Things got personal and downright uncomfortable Thursday night at a North Idaho political forum.
This morning's Coeur d'Alene Press reports that the forum took a turn when candidate Pat Whalen, who is challenging Coeur d'Alene Sen. Bob Nonini in the May 20 GOP primary, admitted to a 2006 DUI. That's when Nonini said that Whalen was trying to revisit Nonini's own run-in with the law.
"In fact, Pat Whelan has brought it up in a number of candidate forums," said Nonini."Yes, 35 years ago I had an arrest (referring to a charge of cocaine possession with intent to distribute). It's been dismissed and I have no conviction as Pat does with his DUI conviction. Pat is running a little bit scared. He is quick to criticize me, now that his issue is out there."
But Whalen pushed back, saying he hasn't once brought up Nonini's 1983 arrest. Instead, Whalen said that Cathyanne Nonini, the wife of the Idaho senator, tried to use Whalen's arrest to get him kicked off the board of the local Boys and Girls Club.
Voters in Ada County will begin the process of casting early in-person ballots Monday, April 28.
Ada County early voting will be available weekdays from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. at the county elections office on North Benjamin Lane. One day of early voting will be available Saturday, May 10 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Voters will be asked to provide identification, but citizens are reminded that absent any photo ID, they'll also be available to sign an affidavit in order to cast a ballot.
Early voting has already been underway for a week in Canyon County.
Both counties will wrap up early voting procedures on Friday, May 16.
Primary day is Tuesday, May 20 when Idahoans will be selecting those men and women who will represent their political parties to run for the Idaho House and Senate, and each of the statewide constitutional officers, including governor, secretary of state and superintendent of public instruction.
The first high-profile debate of the Idaho primary election season created a few sparks Friday as the Twin Falls Times-News sponsored a face-off between U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson and GOP challenger Bryan Smith. Each spent the better part of an hour edging further to the right in an effort to convince voters that he was the more conservative of the two.
"Simpson would not agree [to the Republican Party platform of the state]," said Smith. "You know why? Because Congressman Simpson is just too liberal."
"You can go out and misrepresent and lie all you want to, but I'm going to set the record straight," said Simpson.
The Times-News reports that Simpson and Smith agreed on strengthening the nation's borders to address immigration reform. But while Simpson touted a functional guest worker program and said he opposed immediate deportation, Smith kept pushing for no amnesty.
Smith said he supported an Idaho takeover of all federal lands within its borders and would call for disbanding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Simpson said that even if Idaho were to take control of federal lands, it would still be subject to federal environmental reviews and for Smith to think otherwise would be a "fantasy."
Another debate is set for Sunday, May 11 in Boise, when Idaho Public Television, the Idaho Press Club and the League of Women voters play host to the candidates.
Does Idaho need a new political party?
This morning's Twin Falls Times-News reports that a group calling itself Veterans for Idaho says it is fed up with broken promises from both sides of the aisle.
"The budget amendment was the last straw for us," Jacob Fields told the Times-News, referring to the recently approved spending plan in which the U.S. Congress trimmed pension increases for working-age military retirees.
But the Idaho Secretary of State's Office says creating a new political party in Idaho is more complicated than putting out a press release. State rules require signatures from at least 2 percent of the Idaho voter base from the previous presidential election year. Which means that Veterans for Idaho will need more than 13,100 valid signatures before Aug. 30 to be recognized later this year. And new political parties can only be created in even-numbered years.
Fields told the Times-News that Veterans for Idaho may align on some issues with the Tea Party, but his group "consider ourselves centrists."
"Our basic model is the Constitution," he told the Times-News. "It's meant to be a guiding document that guides our country in the right direction."
Former Republican Presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney breezed through Boise March 20, but not before endorsing Idaho's Congressman Mike Simpson, Sen. Jim Risch and Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter at a fundraiser for Otter and Simpson.
"This is a governor who has been standing up for the people of Idaho in a way I think people can recognize," Romney told the press about Otter, citing Idaho's unemployment rate (5.4 percent), which is lower than the national average of 6.4 percent, as evidence of his leadership.
"Our economy is in great shape," Otter said.
He went on to laud Idaho's Congressional delegation for its opposition to President Barack Obama and the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform package widely seen as the president's signature achievement in his time in office. Risch said the ACA, also known as Obamacare, has been a disappointment.
"There's a bit of buyer's remorse," he told the press.
Forget the Oscars. The real who's who is the list of 278 people and organizations nominated for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize—a record number of candidates.
