Idaho Democrats won’t criticize Jordan. Why? They need her supporters.

By Melissa Davlin, Idaho Reports

In a Democratic primary where candidates are almost identical on the issues, the conversation has turned to endorsements.

In case you’ve missed the social media bickering and debate jabs from the last few weeks, here’s a summary: Paulette Jordan has national support, touting endorsements from well-known progressives like Cher, Van Jones and Khizr Khan. Missing from that list: Any of the Democratic lawmakers she served with in the Legislature. Twelve of the 17 have endorsed AJ Balukoff, while the other five are staying neutral. Balukoff also has endorsements from Idaho Democratic heavy hitters past and present: former House minority leaders Wendy Jaquet and John Rusche, retired Rep. Shirley Ringo, and former U.S. Attorney Betty Richardson, among many others.

To her credit, Jordan and her team have turned her lack of legislative endorsements into a plus. They hosted a rally the Saturday before the primary called “Endorsed By The People,” taking advantage of the same anti-establishment fervor that gained both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump so much support in 2016. Meanwhile, Balukoff has kept his campaign positive, focusing on his support and not attacking hers.

Still, Democrats and independents have noticed. Sprinkled among the #ImWithPaulette and #BlueWave tweets are persistent questions from uneasy voters: Why doesn’t Jordan have any endorsements from her former colleagues?

And why aren’t those lawmakers being frank about why they don’t back Jordan?

There are a handful of documented frustrations surrounding Jordan’s time in the Legislature. She didn’t shepherd much of anything into law. (Compare that to Reps. Ilana Rubel and Melissa Wintrow, both of whom were voted into office in 2014, the same year as Jordan. They have been at the forefront of a multitude of high-profile, bipartisan issues, including mandatory minimums, changes to rape kit testing, and civil asset forfeiture reform.)

Jordan resigned in the middle of the 2018 legislative session, leaving District 5 without a representative — and Democrats down a vote on the critical House State Affairs Committee for more than a week while Gov. Butch Otter decided on a replacement.

There are other grumblings and rumors about about Jordan — note the high-level staffers leaving her campaign days before the primary. And a recent Balukoff endorsement from Rep. Sue Chew, who spent a good amount of time working for Paulette Jordan’s legislative campaign, raised eyebrows among Boise politicos.

But when reporters ask for comments on the record, Democrats demur, preferring instead to focus on why they support Balukoff.

Why? One theory: Even with all their frustrations with Jordan supporters, establishment Democrats don’t want to alienate this new, energetic base.

The last Democratic governor, Cecil Andrus, left office in January 1995. There are Paulette Jordan supporters who were born after that, who have never known an Idaho where Democrats were a force. Jordan herself wasn’t old enough to vote at the time. (To be clear, neither was this reporter.) Endorsements from former Democratic heavyweights mean a lot to establishment party members, but the 20- and 30-something progressives who are backing Jordan have made it clear they’re not impressed.  

There are short-term considerations, too. If Jordan wins the primary, Idaho Dems will have to rally behind her in an attempt to disrupt the long streak of Republican rule in Idaho. They know anything they say about Jordan now could be used against her in the general election. Democrats have no room for error in November if they hope to beat the GOP nominee. They can’t afford a #NeverPaulette or a #NeverAJ movement; They’ll need every vote they can get.

Even if that excitement can’t get Jordan or Balukoff into the governor’s office, increased turnout from progressives could help Dem candidates in close legislative districts, or even elect a Democratic state superintendent. Young voters are excited to vote for Paulette Jordan in the primary, sure, but can the party get them to show up for the Cindy Wilsons and the David Nelsons and the Mark Nyes in the general? Not if Democratic elders estrange them now.

Regardless of who wins the nomination for governor, the Jordan supporters are going to play a big role in the future of the Idaho Democratic Party — as long as the party figures out how to harness that energy and enthusiasm.

The fight isn’t so much about who will be the next governor. It’s about the identity of the party moving forward. And in that sense, Jordan may have already won.  

 

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Follow the Money

By Seth Ogilvie

If money truly drives elections, we wanted to give you an idea of who is attempting to “buy” Idaho’s First Congressional District.

