• 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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On occasion there are quirks of history one should pay attention to because they are accurate predictors of the future even in the face of conventional wisdom. For example, virtually every political pundit in Idaho takes it as a given that whoever wins the Republican gubernatorial primary next May is a lock to become Idaho’s governor in January 2019.

Probably so, but maybe not. There is an historical factoid that says otherwise. In modern times the Idaho governorship has changed party hands every 24 years twice in a row. In 1946, C.A. “Doc” Robins, a state senator from Benewah County and a medical doctor, defeated incumbent Democrat governor Arnold Williams. This began a string of Republican governors in Idaho for 24 years.

The string ended in 1970 when the Democrat state senator from Nez Perce County, Cecil Andrus, defeated incumbent Don Samuelson. This began another string of 24 years in which Andrus and his successor, John Evans, a former state senator from Oneida County, held the governorship.

In 1994, with the victory of Republican Phil Batt, a former state senator from Canyon County, the governor’s chair again changed hands after 24 years. If history is an accurate guide this should tell the pundits two things: Idaho’s next governor will be a Democrat and a former state senator.

There’s the rub one might say. There is no such politician on the horizon. Au contraire. There is a former Democrat state senator from Latah County, Dan Schmidt, who also is a medical doctor, and is reportedly seriously considering entering the gubernatorial race.

On the basis of history alone Democrats should encourage him to run. Set aside the fact that he is extremely competent and established a reputation for doing his homework and was especially knowledgable on health care issues during his six years in the Legislature. He knows the issues and he knows the state.

He also reportedly believes a contested race for governor among Democrats will keep Democrats home and minimize the tendency of some to register as Republicans for the primary because of the mistaken belief that is where the action will be and will determine who the next governor is.

Reliable sources report Schmidt has already talked to A. J. Balukoff, the Boise businessman and the Democrat’s gubernatorial nominee in 2014 who spent $3.5 million of his own money in a losing race to incumbent Governor C.L.”Butch” Otter. Balukoff is set to announce he is again seeking the office in early October. Schmidt may surprise and announce his candidacy in September.

Of all the candidates running for governor Schmidt willl have the least resources. He is not personally wealthy like Balukoff or Republicans Tommy Ahlquist or Lt. Gov.Brad Little. Nor does he have a government job like Rep. Raul Labrador that pays him while he is seeking another office.

None of them will outwork him and he believes the fact that he is not trying to start at the top and buy the office will work to his advantage. He also believes Republicans will nominate First District Congressman Labrador as their nominee. He sees Labrador as far and away the most conservative of the Republicans, but thinks many in the GOP are tired of Tea Party conservatives and some of the extreme views they hold.

He reportedly believes he can capture these disenfranchised Republicans and that he will also be more attractive to independents than will Balukoff. Furthermore, Schmidt reportedly says one should not underestimate the ability of Labrador to show his lack ocompassion for the needy, the homeless and those he would kick off medicaid.

In other words Schmidt thinks the Democratic nomination for governor is well worth purusing because Labrador is quite capable of losing the race. Is history on Dan Schmidt’s side? Time will tell but it just might be.

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carlson

It was a small news item and it escaped public notice which is a shame because it speaks volumns about the fundamental basic intelligence of America’s body politic.

The item was a report on Maine Senator Susan Collins’ return home for the August recess following her vote against repeal of the “ObamaCare” health plan without anything to replace it. As she deplaned the commercial airliner she had flown into Bangor, Maine, there was a good sized crowd stacked up waiting to board the plane.

Almost instantly, Collins was recognized and as she walked into the terminal and down a causeway spontaneously every one stood and applauded the Senator as an expression of appreciation for her courage. For any political officeholder it doesn’t get better than that.

Senator Collins along with Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski, who also cast a courageous no vote, are just two of the women reshaping the Senate and their respective political parties. On both sides of the aisle women are showing men what leadership is about.

Most people are familiar with old cliches like “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” Such condescending statements reflect shallow thinking about a woman’s influence being exercised behind the scenes. It may have had some validity 70 years ago but it sure as heck isn’t true today.

It is safe to say that the future of the Democratic party, as well as the Republican, rests in the hands of the increasingly talented pool of women governors, congressional representatives and senators. In the not too distant future one may see a woman as the presidential candidate of each party.

Idaho holds a unique place in American political history as the first state in the nation where each party’s standard bearer in a race for a congressional seat was a female. The year was 1956. The incumbent in the First Congressional District was Gracie Pfost, a Democrat and a former Canyon County official. The challenger was Louise Shadduck, a former journalist, the state’s first female chief of staff for a governor, and the first head of a cabinet agency, the Department of Commerce and Economic Development.

Despite Dwight D. Eisenhower winning a second term easily, he proved not to have any coattails in Idaho. Shadduck lost, but many pegged her to become Idaho’s first female governor or U.S. senator. However, while remaining politically active she never sought office again. The glass ceiling for those two offices remains unbroken.

It is almost too obvious to say that the future of both political parties is tied to which one does the best job of addressing issues the woman voter determines to be most important. Their agenda is more practical and less ideological.

