Cheers and jeers: Otter gets his sideshow

JEERS to Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter. It’s bad enough that a politician asking voters for a third term is willing to debate only once prior to the May 20 primary.

It’s even worse when he turns it into a Saturday Night Live skit.

Wednesday’s Idaho Public Television debate was the voters’ lone opportunity to see Otter and Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, go head to head on the issues. Otter, however, insisted fringe candidates Harley Brown and Walt Bayes share the stage.

So, what happened? Hijinks, hilarity, strangeness and awkward moments — all those things you look for in a reality television show. In a gubernatorial debate? Not so much.

There was Brown, in biker gear and talking about how God chose him to be president and that this revelation arrived while he was living in “Fat Jack’s cellar,” because of “trumped-up restraining orders” filed by his ex-wife.

There was Bayes, gesticulating wildly as he made points only someone versed in backwoods dialect could interpret.

Brown ran for Congress in 2000 and received 1.1 percent of the vote. He tried again in 2010 and received 3.9 percent. He hasn’t raised or spent a dime on this race. His website contains so many racist and sexist jokes that IPTV installed a 30-second delay to keep profanities from its audience.

This is Bayes’ fourth run for governor. His best finish came in 2002 when he received 4.7 percent of the vote. He has spent $1,700 of his own money on this race.

Brown and Bayes aren’t serious candidates. They should not have been on that stage. But, as Bayes pointed out, they were there because Otter insisted upon it.

And so, the one chance to educate voters devolved into this Mother Jones magazine headline: “The Idaho GOP Gubernatorial Debate Was Total Chaos.”

For a governor whose top priority is “gettin’ me re-elected,” Wednesday’s debacle was good politics, focusing attention on the antics of Bayes and Brown and away from Otter’s lousy record. It may have even been good television.

This so-called debate was not, however, good for Idaho’s democratic process, the state’s national reputation or voters.

CHEERS to Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls. Wednesday, the Idaho Statesmen reported that a woman in Nampa dropped her baby off at a dental office. She could legally abandon her child because of a bill Davis championed more than a decade ago, Idaho’s Safe Haven Act. The Statesman reported that since 2001, 25 babies have been surrendered to the state.

There’s no way to say what would have happened to those 25 babies had the Safe Haven Act not become law. We do not doubt, however, that a mother in such dire straits that she is willing to give up her baby probably would have difficulty caring for it. Davis has very likely improved 25 lives. He may have even saved a few.

CHEERS to U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale. In an eloquent 57-page decision Tuesday, Dale struck down Idaho’s gay marriage ban.

In those 57 pages, the judge captured the spirit of our republic. States’ rights do not trump constitutional rights. The rights of a minority are not subject to a vote or election. And laws that discriminate — no matter how popular they may be — have no place in these United States.

JEERS to Idaho Republican Party Chairman Barry Peterson. His reaction to Dale’s ruling included this hyperbole: “The disintegration of marriage will lead to the disintegration of society.”

Allowing same-sex couples legal rights enjoyed by everyone else isn’t going to result in the “disintegration” of marriage or society. It would be just as easy to predict that putting a hard right hardware store owner in charge of the Republican Party will lead to the “disintegration” of that institution.

Oh wait, that’s actually happening.

CHEERS to Shirley Ringo, a Democratic candidate for Idaho’s First Congressional District seat. Ringo reacted to Dale’s ruling by starting a petition calling upon Otter to allow veteran Madelynn Taylor and her partner to be buried together at the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery. Taylor was told her partner couldn’t be buried with her because of Idaho’s gay marriage ban.

With Dale’s ruling, Idaho’s policy should follow federal guidelines. It’s nothing to be proud of that an Idaho vet could be buried with her partner at Arlington National Cemetery but not at the veteran’s cemetery in her own state.

JEERS to the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry. The state’s leading business lobby called Rep. Lenore Hardy Barrett, R-Challis, of all things, soft on wolves. That’s because Barrett opposed creating the Idaho Wolf Control Board and using taxpayer dollars to kill wolves.

Certainly, voters in Barrett Country, Lemhi and Custer counties, would chuckle at IACI’s depiction. The problem for Barrett, however, is that she now represents Valley, Gem and Boise counties and that’s where its flier was mailed.

Call her cranky. Call her feisty. Call her hilarious and right of Attila the Hun.

But soft?

Not a chance.

CHEERS to Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper. From 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Idaho Falls Public Library, the mayor, council members and division directors will answer your questions about future projects and the budget.

This is an excellent idea and an opportunity for voters to be heard directly by those making the decisions and not their message-diluting middlemen.

JEERS to Republican Secretary of State candidates Mitch Toryanski and Evan Frasure. Both criticized fellow candidate Phil McGrane because he’s supported by a majority of Idaho’s county clerks.

Frasure called the endorsements “inappropriate.”

“He persuaded them to use their position and their title to support his campaign,” Toryanski said.

One can practically smell the desperation. There’s nothing wrong with a county clerk endorsing a candidate in this race. In fact, it would be wise to pay attention to those folks on the ground floor of our political process. Let’s look to our own backyard.

Bonneville County Clerk Ron Longmore is the dean of Idaho’s clerks. His long tenure has been marked by honesty, integrity and competency.

Longmore generally stays out of primary races. But he felt so strongly that McGrane is the right man for the job he penned an endorsement column and paid out of his own pocket to have it published in the Post Register.

Here’s guessing Toryanski and Frasure, despite their protestations, would not have refused that letter of approval had it been offered to them.

CHEERS to Kurt Smith of Blackfoot. We published a letter from Barbara Thomson of Idaho Falls on Thursday’s page. In it, she described the theft of her bike and inability to purchase a replacement.

Smith read that and decided to do something. He not only offered Thomson a new bike, but also to deliver it from Blackfoot to Idaho Falls.

There are good people in this world. A few of them even read the Opinions page.

Corey Taule

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