Over $1.2 million has flown into the campaign coffers of the six major Republican candidates. Much of that money has come from out of state and the candidates themselves.

It can be hard to visualize how a campaign is being financed when you’re staring at endless spreadsheets, so we built up some maps to show where the money is coming from.

We’ll start at the top of the list with the runaway winner in the 2018 money war: Former state senator Russ Fulcher.

Fulcher Contributions

Fulcher raised over $435,000, and that number has most likely increased since his last filing. The largest donations come from the Club For Growth, the House Freedom Fund and a $35,000 loan Fulcher gave himself.

As you can see from the heat map, Fulcher had strong monetary support in Idaho, but he also received a significant amount of contributions from outside the state.

Fulcher is also in the lead with the amount of money he hasn’t yet spent. His current cash on hand totals over $82,000.

Former lieutenant governor David Leroy was next, with almost $332,000.

Leroy Contributions

Almost a third of Leroy’s money came out of his own pocket — about $100,000. Leroy did not receive the large PAC donations that Fulcher did. The majority of his money came from individual citizens.

His most substantial contributor was actually his campaign treasurer, Richard Howard, who donated over $9,000. He was able to exceed the $2,700 limit because they were in-kind contributions — in other words, Howard donated his accounting services.

Leroy still has almost $55,000 on hand.

Rep. Luke Malek finished third in the fundraising race with nearly $250,000.

Malek Contributions

 

Malek donated less the 10% of the total money his campaign raised. The one-time $24,000 donation he made did, however, came late in the campaign, on April 20.  

The majority of the rest of the money came from individual donations, with a few groups like the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and the Simplot Company PAC sprinkled in with large contributions.

Malek has spent almost all his money and currently has about $2,700 on hand.

Michael Snyder rounded out the over-$100K club.

Snyder Contributions

Snyder put in less than 5% of the roughly $124,000 he raised. The big story of Snyder’s money is that it came from out of state. Of his top 10 itemized contributions, only one came from Idaho.

This is not surprising, as Snyder is a prominent conservative author and broadcast personality that may actually be better known outside of Idaho.

Snyder still has about $24,500 on hand.

Lt. Col. Alexander Gallegos surprised a few political gadflies by finishing fifth in fundraising with over $70,000.

Gallegos Contributions

Gallegos, like Snyder, mined his out-of-state contacts for contributions. Gallegos has strong military ties, and it shows in this map, with large amounts of money coming from military communities.

Gallegos donated less than 7% of the total money to his campaign in the form of loans. His most significant contributor was a self-employed commercial contractor living in California, who donated the maximum for both the primary and general totaling $5,400.

Gallegos still has about $28,500 on hand.

Coming in last in the money race among the major candidates was “the girl with all the guns,” Rep. Christy Perry.

Perry Contributions

In Perry’s latest filling, she only received 17 itemized contributions, including a $1,000 gift from her husband.

Perry raised less than $16,000. To put that in context, Perry managed to raise almost double that — over $30,000 — in her last state legislative primary in 2016. If you add up the money Perry and her husband put into this campaign, it makes up almost a third of the total.

Perry currently has about $3,700 on hand.

If it was just money that won elections, the race would already be over. But it’s not. Votes cast by people like you win elections. So whoever you’re supporting, get out there on Tuesday and vote for your favorite candidate, whether they raised a few thousand dollars or almost half a million. The choice is still in your hands — and that’s the great thing about democracy.

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Primary Concerns

By Devon Downey

Days before the primary election, candidates are being pulled from the ballot and then returned, and an investigation was reported as opened, closed, and then possibly opened again into a major gubernatorial candidate. All these things were initiated by the office of the Idaho Secretary of State — the person charged with maintaining fair and open elections.

Over the past few days, the Secretary of State’s office has lost one case disqualifying a candidate, basically withdrew from a second one, and then made a Comey-like announcement about the Ahlquist campaign.

Regardless of the intent, Secretary of State Lawerence Denney’s office has affected multiple elections, doing possible harm to former Reps. Phil Hart and Kathy Sims’ campaigns, as well as Dr. Tommy Ahlquist’s gubernatorial run.  Both Hart and Sims have been disadvantaged by the legal uncertainty of their campaigns, with ballots already having been cast which excluded both of them.

