By CHUCK MALLOY,
Idaho Politics Weekly contributor
Boring is good.
Add the words, “Vote for Brad Little,” and it would be an appropriate campaign bumper sticker for the longtime lieutenant governor.
The description fits Little, but not so much for his Democratic opponent, Paulette Jordan. Her campaign has seen top staff members resigning and news stories surfacing about her role in the formation of a super PAC for the Coeur d’Alene Tribe. For a stretch, at least, she was more focused on criticizing media coverage than any policy disagreements with Little.
There has been no such drama with Little’s campaign. His recent newsletter touted tailgate parties and attending homecoming games for the Vandals, Broncos and Bengals – things that gubernatorial candidates do in an election year.
Little is so boring that you might not know that he’s running for governor by listening to one of his speeches. Not long ago, he talked for 30 minutes at a Meridian Chamber luncheon without uttering Jordan’s name – or giving a political sales pitch about what’s at stake in this election for the business community. He didn’t even take credit for all the growth and prosperity that has been happening in Idaho, as politicians are prone to do.
“A lot of what has taken place in Idaho was, literally, by accident,” he said. “We are a victim of geography. People in California, Washington, Oregon all want to come to Idaho.”
If he were in campaign mode, Little could have talked about how he – as lieutenant governor for most of Gov. Butch Otter’s 12 years in office – was well prepared to take over the state’s top job. He could have discussed Idaho’s steady course financially – something he could not have said a decade ago during the days of budget cuts and mid-course holdbacks for government agencies.
He touched on a few marks of progress in education and the economy, while again, not taking credit, or waiting for applause.
“If you want to see the hair go up on the back of my neck, say the number 49,” he said. “To say we are 49th in education is categorically unfair to the professionals we have in the classrooms, the administrators we have and to our entire school system.”
On the economic front, Idaho is booming, and “this is not unique to the Treasure Valley,” he said. “We’re seeing activity in Pocatello, Idaho Falls, Twin Falls and Coeur d’Alene. Every time I go to Coeur d’Alene, I’m seeing a new company that has moved there, or an old company that is re-inventing itself.”
Overall, it was a mundane presentation – lackluster from a campaign standpoint. But there’s no reason for Little, who is a down-to-earth guy to begin with, to be any other way. His biggest detractors are those on the political right who think he’s too liberal, and Little isn’t going out of his way to pander to that crowd.
“I look out there and see 90 percent of the Idaho Legislature voting for huge increases in spending for education,” he told the chamber audience. “And 10 percent of the legislators vote against everything, so it’s unanimous.”
In the primary election campaign, Little didn’t have the flamboyance of Tommy Ahlquist or share Congressman Raul Labrador’s vision for lighting a torch to state government. But he was, by far, the safest pick for Republicans – the one who knew all the inner workings of state government.
Skeptics say a vote for Little is essentially giving Otter a fourth term. I disagree. For one, Little favors repeal of the state’s sales tax on groceries – which Otter adamantly opposed. Also, I wouldn’t look for any “investigative reporting” about the governor taking off on most Mondays, or missing timetables for submitting vetoes. Those things wouldn’t happen with Little in charge.
Little’s campaign platform calls for keeping children in Idaho, creating better jobs and a stronger economy, working for low-cost healthcare and lowering taxes. As a “lifelong member” of the National Rifle Association, he promises to be a staunch defender of 2nd Amendment rights.
It’s not the most imaginative platform ever drawn up. But if Idahoans are looking for creativity and drama, then they have their candidate in Paulette Jordan. If boredom is seen as a virtue for the top office, and a sign of stability, then Little will be the easy winner on Election Day.
Chuck Malloy, a long-time Idaho journalist, is a columnist with Idaho Politics Weekly. He may be reached at email@example.com