations that come with new laws. While pointing out that Idaho is one of the few states where the Legislature reviews and approves an agency’s regulations the six pretended this review had nothing to do with approving the often astronomic increase in fees. Fact is when they approve the regs they approve the fees.

Another legislator assured a questioner that the Federal government could no longer obtain any additional acreage without state approval. This completely ignores the government’s ability to condemn property or the President’s authoriity to with the stroke of a pen create new National Monuments.

Several others sanctimoniously talked about how state acreage returns $14 per acre to the state while federal property only generates 10 cents an acre. No source was cited nor was there any promise to increase the number of Department of Lands employees that would be needed if by some miracle the state did get ahold of federal property.

Another example of a misleading response was the promise several made to try to protect private and personal information. The questioner had had his identity stolen six times and made a valid point, but instead he received vague bromides.

Reference was made to possible legislation severely restricting the gathering of personal data but the honest answer is it will never pass because two of the biggest collectors of personal data in order to profile individuals are our two great political parties.

As far as this observer is concerned two legislators distinguished themselves by saying very little – State Senator Bob Nonini and State Rep. Luke Malek. At times, State Senator Mary Souza also did well. No one, however, delivered a message of hope and optimism. Sad.

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