Leaning Right?

Eric Parker holds a meet-and-greet at Wiseguy Pizza earlier this month to hear concerns from citizens and raise funds for his District 26 state senate campaign. Photo credit: Eric Parker

An undercurrent of political action could brew trouble for historically ‘blue’ Valley

By Eric Valentine

From left to right: Idaho Sen. Michelle Stennett (D-Ketchum), Idaho Rep. Muffy Davis (D-Ketchum), Christina Cernansky, NAMI Idaho board member and executive director of NAMI-Wood River Valley, and Sally Toone (D-Gooding). Photo credit: NAMI Idaho

In a state firmly implanted in a sea of Republican red lie two islands, one purple-ish—the Treasure Valley, and one as blue as Gwyneth Paltrow’s eyes—our Valley. But if you ask folks who lean to or are implanted in the conservative right, Blaine County may be in for a rouge awakening.

“We are doing so good,” said Debbie O’Neill, campaign manager for Idaho state senate candidate Eric Parker. “We’ve held several meet-and-greets, we’re raising money, and we’re seeing more people turn out to our events (than our competitors).”

How that all translates into election results come November remains to be seen, of course. But O’Neill’s optimism is not without at least some foundation. That foundation consists of three things, at least right now:

Working-class concerns (like affordable housing) are the big issues for the foreseeable future.

The Democratic presence in the Valley is strong but changing.

Eric Parker isn’t just the “the guy (with the rifle) in the photo” anymore.

Working Class Woes

The narrative in modern U.S. history is this: Establishment Republicans are business friendly and foreign affairs “America first” and establishment Democrats are union and worker friendly and foreign affairs “diplomacy first.” Those cloaks start to fray, though, the more local you get, and the more anomalies you factor. For instance, the Valley is not just rural ag land, it’s resort wonderland, too. And the past two years are not normal, they’ve been for most folks pandemic surreal.

Bellevue Mayor Ned Burns. Photo credit: Ned Burns

Read any local paper today and foremost on anyone’s mind—that is, anyone who resides here and works here full-time and not from inside an estate home—is how the heck to afford housing, if you can even find some. That’s a classic working-class issue, and in Blaine County a chunk of the Democrats are more “Hollywood” than blue collar. Edge: any grassroots populist politician who’s willing to pound the pavement to garner interest and, ultimately, votes. That describes Parker.

Blue Wave (Goodbye?)

According to Bestplaces.net who evaluate recent voting trends, Blaine County is not just blue, it’s deep blue. So anyone expecting a red wave is being optimistic at best, delusional at worst. Regardless, the polls can change when established positions change.

With the impending resignation of Representative Muffy Davis, from Legislative District 26 seat A effective December 31, 2021, Legislative District 26 Democratic leaders per Idaho State Code have selected three candidates for Governor Brad Little to consider for the position. Incidentally, they are: Ned Burns (Mayor of Bellevue) Karma Fitzgerald (Vice Chair of the Lincoln County Democrats) and Don Lappin (past Democratic Precinct Captain for Sun Valley).

In addition, Idaho state Sen. Michelle Stennett has not yet announced her intent to seek re-election. And, it looks all but certain that District 26 will be redrawn in a way that’s—if anything—slightly more beneficial to Republican candidates than Democratic ones.

The Guy With The Gun

Parker, who ran unsuccessfully for state senate last year, became a household name or image at least in 2014 when he was photographed and later imprisoned for holding aim with a rifle on federal agents dealing with the Cliven Bundy affair.

“He’s not the guy in the photo,” remarks O’Neill. “If I had a son, I’d want him to be just like Eric Parker.”

Parker acknowledged his role that day was a mistake he made in his youth, but he’s unapologetic for what he learned from it all. And, if you’re ready to pigeonhole him as an alt-right conspiracy-monger who’s outlasted his 15 minutes of fame, then you have seriously underestimated and misunderstood him. It’s more than apparent that Parker is getting more and more comfortable with talking about the issues of the day and the issues he is running on, not in just layman’s terms but in socio-political ones. He’s very comfortable meeting up with people at a pizza joint and being a listener.

“Last election we did better than anyone expected,” said Parker. “Last election I did the legwork for this next election. It’s the independents that matter when it comes to close elections as far as I can tell. So I’m feeling good.”