According to many national polls, women voters care most about economic issues and health care matters. Regardless of party, women voters strongly support “equal pay for equal work.” Access to affordable health care is another critical issue which more and more is seen as a fundamental right, not a function of privilege and income, and access to higher education without incurring crippling debt brought on by too easily obtained stuent loans.

Women are more attuned than men to the homeless issue, the opiod crisis, and the lack of enforcement of laws against spousal abuse and child abuse.

Each party caucus in the Senate has some outstanding veteran female legislators as well as some rising stars who bear watching. On the Democratic side Caucus chair Patty Murray from the state of Washington is a classic “work horse” who gets things done. Noted for her common sense, excellent staff, and an ability to work across the aisle, she could emerge as a future majority leader.

Many thought with the retirement of Nevada Senator Harry Reid, Murray might challenge New York Senator Charles Schumer for the minority leader post. Murray, however, recognized that minority leader was a thankless job with little upside and wisely took a minor position while biding her time. She enjoys broad support among all the female senators and counts Senator Murkowski as a real friend.

Murray incidentally has constantly ben underestimated over the years. She holds the Sente record for having defeated the most members of the House in her re-elections—having defeated five.

Looking down the road it is easy to see that the rising stars in both parties, and the key to whether they can expand their base by attracting more of their gender, rests in the hands of new, young and energetic senators like California’s Kamela Harris on the Democratic side and Joni Ernst on the Republican side. Keep your eye on them.

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carlson

Two long-time political players in their respective states this past week gracefully steppped off of and away from the political stage upon which they had acted with class, courage and intelligence for fifty years.

The first, Tom Stroschein, was a two term Latah County Commissioner who chose not to run again in 2014. He epitomizes what everyone likes to see in a local elected official country smart, a great story teller, a sense of humor, hard working with a ton of common sense, an ingrained sense of integrity and one who believes deeply in the importance of holding the public trust. Tom saw public service as a calling.

On July 29th over 300 people gathered at the Elk Creek campground shelter in Elk River to wish Tom a happy 80th birthday. Organized by his multi-talented spouse, Ruby, it was a fine tribute to a fine man who not only is glad to see 80, but also as he finally steps off the stage and fades into the sunset wanted to thank the many family members and friends who have stood by him over the years.

He and Ruby called it a “Sheepeater’s Shindig,” in part because Tom was a woolgrower for many years, running the family sheep ranch outside of Aberdeen. They served the most tender roasted lamb one could ever taste.

His father, Roy, served one term in the Legislature, from 1965 to 1967, representing Power county. The 1965 Legislature though has gone down in Idaho history as probably the most productive ever especially because it enacted the sales tax to pay for education. Though he spent just a short time there he did strike a chord with a young state senator by the name of Cecil Andrus.

A few years later when Andrus was governor he named Roy to the three member Idaho Transportation board. Andrus also appointed Tom to the now abolished Woolgrower’s board.

Though long a loyal supporter of Andrus’, and a long-time Democrat, Tom has decided to register as a Republican for the May primary in order to vote for a family friend and fellow woolgrower, Lt. Governor Brad Little.

He’s the kind of public servant we need more of – a man who puts friendship ahead of partisanship, the national interest ahead of self-interest. Though now having put himself on the political sidelines, his many friends, family members and fans hope he stays involved.

The second class act last week was that performed by Arizona Senator John McCain, who once again demonstrated the uncommon courage he is noted for by voting against the seven-year long Republican led effort to repeal ObamaCare with no replacement coverage established.

McCain knew millions would lose coverage, that the well-off would receive an undeserved tax break bonanza, and Medicaid would be gutted. McCain acted out of principle though he must have enjoyed a bit the ability to stick it to the Trump Administration which he views as incompetently run.

McCain, along with fellow Republican senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska deserve their own chapter in any new issue of “Profiles in Courage.”

Stroschein, McCain, Collins and Murkowski are the kind of thoughtful public servants we need more of because they reject overt patisanship and work for solutions through compromise. Idaho’s current two senators, Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, could learn much about courage and standing up for equal justice from any of these four.

All are class acts and the first two truly distinguished themselves this past week. Tom of course is retired and Senator McCain may have a form of aggressive terminal cancer that will end his career prematurely.

There was one totally classless act last week that in the view of many disqualifies the person from even considering seeking a public office. Her name is Janice McGeachin, a former one-term state representative from Idaho Falls, who is aspiring to be Idaho’s next Lt. Governor.

In the minds of many she disqualified herself when upon learning about John McCain’s vote sent out a Facebook message calling McCain a traitor. Given several opportunities to retract this outrageous statement, she did nothing.

Several writers pointed out the implied penalty when the term is used, that is execution, she still refused to amend or change her statement. This type of insane fanaticism has no place in our nation’s debates over policy and politics. It was a classless statement which anyone with an ounce of brains would have retracted and apologized. Here is hoping she withdraws or, if she stays in, receives the public condemnation and rejection she warrants.

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