Perhaps the two most hotly contested races in Canyon County this primary season are for county offices. Commissioner Craig Hanson and Sheriff Kieran Donahue both face strong opponents, and the outcomes could represent a pivot point in county government.
Nampa City Councilwoman Pam White is challenging Hanson, and she has our strong endorsement. Yes, she and Tom Dale, the former Nampa mayor who is not being challenged in his re-election bid this year, would represent two former city of Nampa officials moving to county government, and that might concern some.
She and Dale think alike in many respects, and opponents of Dale fear the two would bring “big-spending” habits to the county. Both were advocates of expensive urban renewal projects in Nampa that some believe were too much, approved without a public vote.
But county and city government are different animals. Dale thus far has been anything but a budget buster. He has been judicious and fiscally prudent.
And frankly, White’s opponent, Hanson, hasn’t shown the kind of temperament and willingness to respect opposing viewpoints that voters should expect from their public servants. And that’s what they are — public servants. You don’t work for them. They work for you.
Hanson has a justified reputation for being belligerent and even abusive at times. An outburst in Caldwell over a disagreement regarding the future of the Canyon County Fair resulted in a phone call to the police, and Hanson later had to apologize.
Hanson’s continued insistence on expanding the Canyon County jail is also problematic. All three sheriff candidates oppose it, as does almost every other county official, not just because of the difficulty to operate and staff it but because of the operational costs. Yet the former jail administrator refuses to budge. White would bring much more willingness to listen to reason, and her city council background would serve well in increasing the communication between the county and its cities — something desperately needed.
The sheriff race is much harder to call. Donahue has two opponents with strong law enforcement backgrounds in Albert Erickson and Tony Thompson. On issues of substance, the three actually agree far more than they disagree, so the race really comes down to management style, and that’s the issue Erickson and Thompson are focusing on.
The two challengers claim that Donahue is driving employees away by failing to treat them respectfully, citing that claim as the reason the office is chronically understaffed. Donahue, for his part, cites the comparatively low pay his staff receives (and compared to neighboring agencies, it is significantly lower), as well as negative stereotypes of law enforcement that have led to lower morale not just locally but nationally, as well as a major drop-off in people applying to enter the profession (a 50 percent drop).
Some who work for Donahue insist he’s a great boss. Some say he’s terrible. Reactions are all over the map. Could the latter be sour grapes from poorly performing subordinates being told to straighten up? Could the former be employees fearful of losing their jobs?
In his first term, Donahue has helped facilitate strong coalitions with other law enforcement agencies, and crime has been kept fairly low. We don’t want to judge him on allegations of improper use of county resources for his work with the nonprofit Man Up Crusade until we hear all the facts.
We give a slight edge to Erickson for his work in Parma and his pledge to actively recruit candidates to the Sheriff’s Office and recognize good performances. But our deliberations and votes were close. We believe Erickson and Donahue to be the strongest, and we’ll let you decide whether Donahue’s more assertive management style or Erickson’s more subdued manner would be a better fit for the office.
Idaho Supreme Court
Four candidates are seeking this post, and Sergio Gutierrez gets our strong endorsement. He is the only one who has served as a judge (the Idaho Court of Appeals since 2002), and he has done so with distinction and mutual respect from all sides.
Supreme Court justices need to interpret the law without any ideological leanings — it’s not their job to be “conservatives” or “liberals”. Gutierrez has a strong track record indicating he isn’t an ideologue.
His personal story is also inspiring. He started as an immigrant worker living in poverty and has risen to become one of the state’s most respected judges. He would also bring welcome diversity to the court.
District 11 Senate
Patti Anne Lodge again is facing a challenge from the hard right, which brands her as a big tax-and-spender. Lodge is certainly on the more moderate scale as far as Republicans go, but she’s a passionate advocate for reasonable government programs which help people who really do need help, and for this as well as her wealth of experience, she gets our endorsement.
Zach Brooks, her opponent, should appeal to the Idaho Freedom Foundation wing of the GOP, which, in our estimation, doesn’t always take realistic approaches to issues such as taking control of the state’s federal lands.
District 11 Representative, Seat A
In a five-way race featuring Myron Amsden, Marty Galvin, Tammy Nichols, Mike Pullin and Scott Syme, Nichols and Syme are the two strongest candidates.
Syme brings name recognition due to his community involvement and work in real estate, and there aren’t any red flags with his candidacy.
But endorsements should be reached out and grabbed by strong, enthusiastic candidates who demonstrate a fire to lead their constituents, and on that front, Nichols has grabbed our endorsement. Both she and Syme would be first-time legislators, but Nichols presents a much stronger grasp of the issues, impressive for someone who isn’t an incumbent. She would be a good fit to replace Gayle Batt in a conservative, rural district.
District 11 Representative, Seat B
Christy Perry is a smart, thoughtful legislator who isn’t beholden to any special interest groups and won’t be pressured by lobbyists. She researches bills carefully and can always give a strong defense of her vote on any issue. She’s a fairly conservative Republican but isn’t a rigid ideologue, and she gets our strong endorsement over newcomer Kathryn Ralstin.
District 13, Representative Seat B
Gary Collins isn’t flashy or verbose — and at times we wish he’d be a little more active and engaged like Perry is — but he earns our endorsement over Alan Jones, another candidate in the mold of the Freedom Foundation who clearly knows his positions on issues but has a hard time explaining the basis for them.
District 9, Representative Seat A
Ryan Kerby was solid, although not spectacular in his first term, and he earns our endorsement over challenger Jake Stephens, whose campaign has been unimpressive and bumpy.
Kerby, with his education background as New Plymouth School District Superintendent, would be an asset in helping the state get its public education system stronger. That’s his area of strength, and he should focus on it not just to work to increase education funding, but to hold districts accountable for how they use the money.
District 9 Senate
Incumbent Abby Lee is clearly the stronger of the two candidates here. She presents a strong, logical formula for the state’s education system and shows a pragmatic approach to other key issues facing her district, including land rights. She’s the superior choice in this race against “cut cut cut” challenger Viki Purdy.
District 9 Representative B
Challenger Mike Dolton gets our nomination over incumbent Judy Boyle, who regrettably has fallen into line with the rigid ideologues of the far right. Fist-waving at the feds is seldom productive.
For a challenger, Dolton has run an impressive campaign. He’s no liberal, but he also understands the importance of key issues such as increased transportation funding and education, and while he doesn’t support Medicaid expansion, he does recognize the need to fill in the “coverage gap.” This farmer and retired police officer would be a good addition to the Idaho Legislature.