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GOP's Magic Valley surprise isn't a conservative win

GOP's Magic Valley surprise isn't a conservative win

Wayne Hoffman
November 10, 2022
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November 10, 2022

For at least 36 hours, Idahoans believed that Democrat Karma Metzler Fitzgerald had bested Jack Nelson in a Magic Valley race for a House of Representatives seat. But Wednesday morning, state and county officials explained in an about-last-night-style press release, someone noticed that the state’s election results data didn’t match the county’s vote tabulation. Officials declared Nelson the winner.  

There are two things about this that fascinate me endlessly. The first is that when reporters wanted to know whether there’s any truthfulness to President Donald Trump’s claims about voting irregularities or truth to election complaints by folks like Mike Lindell, they went to election officials in all 50 states. Those officials self-reported that there’s nothing to worry about, which led the press to write, to this day, that criticisms of the 2020 election were “baseless” claims spouted by “election deniers.” 

Apparently, election results are only wrong if the government makes an announcement that the results are wrong. Whether you believe the 2020 election was stolen or not, I encourage people to not be so trusting of government officials who lie to you about everything from inflation to unemployment numbers to the effectiveness of Covid shots to the quality of the education system. 

However — and I'm sure I’ll get called a crazy conspiracy theorist for saying so — whenever 100% of government employees or elected officials say something is true, I’m pretty sure it’s not, and I’m usually right. In more than three decades of public policy, I don’t remember ever being wrong in my assessment of government. 

The second thing that fascinates me is how people think that this reversed result — a Republican winning instead of a Democrat — is in any way consequential to the makeup of the House of Representatives. Sure, it means the Republican caucus will be bigger and the Democrat caucus smaller. It may or may not mean fewer Democrats on committees. Beyond that, there’s probably little difference.

Mind you, I don’t know Representative-elect Nelson. I don’t recall having met him. I’ve known Metzler Fitzgerald since I moved to Idaho in 1995 because we ran in the same journalism circles back then. But I can tell you, having read both their answers, there’s very little daylight between them, and I suspect their votes would be pretty similar. 

I hope I’m wrong, of course. I look forward to writing a future commentary where I say I’ve misjudged him and Nelson is really a conservative and a good one. But I have interviewed and worked with legislators for a long time. While they come and go, when an actual conservative is asked, “What state agency budget is overfunded,” they have a list that runs from Duck Valley to the panhandle. Nelson answered surveys saying that he didn’t have a copy of the state budget and that it wouldn’t be “fair” to single out an agency or program. Other answers also troubled me, including his stated support for more government-run education programs. He also was endorsed by the leftists at Take Back Idaho PAC and was pimped as a legislative candidate by the health insurance industry. 

What I’m saying is considered sacrilege among the GOP establishment. The GOP team player is supposed to get excited about adding seats. The policy positions could be 100% Democrat, but as long as they have an “R” next to their name, that’s still a win. 

The truth is, there are a lot of Republicans who vote just like Democrats in the Idaho Legislature. You really can’t tell them apart except that they wear different color jerseys and worship different spirit animals. Perhaps that is changing with the election of Dorothy Moon as chairman of the state GOP. Moon has been calling out former Republican elected officials who hail from the left side of the tent. Her next challenge will be to call out the Republicans who seem to have no affinity for the party’s conservative platform. 

That’s the reason the Freedom Index exists. It allows people to see and understand how legislators vote, how those votes compare to other Republicans or other Democrats, and most importantly, whether we are more free or less free by each legislator’s actions. It’s also the reason establishment Republicans and the legacy media hate us the most. They don’t want you to know that the real challenge in Idaho isn’t the party composition of the Legislature; it’s the GOP tradition of electing Republicans who appeal to Democrats because that’s more or less what they are. 

And so, assuming election officials got it right this time, Jack Nelson will be in the Legislature, but it won’t change my confidence in government programs, including elections, and it won’t change the direction of the state Legislature one iota. 

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