Robert Ehlert: Thinking ahead to another jolly season: Elections

rehlert@idahostatesman.comDecember 22, 2013 

Today, Dec. 22, 2013, you might think you are just about to enter the climax of the holiday season. Coming right up on the calendar are the joyous dates of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

You would be right to think only of these blessed dates, filled with family and eggnog, and visions of sugar plumbs, punch bowls, Rose Bowls, Cotton Bowls and Sugar Bowls.

But if you are a politician, especially one running for office in the May 20, 2014, primary, you look at today’s date a bit differently. You have calculated that you now are inside five months of that profound event — 148 days away by my count. Another date circled is the March 14 deadline for candidates to declare. Holidays or not, the campaigns are airborne.

A very interesting race for governor is underway, with three candidates already, two of whom will face off in May: Republican Gov. Butch Otter and state Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian. A.J. Balukoff could be the Democrat who runs against the winner.

Republican Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, and challenger Bryan Smith, an Idaho Falls attorney, have been running against each for the GOP slot in the District 2 race since last summer.

A host of candidates are vying for the Idaho secretary of state job, but we have yet to hear who will be running for the remainder of the statewide posts.

Here at the Statesman, we’ve already begun receiving Op-Eds from declared candidates. Their zeal and dispatches have prompted us to consider and share with Idaho a coverage plan.

We are going to focus on the races with the most impact and most competitive intrigue. We’ll make selected endorsements. We hope you’ll be our partner in shaping this coverage by communicating your ideas with us across all platforms, from Letters to the Editor to social media. Though our print space to share all these opinions is finite, our ability to post things online is infinite, and we plan to take full advantage of online assets.

After receiving some writing from Fulcher and Smith this week, we decided it was too early to take up our print space on elections, mainly because we think many of you are still focused on the holidays. But we know others look at political coverage as a gift that keeps on giving.

So today, you’ll find politically pointed Op-Eds from Fulcher and Smith at IdahoStatesman.com/Opinions, as well as on our new political app, Idaho Politics. It combines political reporting and commentary from the Statesman and media across the state, a database of Idaho lawmakers, state-wide election news, and links to legislative agendas and other tools. It is available for iOS and Android.

Beginning sometime in January, we’ll solicit Op-Eds from candidates on specific topics. Some of these with be published in print form, others only on online platforms. After March 14, we’ll launch an online Voter’s Guide. We’ll ask candidates to answer questions. As the primary draws closer and early voting begins, most of what the candidates send us will be posted to their sections of the Voter’s Guide.

We’ll reserve the right to publish political content on the Opinions pages right up until May 18, the Sunday before the primary, but the most recent and comprehensive information will always be available online.

One other bit of housekeeping: Today we are changing the name of the Reader’s View feature to Guest Opinion. These pieces are limited to 600 words and can be submitted at IdahoStatesman.com/submit-guest-opinion.

“Reader’s View” was a bit of a misnomer because heretofore it was mostly reserved for community leaders with expertise on topical issues. There still is a threshold for finely crafted, issue-oriented submissions for a Guest Opinion, but we are not limiting the space to people with titles. We seek thoughtful, well-written pieces that make us think and that can improve the lives of Idahoans.

Robert Ehlert is the Statesman’s editorial page editor. Contact him at 377-6437, or on Twitter @IDS_HelloIdaho.

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