Denney said that voters who mailed absentee ballots should be able to request a new ballot and have their old one spoiled, as long as the clerk can verify the ballot belongs to the voter. Those who voted early in person are not able to get a new ballot. At the time of posting, District 3 where Sims is running, has had 384 absentee votes turned in and 166 in-person early votes. Hart’s District 7 has had 261 absentee votes and 240 in-person early votes. Not all of these ballots had their names crossed out, but there are probably ballots that did.

Both Denney and Deputy Secretary of State Tim Hurst maintain that these candidates may not be legally qualified to serve in the legislature, and that those qualifications will be reexamined after the primary. This statement alone could cause voters to change their mind and not vote for Hart or Sims.

Ahlquist was on the wrong side of a very Comey-esque announcement. Just one week before the election, Hurst claimed that the campaign was under investigation for campaign finance violations, then a few hours later claimed he misspoke. During an Idaho Reports interview on Thursday, Denney clarified that the Attorney General’s office has the complaint now, but acknowledged that his office had “dropped the ball.”

However, Denney also stated that his office expected an amended campaign finance report that would have clarified some of the in-kind contributions. The investigation, not investigation, maybe investigation talk coming out of the Secretary of State’s office can’t be helpful for Ahlquist’s campaign.

Questions have been raised the past few years about election integrity and the ability of political leaders to put their thumb on the scale. These three campaigns have all been affected by the Secretary’s office.

We will never know exactly what impact the Secretary of State’s actions had on these races. All three of these elections may be close, and Denney told Idaho Reports that he is expecting to see election contests filed.

For more on this story, watch Idaho Reports at 8:00 pm Friday or online any time after the show at http://idahoptv.org/idreports and see our full interview with Secretary of State Lawerence Denney.

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A “two-tiered system”: Court considers undocumented workers’ eligibility for disability benefits

By Melissa Davlin

In 2010, Elfego Marquez was tasked with painting an area over a tall doorway. The problem: There were no ladders available at the job site. After consulting with his boss, he stacked two buckets on top of each other, then climbed up to get to work.

supremecourt2He fell, landing on a concrete floor and suffering injuries to his shoulder and wrist that required multiple surgeries. Marquez, unable to lift his right arm above his head, was told by his doctor he couldn’t return to work.

He received temporary disability benefits, and his medical bills were paid. But when he sought permanent disability benefits, his employer, Pierce Painting, and the State Insurance Fund resisted. Why? Marquez is undocumented.

Undocumented workers prop up parts of Idaho’s economy, mostly working in physically demanding — and often dangerous — jobs. In the past, the Idaho Industrial Commission, which regulates workers’ compensation in the state, has denied permanent disability benefits based on legal status.

But last year, the commission ruled Marquez could, in fact, pursue permanent disability, prompting an appeal from the State Insurance Fund and bringing the case before the Idaho Supreme Court. Whatever the court decides, it will affect how the state handles claims from undocumented workers in the future — and could affect whether undocumented employees seek help for their injuries in the first place.

 

Different benefits

When workers are injured, there are a number of benefits they can seek, depending on the severity of the injury and how much it impairs their work.

Marquez received some temporary benefits from Pierce Painting and the State Insurance Fund following his accident, and his medical bills were paid in full.

But the sticking point came when Marquez sought permanent disability benefits when his physician told him he could no longer paint.

Permanent physical disability benefits have a higher statutory threshold to meet. Other types of benefits assume the injured worker will eventually be able to return to work, either at the same job or in another field. Not so with permanent disability.

The fight over Marquez isn’t so much about how hurt he really is. Rather, the State Insurance Fund’s argument hinges on a legal technicality: In order to grant permanent disability, the Industrial Commission must consider whether the employee can reasonably get another job.

During Wednesday’s oral arguments, attorney Clinton Casey said because Marquez is undocumented and isn’t legally able to get a job in the United States in the first place, the statute automatically precludes him from seeking permanent disability.

The Industrial Commission agrees Marquez’s legal status is a factor — one that would seemingly play in Marquez’s favor. In its ruling, commissioners pointed to the limited work available to undocumented workers. Not only are there fewer jobs available, but those jobs are almost all physically demanding.