The Nobel selection committee met for the first time March 4 to narrow their prospects. They have their work cut out for them before revealing the winner of the $1.24 million award on Oct. 10 in Oslo, Norway.
Each year, the Peace Research Institute Oslo creates its own shortlist for the prize. Among 2014's prospects are Russian President Vladimir Putin, master leaker Edward Snowden, Pope Francis, Chelsea Manning (the former Bradley Manning who leaked U.S. military documents), Uruguay President Jose Mujica, the International Space Station Partnership and 16-year-old Malala Yousafazi, the young Pakistani girl who survived a Taliban assassination attempt only to become a global advocate for education opportunities and human rights.
Last year, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons won the Nobel Peace Prize. This year, 47 organizations are nominated
Currently, New Jersey and Virginia top the list of states embroiled in political scandal.
But Montana comes in a close third.
The treasurer for Southwestern Montana's Ravalli County dropped a couple of bombshells Jan. 21, when she accused one county commissioner of corruption and a string of other county officials with illegally selling tax liens.
This morning's Missoulian reports that the allegations come from Valerie Stamey, who is wading through a bit of controversy herself: It was revealed last week that she faced a default judgement for cashing the same $18,149 check twice. Additionally, county officials have indicated that the state's attorney general's office may launch an investigation into Stamey's office, which has reportedly fallen months behind in preparing the county's financial records.
But on Jan. 21, Stamey deflected the heat, saying that there had been "an orchestrated and vile campaign to destroy my character." She also described her office as a "crime scene of past illegal activity."
Specifically, Stamey alleged that former county Treasurer Joanne Johnson had removed files to hide illegal sales of tax liens. She also called county commissioner J.R. Iman "corrupt," adding that Iman "threateed her when she first attempted to gain access to county accounts." Stamey said she planned on asking the FBI to investigate her allegations.
Meanwhile, Ravalli County commissioners have informed Stamey that they have scheduled a meeting for Thursday, Jan. 23, to discuss matters, but Stamey said she would neither attend the meeting nor answer commissioners' questions in writing.
Saying he's concerned for the future of Idaho students, an East Idaho education administrator says he's prepared to challenge Idaho Superintendent of Public Education Tom Luna in the May Republican primary.
Randy Jensen, who has served as a principal for 25 years and currently has the top job at William Thomas Middle School in American Falls announced Jan. 18 that he has filed the necessary paperwork with the Idaho secretary of state's office to mount a challenge against Luna.
Jensen says he'll be in Boise this Friday, Jan. 24 for an official campaign announcement.
"It is a very important position, important for children and important for Idaho," wrote Jensen in his campaign press release.
Jensen's wife, Kristen, has served on the American Falls City Council for 23 years.
Boise attorney Briane "Nels" Mitchell is announcing his candidacy today for the Democratic nomination to challenge Idaho Republican U.S. Sen. Jim Risch.
When Risch first ran for the U.S. Senate in 2008, he defeated former Democratic Rep. Larry LaRocco.
"With Idaho wages at 50th in the nation, it is time for our career politicians, like U.S. Sen. James Risch, to retire," reads a statement from the Idaho Democratic Party.
Mitchell is a graduate of Boise High School, Columbia University and the University of Idaho Law School.
Mitchell is a member of the Boise law firm of Mauk and Burgoyne, which includes Boise Democratic Rep. Grant Burgoyne, the Idaho House assistant minority leader.
Before joining the Boise firm, Mitchell practiced law at several Los Angeles and New York firms. Additionally, he served as law clerk to Idaho-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge J. Blaine Anderson and was associate regional director for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Democrat Jana Jones, who lost a narrow 2006 race to Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, announced today that she'll be challenging him again this year in his re-election bid. Jones lost by 11,000 votes in 2006 out of a total 443,000 votes cast.
"Budgets and programs have been cut, classroom are overcrowded, local control has been diminished, and trust has been lost. You have to ask yourself: Do you feel better about our schools today than you did a few years ago? Probably not," said Jones in her announcement. "I want to start feeling good about our schools again."
Jones, an Idaho Falls resident, is a graduate of Utah State University, a former teacher at Skyline High School, founder of an early childhood center in Idaho Falls, director of Gov. Ceil Andrus' Office of Children, and served as chief deputy to two-term Superintendent of Public Instruction Marilyn Howard.
No Republican has yet to announce a challenge to run against Luna in the May GOP primary.