In the GOP primary race for Idaho attorney general, there are two passionate candidates with sharp legal minds.
Eagle attorney and challenger Chris Troupis has the kind of full-spectrum experience that could get him elected in any number of states.
Standing in the way in Idaho is three-term incumbent Lawrence Wasden, who has a stellar record and such an efficient and exacting grasp on his duties that he is our choice to advance in the May 20 Republican primary.
During previous interactions and a lengthy conversation with the Idaho Statesman Editorial Board, we noticed a number of things Troupis and Wasden agree on, particularly relating to legal strategies and the possible outcomes of pending cases. As candidates, though, the gloves come off and sharp differences appear.
Troupis makes the tired charge that Wasden needs to go because he's "been there too long." We wonder how doing a good job, even indefinitely, is undesirable. Also, Troupis feels that Wasden has been more a servant of the layers of government than an advocate for "the people." For example, Troupis alleges that Wasden didn't work hard enough to thwart the Affordable Care Act from taking hold in Idaho. Nor, in Troupis' mind, did Wasden come to the aid of an Idaho couple whose plans to build a home on their land were being held up by EPA regulations.
We don't think Troupis' criticisms are valid, and reflect a take on the AG position that doesn't match the mission. What Wasden has been doing does: aggressively and impressively prosecuting corruption cases; adjudicating difficult (and long overdue) water rights; and providing wise counsel to land issues in the best, long-term interests of Idaho. Wasden has a crisp and correct understanding of his job, and that doesn't involve repealing Obamacare or attempts to nullify federal agencies, such as the EPA - even if we don't like what they are up to.
It does involve representing the state in matters such as the same-sex marriage lawsuit; recognizing that hiring more attorneys will cost the state less than contracting for legal assistance; working with stakeholders to shore up the public defender system; urging Gov. Butch Otter to investigate the fallout of the Correction Corporation of America debacle; and, of course, serving on the Land Board and advising on attempts to acquire federal lands. These land issues are key in the AG race and almost every other statewide race.
On the Land Board, Troupis would have a limited portfolio: sticking to timber and other "sustainables," and excluding, for example, commercial real estate holdings that "compete against private business." He doesn't have a good response to the fact that the Land Board's timber interests also compete with private foresters. As for federal lands, Troupis as AG would go to court and "assert Idaho's rights to those lands" because a gridlocked Congress is incapable.
We support Wasden's Land Board and federal lands strategies to pursue an unlimited portfolio just as long at it makes money for schools; and decide whether acquiring federal lands is desirable and even doable, since Idaho has disclaimed these very lands in the past. If seeking the lands gains consensus, we agree with Wasden that litigation is a bad idea and negotiating with Congress might net a more favorable result.
"Our View" is the editorial position of the Idaho Statesman. It is an unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Statesman's editorial board. To comment on an editorial or suggest a topic, email email@example.com.