“Remember, the pre-injury labor market for such an individual is small, and probably consists of the meanest type of unskilled manual labor,” the decision says. “Therefore, if disability is measured by considering the actual pre-injury and post-injury labor markets for an illegal alien, it seems likely that higher disability awards will result than would be the case for a similarly situated documented laborer.”

That’s the case for Marquez, who has a college education and taught in Mexico for several years. But those credentials don’t transfer to Idaho, leaving him and other undocumented workers to pursue mostly manual labor jobs in the US.

Marquez couldn’t be reached for comment.

 

Shadow economies, legal fictions

In the past, the Industrial Commission has ruled against undocumented workers. Take a look at this key passage from its 2011 decision in Otero v Briggs Roofing Company:

“Before the accident, (Otero) had no access to the labor market. The same is true after the accident. In effect, the accident, while it did affect (his) physical capacities, has not affected his ability to engage in gainful activity in his relevant labor market. He did not possess that ability in the first place.”

In the 2017 decision on Marquez’s claim against Pierce Painting, the commission walked that back, saying it isn’t responsible for enforcing federal immigration law. (“Had it been enforced by those with the authority to do so,” commissioner Thomas Baskin wrote, “we would not now be struggling with how or whether to apply state workers’ compensation law to what common experience tells us is a shadow economy of some consequence.”)

Instead, the commission says it’s responsible only for state workers’ compensation. “We cannot, in good conscience, create a two-tiered system of compensation, when all workers are intended to be protected under the (law),” the decision says.

(Chairman Thomas E. Limbaugh dissented with his fellow commissioners, saying Marquez’s legal status “entirely eclipses” the injuries sustained on the job as a factor in his future employment.)

Attorney James Arnold, who represented Marquez in Wednesday’s oral arguments, pointed to the “legal fiction” that propped up the commission’s previous denials. Employers keep hiring undocumented workers, who keep coming to Idaho without documentation because of the way the country’s immigration system and guest worker programs are set up.

“That’s why they continue to be employed,” Arnold said. “And they’re going to continue to be employed, and to (ignore that) is a legal fiction.”

Arnold said he has represented other undocumented workers have been injured on the job. Many settle claims in mediation.

This decision, however, will give guidance to the Idaho Industrial Commission on how to handle future claims. By paying benefits to injured undocumented workers, “we’re not necessarily endorsing future unlawful activity,” Arnold argued. “We’re accepting a reality… that there are approximately 35,000 undocumented workers in this state.”

 

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Early Signs

By Devon Downey

 

 

The election has already begun, and we’re getting a sneak peek at who just might win.

Both Democrats and Republicans have seen an increase in early and absentee votes compared with 2014.

Democrats have seen their turnout increase by large margins and with some remaining unaffiliated, the trend looks even better for Dems.

The numbers have increased by 107% to 4,390. 2,002 of those votes came in Ada County, nearly matching the statewide total from the last gubernatorial election.

This presumably would be good for Mr. Balukoff, who won Ada County in the Democratic primary four years ago by nearly 60%. Winning without Ada County would be almost impossible for Balukoff; 48% of his votes in the last primary came from Ada.

Representative Jordan should be happy with the turnout numbers as well. North Idaho has seen a large increase in Democratic ballots, with over 500 more ballots coming from Latah, Kootenai, and Bonner counties, Jordan’s home base.

Higher Democratic turnout may also benefit Jordan because of her campaign’s relationship with supporters of Senator Sanders (Jordan has been endorsed by Democracy for America, which supported Sanders over Secretary Clinton in 2016, and the Sanders affiliated group Our Revolution). Sanders overwhelmingly defeated Clinton in the Idaho caucuses, partly due to historic voter participation.

Unaffiliated, Constitution, and Libertarian ballots have also been coming in at a higher rate than expected. Statewide, there has been a 66% increase in unaffiliated and third party ballots. The increase for unaffiliated voters is also focused in Ada, Latah, Kootenai, and Boundary counties.

Those voters did not grab a Republican ballot since the Republican primary is closed to all but Republicans. They either voted for Democrats or unaffiliated with a ballot mostly made up of judges.

