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The Magic “R” In Idaho – What makes a “Red” State?

In a prior column, we discussed the trends in Idaho and that even though 41 out of 44 counties were generally reliable GOP that didn’t seem to be the answer when it came to living in a state that operated on conservative principles. For example, it is almost impossible to be elected to statewide office in Idaho without that magic “R” after your name. U.S. Senator Mike Crapo is up for re-election next year and has been in the D.C. swamp for 22 years. His liberty grade from the American Conservative Union is a “D”. Mike Simpson in the House of Representatives from Idaho’s 2nd district has also been in the swamp for 22 years. His Liberty Score is a solid “F” and that shouldn’t be of concern because he has the magic “R” after his name. In all likelihood, they will be re-elected without opposition in the May primary.

Questions that have come to the forefront these last dozen years are these: How can we end up with such lousy governors? When our State Senate Republicans outnumber Democrats 28 to 7 why doesn’t conservative policy move forward? When the GOP outnumbers Democrats in the State House of Representatives 58 to 12 why do most conservatives’ bills never see the light of day? Part of the answer is that anyone who wants to be in politics in Idaho has figured out that they have to have the magic “R” after their name. Another part of the answer is that committee chairs control which bills will get a hearing and moved on to the floor. This keeps the firebrands who would like to put some controls on our out-of-touch governors and debate real issues on the floor in check.

The Idaho Freedom Foundation has been front and center trying to have some influence on legislators and legislation. They also give a ranking of legislators based on their voting record. There may be disagreement occasionally about their opinions and methods but it is the best source we have for judging our legislators. Are they conservative or just using the magic “R” as their ticket to be a part of the process? As you go through this ranking be warned, it is depressing. Most Republican legislators are far from conservative and, in fact, there are many Demo-crats that fare better.

Here are some facts from their data: Only nine members of the statehouse received an “A” grade and one member of the state senate. Only fifteen members out of 58 Republicans earned a score of 80% or better giving them a rating as “conservative”. Only two senators received that rating of “conservative”. Sixteen house members earned a “purple” rating indicating they are “moderate” and in the senate only one made this grade.

In the House, 38 members earned a 57% score or less placing them in the liberal or Democrat category and earning the failing grade of “F”. This is over 50% of our House members that actually legislate as liberal Democrats regardless of their party affiliation or freedom index. The Senate has 32 out of 35 legislators earning a 45% or lower score giving the Senate a 91% failure rate. Thirty-two Senators earned an “F” for failure. The spending index, in my opinion, is a greater indicator of where a legislator stands concerning Republican and conservative values.

With over 50% of the house members and over 90% of the Senate members scoring in the blue category and earning a failing grade to uphold conservative values and limiting the growth of government, we can only conclude the Idaho legislature is blue. We can’t blame the direction of our state only on Governor Little.

The primary election will be coming up in May and already the field is getting crowded. We saw the results of the primary in 2018 when we had several running for Governor that included Lt. Governor Brad Little, U.S. Congressman Raul Labrador, and newcomer businessman /physician Tommy Ahlquist. Raul Labrador was the proven conservative and won many of the counties in the Panhandle. Unfortunately, he only received 32.6% of the vote compared to Brad Little’s 37.3%. Ahlquist took most of the remainder at 26.2%. Brad Little is already raking in money from unions and lobbyists for his next term, he already leads Janice McGeachin in fund-raising by a 3 to 1 margin. We have several conservatives running and the one that has a proven track record is Lt. Governor Janice McGeachin. I am not here to question the bonafide conservative of any other candidates, however, it will be important not to repeat 2018. We need to unify behind one candidate. Janice has proven herself to be courageous in criticizing the governor and being proactive by bringing speakers to the swamp with her Capitol Clarity series.

The one positive effect of a crowded primary was the election of Janice in 2018. She was definitely NOT the choice of the RINOs and establishment. McGeachin received 28.9% of the vote to win compared to 27.3% for Yates and the rest spread over three other candidates. The turn-out statewide in 2018 was only 29% of the electorate, 32.6% in Kootenai County.

We need to be stronger not to just elect a conservative Governor but also a great Lt. Governor. Priscilla Giddings is a clear choice for this office. She is running against Luke Malek and Scott Bedke both of whom are magic “R” candidates. Bedke is right out of the Idaho legislative swamp and we need someone who has the background and courage of Priscilla Giddings. She is a U.S. Air Force Academy graduate, combat pilot with thousands of hours of flying in combat situations. She also spearheaded the passage of the bill that stopped transgender athletes from competing in female sports.

What do we as conservatives need to do prior to the primary in May? First, educate yourself on the candidates and the issues. They will probably all be in your area, meet them. Second, encourage your county Republican Central Committee to take a lesson from Kootenai County. Vet the candidates to make sure they believe and will act on conservative principles. Ask them why their IFF score is so low! Have a list of endorsed candidates that come out of this process. Third, get behind the conservative candidates with your money and time. Encourage others to vote for a slate that will make a difference. Fourth, realize that the magic “R” is not magic when it comes to your vote — dedication to liberty is the magic.