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Governor and superintendent support legislative candidates

Idaho leaders are lobbying their allies in races ahead of this month's primary election.

Governor Brad Little, Lieutenant Governor Scott Bedke, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Debbie Critchfield and Attorney General Raúl Labrador has been supporting candidates in legislative and local elections in recent weeks.

It's not unusual for the governor to endorse primary candidates, although Little uses it sparingly. In recent years, his legislative priorities — such as Idaho Launch, the emerging workforce training scholarship program — have faced opposition from members of his own party.

In a call with reporters Thursday touting this year's legislative successes, the second-term Republican said he needs strong relationships with lawmakers to advance shared goals. He advocates “people getting behind the wheel to get things done.”

“They need to know that I have their back,” Little said. “And they have my back.”

But it's notable that other constitutional officials are also supporting candidates, said Jaclyn Kettler, a political science professor at Boise State University.

State Commissioner Debbie Critchfield (Photo: Darren Svan/EdNews)

Critchfield, a Republican in her first term, has endorsed at least two GOP candidates for re-election to the Legislature. Rep. Julie Yamamoto of Caldwell is chair of the House Education Committee and Rep. Rod Furniss of Rigby is pushing voting law and state budget reforms that would help school districts get more money for facilities.

Critchfield also faced headwinds as she pushed her bills through the Legislature, accomplishing only one of her top three priorities.

In a statement to Idaho Education News, Critchfield said the following about her recommendations:

“Several MPs visited me for expressions of support that reflected my experiences with them and their votes, and in some cases also to promote education issues that are a priority for me when it comes to student achievement, investment in results and representation The interests of their communities concern schools and communities.”

Both Yamamoto and Furniss are contesting competitive primaries with challengers running to their right. Furniss has also touted an endorsement from Bedke, the longtime House speaker and first-term lieutenant governor.

Christopher Boyd, a GOP candidate for Canyon County prosecutor, announced this week that Labrador has endorsed his campaign against former Rep. Greg Chaney, a Republican from Caldwell.

There isn't much research on whether supporting incumbent officials helps candidates win races, Kettler said. But it signals to voters that a candidate is reputable and worth investing in, which can help with fundraising.

Jaclyn Kettler, Professor of Political Science, Boise State University

Endorsements can also help voters evaluate ideology and policy goals, especially in primaries when a candidate's party affiliation does not distinguish him or her from the competition. A voter might think “I support the governor, so I might want to support this legislative candidate,” Kettler said. Those alignments could have implications for Idaho's deeply divided Republican Party, she said.

Former Gov. CL “Butch” Otter endorsed primary candidates more often than Little. Towards the end of his final term, Otter even founded a political action committee, OtterPAC, which provided money to his allies' primary campaigns.

And other governors routinely support legislative candidates in primaries. Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte last week released a list of 58 Republican endorsements for the state's June election, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported.

Here are the candidates who have posted their endorsements of Little:

  • Rep. Rod Furniss, R-Rigby
  • Rep. Stephanie Mickelsen, R-Idaho Falls
  • Rep. James Petzke, R-Meridian
  • Rep. Jack Nelsen, R-Jerome
  • Rep. Josh Wheeler, R-Ammon
  • Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls
  • Sen. Treg Bernt, R-Meridian
  • Sen. Mark Harris, R-Soda Springs

Little has endorsed at least seven incumbents for the May 21 election. His campaign manager did not respond to a request from EdNews for a full list of campaigns he supports.

Little said he has previously supported primary candidates for governor. (A Google search shows that the endorsements, in this case, were not widely publicized.) And it's up to candidates to decide whether to tout them. Little joked that some candidates who are offered his support “run the other way and I never see them again.”

Anna Harden

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