Lawmaker-Public Records Lawsuit

Idaho Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird, sits at her desk inside the House chambers at the state Capitol building, Monday, Jan. 10, 2022 in Boise, Idaho.

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Idaho Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird, has backed out of her statewide debate scheduled for Monday against House Speaker Scott Bedke in the race between the two this year for Idaho lieutenant governor, saying she didn’t want to answer questions from reporters on a panel because she believed they would be biased.

Giddings had previously committed to take part in the debate, as had Bedke. This past Monday, her campaign spokesman told Idaho Public Television in an email, “We are preparing for the debate and will have the guest list for you this week,” according to a news release from the Idaho Debates. However, the campaign also demanded to know who the reporters on the panel would be, saying, “We require that panelists be approved beforehand.”

That has never been permitted, for any candidate. “The Idaho Debates partners don’t reveal reporters on the panel to any candidate in advance,” said Melissa Davlin of Idaho Public Television, the scheduled moderator for the debate. “This is so campaigns can’t pick and choose who asks questions of them. We tried to work with the Giddings campaign within the parameters of our rules.”

Bedke, in a statement Friday, said, “I was happy to agree to debate my opponent with no pre-conditions. I’ve also agreed to the KTVB debate with no pre-conditions. It’s unfortunate that the people of Idaho will not get this opportunity to see, firsthand, the difference between my record of delivering conservative results versus my opponent’s empty rhetoric.”

In an email Friday to Davlin, Giddings campaign spokesman Zach Lautenschlager wrote, “The decision to withhold the names of the panelists on the false pretense that this will suddenly make them fair and respectful leaves us with very little choice. … We are forced to refuse the invitation.”

Davlin said the Idaho Debates cannot hold debates without at least two candidates.

“It’s unfortunate that we have to cancel the debate, as I know viewers across the state were excited to see the two candidates make their case to voters,” she said.

Bedke announces full size

Scott Bedke announces run for lieutenant governor, on Thursday, May 27, 2021.

Bedke, a rancher from Oakley, is the longest-serving speaker of the Idaho House in state history. He is completing his 11th House term.

Giddings, a pilot and Air Force veteran, is a third-term state representative who this year was censured and removed from one of her House committee assignments for ethics violations, including publicizing the identity and personal information of a teenage House intern who accused former Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger, a political ally of Giddings, of rape.

Also on the GOP ballot for lieutenant governor is little-known hopeful Daniel Gasiorowski of Placerville. The winner of the GOP primary will face Democrat Terri Pickens Manweiler, a Boise attorney who is unopposed in the Democratic primary, in the November election, along with “Pro-Life,” formerly known as Marvin Richardson, who is running on the Constitution Party ticket.

Currently scheduled Idaho Debates include the GOP candidates for Idaho attorney general on Tuesday; those for state superintendent of public instruction on April 25; and those for Idaho secretary of state on Aug. 26.

Gov. Brad Little on Friday announced that he’s refusing to debate his GOP challengers, either in the “Idaho Debates” on Idaho Public Television or in KTVB-TV’s planned upcoming debate. His campaign said in a statement that Little’s record is “non-debatable” and that “Idahoans know what Gov. Little stands for.” It is unclear whether a debate in the governor’s race will go forward without Little; debate organizers are conferring with the other candidates. Two GOP challengers for governor, Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin and businessman Ed Humphreys, had met the active-campaign criteria and committed to participate in the debate before Little’s announcement.

The Idaho Debates are a three-decade-plus institution in Idaho, featuring debates from active candidates for state offices in primary and general elections. They are a collaboration between the Idaho Press Club, which selects the reporter panelists; Idaho Public Television, which provides the moderator and broadcasts the debates live statewide on its network as well as online; the League of Women Voters of Idaho; and Idaho’s public universities.

All debates will air at 8 p.m. on Idaho Public Television. For more information, see idahoptv.org/idahodebates.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. In the interest of disclosure, it should be noted that Russell is the current president of the Idaho Press Club. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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