An increase in unaffiliated votes is then assumed to be a good thing for Democrats, because even if a third of unaffiliated voters choose Democratic ballots, there will be roughly another 1,000 votes for Democrats, and none of those votes will be Republican.

Republicans have also seen an increase in absentee and early voting, but not nearly as large of a percentage change. While there are over 2,500 more Republican ballots this year so far, that is only a 17% increase from 2014 compared with the 107% increase the Dems saw.

Idaho Republicans should feel secure knowing that they still drastically outnumber Democratic votes by a rate of 4 to 1.

One interesting thing to note for the Republican voters is that while they have seen more voters turn out, many Idaho counties have actually seen a decrease in the number of votes as compared to last election cycle. Of note is Canyon County, which is a Republican stronghold.

There are 174 fewer votes cast in the county compared with last cycle. This is a small number considering that there have been over 1,500 ballots cast so far, but considering the circumstances it is a little concerning.

Unlike last cycle, the race is for an open seat which typically boosts turnout.

Many rural counties in Idaho have seen a decrease in Republican turnout, which may hurt Lt. Gov. Little, who has been courting the agricultural community. The largest increase is in Ada County, where Little, Rep. Labrador, and Dr. Ahlquist all have large bases of support.

Labrador will be trying to run up his vote total in CD1, which he has represented for almost eight years. Many of the smaller counties in CD1 have lower turnout than during the last gubernatorial election, but an increase in Latah, Kootenai, and Bonner counties will make up for those losses.

Ahlquist and Little have been heavily campaigning in eastern Idaho, hoping to run up the scorecard in more favorable areas. Ahlquist has helped develop the Twin Falls area, which could be good for his campaign.

Bonneville, Blaine, and Twin Falls counties all have seen an increase of at least 100 votes. In a race that could come down to the wire, any connection with these areas can be an advantage.

Regardless of which party you may belong to, there is positive news. Democratic enthusiasm seems high, boosted by a rare contested statewide primary and historic trends that favor the minority party in Congress.

Republicans can be happy knowing that they are not losing much ground on Democrats, even with the population increases. In just under a week we will see how these races play out, but right now it appears that excitement about the gubernatorial race is helping Idahoans become more engaged than they were four years ago.

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Jordan political director resigns

Paulette Jordan’s field and political director Jennifer Martinez has resigned with a week to go until the primary.

JM

Jennifer Martinez. Idaho Reports

“There was some disagreements,” Martinez told Idaho Reports. “I no longer agreed with the direction, necessarily, of the campaign. I still wish them the best of luck.”

Martinez declined to give details on those disagreements. Jordan’s campaign didn’t return a request for comment.

Martinez, a former Democratic candidate for Congressional District 2, was a prominent figure in the Jordan campaign. She was active on social media, promoting her candidate and engaging with potential Democratic primary voters.

Martinez said she resigned Monday afternoon, but emphasized there were no hard feelings and praised the campaign volunteers. “There’s a lot of momentum there. I’m still supportive of a lot of … the staff. ”

I still wish them all of the best of luck with the campaign,” she said. 

 

 

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Gold standard advocate major Idaho Freedom Action donor

We’re getting more insight into who is paying for Idaho Freedom Action’s mailers. 

The group, which is the election arm of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, received $20,000 from Trusted Causes LLC, based out of Charlotte, North Carolina. There isn’t much information about Trusted Causes LLC online, though the organization shares an address with Ascension Marketing Group (the portfolio of which includes prepper site Survival-Goods.com and LibertyHeadlines.com), as well as The Sound Money Defense League, which advocates for “bringing gold and silver back as America’s Constitutional money.”

Both Ascension Marketing Group and The Sound Money Defense League are headed by Stefan Gleason, president of Money Metals Exchange. According to his LinkedIn profile, Gleason is based in the Boise area and is the former vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation. 

Gleason has contributed columns to IdahoFreedom.org.

Idaho Reports couldn’t reach Gleason for comment.

Other Idaho Freedom Action contributors include Robert and Cristina Rathbone of Boise, who gave $2,500; Casa Del Norte LP of Glenns Ferry (owned by rancher John McCallum), which gave $5,000; Coeur d’Alene Racing, which gave $3,500; and Lynn Beck of Idaho Falls, who gave $4667.95.

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