If Rep. Brent Crane is to be believed, the legislature is now in the doldrums where members avoid voting on anything divisive while they wait to learn who will contest their seat.
“Members are obsessed with watching the filing. So there’s updates that happen throughout the day on the Secretary of State’s website. And you will see members that will have that website up, seeing if they got an opponent – ‘did I draw an opponent, did I draw an opponent’ – and it’s an obsession that paralyzes this body.”
Crane, the assistant majority leader, admits his colleagues are so obsessed with reelection they can’t focus on Idaho’s needs.
I hope Crane exaggerated a bit, but the legislature does seem to delay bills during the filing period–and, afterward, shoots them through before voters have time to react.
But I don’t think Crane’s solution–cutting the filing time to five days–is the best solution. We could just send members home for two weeks. They could check the filing status while spending some time with their families, getting the income taxes done, maybe even trimming the rose bushes. Last year members of the Idaho House showed they’re willing to take time off without pay when they extended the 2021 session into November.
Crane said five days is enough for filing, and then admitted this year was not typical. “I have never seen so many people announce their candidacy for office as I have seen this election cycle. People are going to run, they know they’re going to run.”
I wish I could say the situation is the same for Democrats. Several years I’ve had someone calling every day or two during filing to ask if a challenger had come out against candidate X. And more than once, they have bitten the bullet and filed that final Friday.
Running as a Democrat takes time, courage, and commitment.
Some of our most qualified Democrats don’t run because there’s no one they can hand their work to while they’re gone for four months.
Others don’t run because they fear their bosses or customers will object, or they don’t want their families harassed.
And others feel it’s not worth it if they can’t win.
Democratic candidates can make a big difference though.
Republicans who run in November without challengers go to the legislature feeling 100% of their district agrees with them. That feeling doesn’t disappear because people sign a petition or show up at a hearing. After all, the voters unanimously chose them.
In Canyon County the district with the highest Freedom Index score for its 2021 legislative delegation isn’t District 11, which is the most Republican. It’s south Nampa’s District 13, where Democrats seldom field more than one legislative candidate.
The main reason for running is to give voters a choice. It’s bleak to show up to vote and not find a candidate you believe in. Candidates raise the morale of the Democratic voters and increase the voter turnout for both parties.
Running also helps get a message out. Republicans may claim they care about working families and schools, but, after decades of control, the neglect is obvious. Washington, Oregon, Nevada and Montana all have higher minimum wages, and they all invest more in their students.
Democratic campaigns give people a chance to act. Seeing a wrong and feeling helpless is depressing. Becoming part of a team–even a losing team–helps one’s spirit.
And sometimes we win.
One current Democratic legislator didn’t win until his fifth try. He didn’t even plan on trying that last time, but his volunteers began making plans immediately.
Filing is open until March 11.