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Competition is Healthy 

Idaho ballots offer plenty of the same old, same old, but there are a few great options if you're looking for change

F or 20 long years, the Idaho Legislature and Governor's office have been under one-party rule — Republican. Since 2006, all the statewide elected officials have also been elected under the brand name of the elephant.

And the elephant is definitely the oversize gorilla in the voting booth.

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Idaho voters need to take off their partisan glasses and open their eyes to look just where those Republicans have taken Idaho — to the bottom of the states in dollars spent on public schools, to becoming the state with highest percentage of minimum wage workers, the state that collects fewer taxes than every other state but one, and whose support of higher education has dropped dramatically. Idaho's embarrassing place at the bottom of the national ratings goes on and on and on.

This election year, Idaho Democrats have nominated a powerful team of statewide candidates to give the voters of Idaho a refreshing alternative to the same old, same old. Three state officials — Governor Butch Otter, State Representative Lawerence Denney and State Treasurer Ron Crane — have been in elected office for a combined total of 68 years. Each deserves to be thanked and retired. The trio face at the ballot box fresh, hard-working Democrats who are well qualified to replace them.

Take the Governor's race. Incumbent Otter is challenged by A.J. Balukoff, a successful businessman and passionate public school advocate.

Why change governors? Butch Otter has been in elected office for Idaho since 1972 (six years in the Idaho House of Representatives in his early years as a Libertarian, 14 years as Lt. Governor, six years as Idaho's First Congressional District Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives and eight years as governor.)

As an Idaho resident or interested observer, can you think of any action Butch Otter has taken that has improved Idaho for you and your family, or improved Idaho's standing? Didn't think so. He has earned his retirement.

His Democratic challenger, A.J. Balukoff, part owner of the Grove Hotel, Boise school board member for 17 years, and active nonprofit organization supporter, is running enthusiastically to get the sagging state of Idaho's public schools back on track. A.J. was recruited to run for governor by a group of Boise business folks who value his proven leadership qualities, his concern for the economy, his high ethical stance and his longstanding passion for public education.

Then there is Lawerence Denney, running for Secretary of State, who has served in the Idaho House of Representatives for 18 years. He was Speaker of the House of Representatives for six years and then was ousted by his own caucus in 2012. Representative Denney has said that he would like to have voters fingerprinted before they can vote. He also suggested that he would like to eliminate primary elections and get rid of same-day registration of voters. After publicly stating these positions, he has attempted to eat his words.

Denney's Democratic opponent, Holli Woodings, a young, one-term representative in the Idaho Legislature, has billboards all over the state introducing her appealing face. Holli, who has brains to go with her beauty, has said she would continue the practices of the highly respected current Secretary of State, Ben Ysursa. Woodings is currently out-campaigning and outspending Denney. The Coeur d'Alene Press reports that Woodings has received donations from two veteran Boise lobbyists, Bill Roden and Jerry Deckard, as well as former Republican legislators Leon Smith and Chuck Coiner — both of whom represented their constituents very ably, but were victims of Denney's slash-and-burn tactics.

Another incumbent who has been tarnished by his actions is Ron Crane, state treasurer for 16 years. He was admonished by the Legislative Audits Division for "inappropriately transferring investments... resulting in a disproportionate share of investment losses incurred by the state." The suggested loss at the time was $10.2 million, and recent newspaper reports suggest the loss is significantly higher. Treasurer Crane has also been criticized for hiring expensive stretch limousines for his crew to travel around New York City, and for charging gas for his private car to the taxpayers. He says he has discontinued both practices.

Treasurer Crane has a questionable understanding of money and banking. He is opposed by experienced public accountant Deborah Silver, who keeps asking her opponent for answers to questions about investments, but has been stonewalled. It appears he has plenty to hide.

So in Idaho, the elephant has become a little soft, long on quantity and short on quality. Competition is rejuvenating, in politics as in all sports. I urge Idaho voters to get out and vote for fresh, new faces. That's the only way they'll get different — and better — results. ♦

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