The Idaho Supreme Court candidates each had their “edge” going into Tuesday’s election.
Rupert attorney Robyn Brody had the largest campaign war chest, support from a lot of other lawyers and that catchy kind of populist slogan: “from the trench to the bench.”
Sen. Curt McKenzie had some name recognition from his 14 years in the Idaho Legislature. His Facebook page sported a number of endorsements from fellow GOP legislators and indicated that he was getting around the state to tell his story.
Speaking of endorsements, Idaho Deputy Attorney General Clive Strong had at least 150 from a Who’s Who of Idaho politicians from both parties and a ton of relevant experience: arguing before the Idaho and U.S. Supreme Court and the achievement of guiding the state through the decades-long Snake River Basin Adjudication.
Sergio Gutierrez had the most compelling life story, exemplifying his American Dream rise from a kid navigating the troubled streets of his youth to gaining a law degree and, finally, appointments to the bench — the only candidate with actual experience as a judge.
But statewide elections — particularly primaries with low turnout (somewhere around 16 percent of registered voters) — have a way of grinding away at, or totally overlooking, the “edge” in your campaign.
Sometimes, it boils down to just showing up and “connecting” with voters. That is what Brody credits for her first-place finish in the nonpartisan race after the Tuesday primary, when she received 29.9 percent of the votes (43,912). McKenzie received 27.9 percent (41,239). Gutierrez and Strong placed third and fourth, respectively. Brody now will face McKenzie in Nov. 8 run-off election.
Why did she top the list?
“I think it is three things,” Brody said during a visit to the Statesman on Wednesday.
No. 1: “It’s my connection to the people. It’s the people understanding that we need someone who works for them and who understands how important the court system is for protecting their individual rights.
No. 2: “From the lawyers’ perspective, I think the lawyers are ready to have a lawyer on the bench — and my colleagues’ support has been just overwhelming.”
No. 3: “The other thing is just plain old-fashioned hard work — spending the last two months driving all over the place, meeting with anybody who will listen and anyone who will talk.”
The personable Brody is at ease and authentic in conversation. She got emotional when asked her first thoughts after realizing she had advanced to the runoff.
“It’s an incredible affirmation that I have done something right in my career over the last 20 years ... working for people and being committed to being a professional with my colleagues — that to me is what last night was all about,” she said.
She fully understands she’s in a spirited race with McKenzie. What’s her plan?
“Work. Work. Work. And more work. And prepare,” said Brody, who promises more of the same for approach in the next phase. “For me it’s like getting ready for a trial. You dig in, you get a plan, and you work the plan and you don’t stop.”
Just as in this race, the candidate who makes the most connections is likely to prevail. Don’t count too much on your edge and do your best to not be a wedge.
We’ll soon find out whether McKenzie can compete with Brody when it comes to connecting with voters. She says she wants them to know, “I’m in that foxhole with you.”
Out on the campaign trail, “people would come up to me after events and thank me for talking and thank me for talking to them. One gal put it this way: ‘Thank you for talking to all of us, not just the special people.’ ”
Brody’s gift is that she is approachable, and that the bench she aspires to ought to be as well.
I look forward to talking with McKenzie soon about the campaign path he wants to take for a seat on Idaho’s highest court.