Idaho Democrats to rally Saturday for public education

September 26, 2013 

Idaho's minority party, which owes its biggest success to candidates stressing support of public education, will hold education events in seven cities across the state Saturday.

"These events let elected leaders know education is a priority for Idahoans," reads a news release from the Idaho Democratic Party. "It is also a chance to meet and gather with fellow education supporters and share ideas for improving Idaho’s public education system."

The Boise event is set for 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. in the Little Theater at Centennial High School. Panelists include Boise Democratic Reps. Janie Ward-Engelking and Hy Kloc; Mike Lanza, who as president of Idaho Parents and Teachers Together helped convince voters to repeal GOP Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna's "Students Come First" laws in November; and former Supreme Court Justice Robert Huntley, the Democratic nominee for governor who lost the 1998 governor's race to Republican Dirk Kempthorne, 68 percent to 29 percent. Huntley has used the courts to press lawmakers to boost spending on school facilities, an effort that has fallen short of expectations.

In Caldwell at noon, Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, who is running for Congress against GOP Rep. Raul Labrador, will appear at a rally at Oasis at the College of Idaho. She will be joined by former state Rep. Brian Cronin, who also helped defeat the "Luna Laws," appearing opposite Luna at a City Club of Boise forum last October.

Events also are scheduled in Ketchum, Pocatello, Coeur d'Alene, Lewiston and Kamiah.

Democrats hope education will help them to electoral success, after a long drought. Boise School Board President AJ Balukoff is considering a race for governor next year against two-term GOP Gov. Butch Otter.

Democratic Govs. Cecil Andrus and John Evans led Idaho for 24 consecutive years beginning in 1971, making K-12 and higher education their signature issues. Andrus and Evans pressed the GOP-controlled Legislature to spend more and struck compromises that boosted public support.

But since Andrus retired in 1995, Democrats have been unable to win the governorship and have routinely lost races for other statewide races and Congress. With Labrador's defeat of Democratic Congressman Walt Minnick in 2010, all seven state constitutional offices and all four seats in Congress are held by Republicans. Democrats hold 20 of 105 seats in the Legislature.

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