Today is Election Day and I hope you went out and voted. I did. Yes, I know I live in Idaho where I know my vote is practically useless as the winners are inevitable in most races.
In Idaho, the predictability of election results provides a long string of discouraging results that really makes me question the sanity of the typical voter who keeps on voting for the same people but expect different results.
Take for example the candidates for Superintendent of Public Instruction: Dr. Jana Jones and Sherri Ybarra. On the surface, both women appear to be similar. Both of them have built careers in education. Sherri beginning as an elementary teacher in Mountain Home and Jana founding a day school that provided early education to kids in Idaho Falls. Both have and impressive list of degrees. Jana has a bachelor’s and a master's degree in special education, and she's earned a doctorate degree in educational leadership; Sherri has a bachelor’s in elementary education, a master's in educational leadership, and an education specialist degree. Both have influential titles: one is a curriculum director for a school district and the other is the vice president of a K-12 educational consulting firm working with many school districts. Both support Common Core. Both support charter schools. Both support recommendations from Gov Otter's Task Force for Improving Education, including restoring funding that has been cut since 2009. Both want to encourage increased use of technology in the classrooms.
But under the surface, things look a little shaky. Since both candidates were so similar on the issues, something interesting happened. At the beginning of the campaign, Ybarra plagiarized large swaths of verbiage from Jones' website. She admitted the similarities - and by similarities I mean nearly identical wording and sentence structure, but she blamed her web manager and the busyness of being an educator working every day. All could be forgiven if that was her only error. Unfortunately, it went down hill from there.
Her excuse that she's an educator working every day would make sense as she promised to continue working throughout the campaign. That was what she said after winning the primary in May. However, that's not the case and she's been on leave from the Mountain Home School District; she will not specify how long she's been on leave.
Ybarra barely won that primary election. She raised the least amount of money, made no effort to campaign, and did not have the support of the big names in her party. After winning, the minimal effort continued and Ybarra was a no show at a few important events including an invite from the Idaho Association of School Administrators to speak at their Summer Leadership Conference. She claimed one of her foes from the primary as a member of her campaign committee, a position he didn't want and didn't ask for. He had to clarify that he did not endorse either candidate and would support whichever one wins the election.
Her former opponent isn't the only person she incorrectly listed as a supporter. She also made the claim that the majority of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee supported her. When challenged on that claim, she defended herself by saying they're listed on her website. However, only two members of the twenty person committee are listed on her website. She also claimed to have the support of the majority of state lawmakers, yet her website only lists a quarter of them as actual supporters.
Then facts about her history surfaced. Turns out, she hasn't voted in a single election since moving to Idaho in 1996. She claims her candidacy is repayment for not participating in her civic duties. Going into her reasons for moving to Idaho, she was deceptive and misrepresented her marital history alluding she moved to Idaho with her husband ... she just didn't specify which husband. And she lied about her education, first stating that she would receive her doctorate from the University of Idaho in August. When August came, no doctorate. She got the education specialist degree instead.
Sherri Ybarra dismisses the controversies of her pratfall prone campaign as nothing but rhetoric. Meanwhile, her opponent has been busy running a positive campaign. These issues of dishonesty, plagiarism, family history, lack of a voting record ... these missteps were not pointed out by the Jones camp. These have largely been uncovered and reported by news organizations.
This mangled campaign is not just a collection minor errors of a political newbie running for office for the first time in their life, this is something all together different and mystifying. It has the horror of a train-wreck that has caught media attention, not just in Idaho but nationally.
Here's the sad part of the story. I'm sure Sherri is a talented and competent educator. But she will make a horrible civil servant. There is no logical reason Sherri Ybarra should hold an elected position with this much power or responsibility. Yet, she will probably win. Most polls show her with a minimum of one point advantage over Dr Jana Jones.
Because this episode of Sesame Street is brought to you by the letter R.
This is Idaho, one of the most conservative states in the union. A state where the majority of voters vote for a straight Republican ticket. A state where a timber thief and a tax cheat couldn't win an election as a Constitutionalist so he changed parties and won four consecutive terms as a Republican. A state where Satan could win an election as long as there was the letter R listed next to his name on the ballot. Because in Idaho, political party is often worth more than the actual issues or the candidates qualifications.
I hope I'm wrong. I hope for one night, the voters of Idaho prove my assumptions to be incorrect. I hope that lifelong Republicans decide they're not going to accept a weak candidate and vote against their party - even if Jones is the only Democrat they elect on their ballot.
But if I'm right? Congratulations Idaho, you get what you vote for.