Popkey: Making the case, or not, for repealing the 17th Amendment

April 21, 2014 

Veteran journalist Chuck Malloy says the Idaho Republican Party's call to return to the pre-1913 practice of having U.S. senators elected by legislators rather than voters would have no practical effect on who represents Idaho in Washington, D.C.

"I say get 'er done, because it makes no difference," Malloy writes in a satire for the Ridenbaugh Press website.

"So why bother with the formalities? Election to the U.S. Senate in Idaho would be like electing a pope, or appointing a Supreme Court justice. It would be for life — or until the senator decide to quit. Or, in the case of (Larry) Craig ... you get the point."

Since 2010, the GOP platform has called for repeal of the amendment ratified in 1913.

That position is a dividing line in the Republican race for governor, opposed by Gov. Butch Otter but supported by his primary challenger, Senate Majority Caucus Chairman Russ Fulcher. Last week,  Otter and Sen. Rush Fulcher explained their differences in video clips for Statesman readers.

Malloy, a former editorial writer for the Statesman, was a press aide for the GOP caucus in the Idaho House from 2007 to 2010.

He said Idaho's current senators — Republicans Mike Crapo and Jim Risch — "both would be slam dunks in the Legislature" and that former GOP Sens. Craig, Jim McClure, Steve Symms and Dirk Kempthorne would "be easy choices."

Malloy argues that the case for direct election — made famously by former Idaho GOP Sen William Borah early in the 20th century — as a boost for accountability no longer applies in the Gem State. An "inept" Democratic Party and a sheep-like cadre of GOP legislators would leave the decision to Republican legislative leaders, he writes.

Malloy did cite two benefits to repeal. First, "Crapo and Risch would not have to spend any time kissing up to big-money lobbyists and padding their campaign accounts." Second, they "wouldn't have to worry about doing annoying little things like holding town hall meetings, or spending millions of dollars on advertising."

A North Idaho native, Malloy graduated from the University of Idaho, covered the Legislature for the Idaho Falls Post Register and worked at newspapers in Arkansas, Indiana and Texas.

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