The Idaho Statesman, Idaho’s largest newspaper, endorsed yesterday the candidacy of Chris Mathias, a Democrat seeking the District 19 seat in the Idaho House being vacated by Rep. Melissa Wintrow, who is running for State Senate.
Keep in mind that there are just 14 Democrats in the 70-seat Idaho House. Democrats are literally outnumbered 4-to-1 in both the House and the Senate, and they all represent districts where the state’s three universities (Boise State, Idaho State, and University of Idaho) are located.
It wasn’t that the Statesman chose Chris Mathias over another Democrat, Jeff Gabica, for the endorsement. It’s why they rejected Gabica that caught my attention:
Gabica presents a more progressive agenda, including legalizing medical marijuana, raising the minimum wage and increasing beginner teacher pay to $50,000. Gabica also favors raising the sales tax by a quarter percent, and he even suggested legalizing and imposing a tax on sex workers.“Idaho Statesman endorses Chris Mathias in Democratic primary for Idaho House“, Idaho Statesman, accessed May 13, 2020
The reasoning given by The Statesman’s Editorial Board is that “Mathias offers a more moderate and more realistic view of what a Democratic legislator would accomplish in a Republican-dominated Legislature…”
When you’re outnumbered 4-to-1, what difference does it make how progressive or moderate your agenda is? Idaho Republicans can ignore anything the District 19 Democrat says, whether it’s “let’s legalize medical marijuana” or “let’s declare pi equals three” or “let’s switch to communism.”
What matters is what Idaho’s Democrats want their representative to be working on, not whether Idaho’s Republicans will approve of it. What does The Statesman think an Idaho Democrat should be working on?
While Mathias concedes that marijuana legalization should be considered as a policy decision and could be done with a conservative approach, he said it’s not an issue that he hears coming up as a priority for voters. He said he’d focus more of his attention on improving education and reducing property taxes.“Idaho Statesman endorses Chris Mathias in Democratic primary for Idaho House“, Idaho Statesman, accessed May 13, 2020
Not a priority for voters? Over 40,000 Idahoans signed our petition to put medical marijuana on the ballot before coronavirus killed our campaign. Marijuana shops across the border in Ontario, Oregon, where I live, have parking lots always packed full with Idaho-plated cars and do $100,000 in sales daily.
The reason you don’t hear from voters on the issue is because the Idaho legislature in 2013 declared marijuana shall never be legal, even for medical use, and because in 2015 the governor became the first and only to veto legalization of CBD oil for epileptic kids. They know that Idaho’s Legislature legalizing medical marijuana will never happen; why bother asking for it?
But yes, let’s support the Democrat who wants to work on lowering property taxes while the governor is already planning on cutting public school funding by $99 million.
Also interesting is how The Statesman endorsed Mathias yesterday, then today had to post this little addendum after someone probably called them on their lack of disclosure:
Statesman editorials are the unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Idaho Statesman’s editorial board. Board member Bob Kustra has a prior affiliation with Chris Mathias. As Boise State University student body president in 2003, Mathias served on the search committee that interviewed the candidates for president and hired Kustra to be the president. Later, Kustra’s chief of staff hired Mathias to work in the president’s office writing up university rules and regulations.“Idaho Statesman endorses Chris Mathias in Democratic primary for Idaho House“, Idaho Statesman, accessed May 13, 2020
I think knowing a member of the board was hired as Boise State’s president by a student, who then had staff return the favor by hiring said student to write Boise State’s regulations, and that board endorses said student for the legislature, and that board fails to disclose that relationship in the initial publishing of the endorsement, seems a bit sloppy from a journalism standpoint.
Then again, that eight-person Editorial Board consists of three who are not journalists, but just “community members,” and one of them is this former Boise State president, another is a private Christian college grad who works for a PR firm hired by Big Health, and the third is a retired District Judge and longtime Boise city councilman.