On endorsements and unconventional candidates

The race for Superintendent of Public Instruction has Idaho politicos talking, and anxiety is rising for Republicans worried they’ll lose the seat to Democrats.


Nearly every Republican I’ve spoken to has said Sherri Ybarra is in real danger of losing, or has already lost. In an Aug. 4 interview with Idaho Reports, newly elected GOP chairman Steve Yates acknowledged many Idaho Republicans have said they’re coming to terms with losing the superintendent race to the Democrats, and said while he’s still confident Ybarra can win, he hadn’t yet spoken with or met her.


Ybarra’s absence from the public eye has been an ongoing concern for lawmakers on the two education committees with whom we’ve chatted. But at a Thursday meeting with reporters, Ybarra said she is making the rounds within the party and meeting more people.


When asked about skipping the Idaho Association of School Administrators earlier this week, Ybarra said she had prior commitments, including a medical appointment. Ybarra also said she isn’t concerned with Bonneville superintendent Chuck Shackett’s high-profile endorsement of Democrat Jana Jones, and countered that she has the endorsements of educators and 10 lawmakers. Interestingly, Ybarra declined to name the educators who had endorsed her, however, instead saying the list would be on her website later. (As of 3:30 p.m. Thursday, the list of educators is not yet online.)


The current list of lawmakers who have endorsed Ybarra includes a few House Education Committee members, but no one from the Senate Education Committee. (It also erroneously promotes House Majority Leader Mike Moyle to the Senate.)


But here’s the real question: What do endorsements actually mean? Secretary of State primary candidate Phil McGrane had multiple endorsements from county clerks and government officials from across the state, but lost to Rep. Lawerence Denney. Superintendent primary candidate Andy Grover had endorsements from editorial boards, lawmakers and educators from across the state (including Chuck Shackett), and ultimately came in last in that four-way race.

It’s about the impressions made at those meetings and conferences, and what those administrators and superintendents will tell educators and parents when they go back to their school districts. From conversations I’ve had, Jones has a public relations advantage right now, but there is still a lot of time before November. 

I’m interested to see who ends up on Ybarra’s list of educators who have endorsed her, and I’m still curious why she wouldn’t tell reporters who was on the roster. But on the morning of November 5, we’ll see what resonated for the voters of Idaho.


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