Idaho Republicans and Democrats are looking to pick up seats in the Idaho House and Senate, but the two groups are using two very different strategies to gain favor with voters. The Idaho Republican Party is looking to direct resources to races which might be hotly-contested this fall, while the Idaho Democratic Party says its candidates are using what it believes to be the anti-education agenda of Republicans to pull voters to their side.
Jonathan Parker, executive director for the Idaho Republican Party, said that he believes that the already-large majorities Republicans hold in the Idaho House and Senate will expand this fall. “I feel good that we are going to pick up seats in the fall,” said Parker. “We got to re-elect the governor and all the constitutional officers … but I think we’ve done a pretty good job of recruiting candidates to run and we really do feel optimistic.” Parker refused to say exactly how many seats he expects the Idaho GOP to pick up in the fall. Republicans control 52 of the 70 seats in the Idaho House and 28 of the 35 seats in the Senate.
Parker, a former aide to Congressman Bill Sali, said that the Idaho Republican Party has a victory plan in place, which has the blessing of leaders in the state Senate. Parker wouldn’t reveal the details of the plan, but did say that the party will be making direct contributions to candidates in hotly-contested races. Direct contributions will go to Republicans challenging legislative incumbent Democrats, but some Republican incumbents, facing strong challenges from the opposition party, will also see Idaho GOP money. Parker said that party also plans to make independent expenditures for some candidates, but again, wouldn’t disclose which candidates might be on the receiving end of that support. Only two Democrats in the Idaho Legislature – Rep. John Rusche, D-Lewiston, and Rep. Wendy Jaquet, – aren’t facing Republican challengers in the fall.
Jim Hansen, director for the Idaho Democratic Party, said that though his party is supporting its candidates wholeheartedly, adding that something else will help Democrats gain leverage in the fall – history. “Cuts to public schools enacted by Republicans have devastated education in Idaho,” Hansen explained. “The smaller the town, the more pain folks are feeling from education cuts.” Democrats in the state have been working hard to meet people, Hansen said, and inform voters that they do have alternatives to Republicans at the ballot boxes in November. “Our candidates are working very hard,” said Hansen. “Education and the state of the economy are the top two issues in the minds of the people.”
Many pundits in the national media believe there exists an anti-Democratic sentiment sweeping through voters in 2010, a notion Hansen shirked. “I don’t think it’s anti-Democrat or anti-Republican, but rather anti-incumbent,” he said. “You are going to see some change because I think people realize Democrats are the ones who fight for public schools.” When asked if he thought Democrats would make gains in the Idaho Legislature, Hansen believes a few surprises are likely in-store for election day and that Democrats are poised to pick up a few seat that have been traditionally Republican in the past. He did not specify which seats might be up for grabs.
Several bloggers in the state have pinned Rep. Branden Durst’s, D-Boise, run for the Senate as one of the top races to watch this fall. Hansen said that because of Durst’s work ethic, he is likely to pick up the win against Republican challenger Mitch Toryanski in District 18. “He (Durst) has a connection with voters in his district,” said Hansen. “It’s quite impressive.” Voters in that district, which has sent Durst to the Idaho House in two straight elections, Hansen believes, will tie Toryanski, even though he is new to the political scene, to the anti-education agenda of Republicans in the state. “They are very distrustful of what Republicans have done to public schools … I think he’s (Durst) going to win, no matter what his opponent says.”