By Eric Valentine
An eleventh-hour filing, a last-minute dropout, and a ballot initiative effort aimed at paying teachers better put the final touches on what voters across the Wood River Valley will be looking at and voting on when they take to the polls this November.
Candidacy filing deadlines across the county took effect Friday, Sept. 6, at 5 p.m. What follows is an overview of some of the higher-profile contests. The Weekly Sun will provide more in-depth coverage of candidates and issues as the Nov. 5 election approaches.
Who’s not running was as much the focus the past several days around the Valley regarding the Blaine County School District Board of Trustees. Incumbent trustee Kevin Garrison, who only several weeks ago announced he’d be filing for re-election, said he’d be calling it quits after his term expires in January.
Garrison had described himself in an interview with The Weekly Sun as someone whose board experience and background in finance could help the district in this tenuous time of infighting and public acrimony. Instead, he’ll leave it to candidate Lara Stone to represent Zone 5, the school district’s northernmost zone. The Hailey businesswoman is running unopposed.
Replacing Ryan Degn’s Zone 1 seat will be highly contested. Three candidates have filed. They are: Amber Larna, Alexis Lindberg, and Jared Murphy. Meanwhile, Zone 3, the western section of the district, is seeing its current representative Ellen Mandeville step down in January. Only Hailey lawyer Keith Roark has filed to run there.
Separate from school board elections but potentially impacting teachers and taxpayers district-wide is a ballot initiative by Reclaim Idaho, the grassroots organization responsible for putting Medicaid Expansion on the November 2018 ballot. The group filed a new initiative last week designed, they say, to keep Idaho public school teachers in state, create competitive K-12 classroom and Career Technical Education (CTE) programs, and take pressure off property tax payers who continue to float what they describe as “costly school levies on a regular basis.”
The so-called “Invest in Idaho” initiative is designed to generate more than $170 million in investments in Idaho’s K-12 public schools. Reclaim Idaho’s initiative will call for investments from Idaho’s richest individuals and corporations—many of which come from out of state. Under the proposed initiative, tax rates over $250 million for individuals and $500 million for married couples would increase by 3 percentage points. The corporate rate (for in-state and out-of-state entities) would be restored to 8 percent—the rate that existed from 1987 to 2000. These reforms would impact fewer than 5 percent of all Idahoans, the group claims.
“Idaho’s politicians are putting all of us at risk by driving our teachers and paychecks out of state because they refuse to invest in our schools. They also create uncertainty for Idaho taxpayers who find themselves voting on school levies almost every year,” said Reclaim Idaho co-founder Luke Mayville.
In the City of Hailey, councilmember Martha Burke is running unopposed to replace current Mayor Fritz Haemmerle. Jeffrey L. Engelhardt and Sam Linnet will battle for City Council Seat #3 while Pat Cooley and Juan Martinez vie for City Council Seat #4.
In the City of Ketchum, incumbent Jim Slanetz is in the race as well as incumbent Micheal David who was a late filing. Mickey Garcia and Jen Smith will challenge them.
And for Sun Valley, as reported, all three incumbents whose seats expire seek to earn them once again. Mayor Peter Hendricks and councilmembers Michelle Griffith and Jane Conard all filed for reelection.