Jim Hansen from the left-leaning advocacy group United Vision for Idaho made an astute observation over the weekend.
For 35 lawmakers — a full one-third of the Legislature — the election season basically ended at 5 p.m. Friday.
They're running unopposed, both in the May 27 party primaries and the November general elections.
That never bodes well for the process.
Looking closely at the list of the free-ride lawmakers, there is no rhyme or reason to it.
Sure, some of the incumbents are powerful members of legislative leadership, such as Senate President Pro Tem Robert Geddes, R-Soda Springs, and House Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke, R-Oakley. These incumbents would have a lot of name identification and access to campaign contributions, making them difficult to beat in a primary or fall election.
But the list also includes some relative newcomers: first-term Treasure Valley House members Brent Crane, R-Nampa; Bill Killen, D-Boise; Raul Labrador, R-Eagle; and Lynn Luker, R-Boise. It even includes a Treasure Valley lawmaker who has never been popularly elected, Rep. Marv Hagedorn, a Meridian Republican who was appointed in early 2007. I'm not saying any of these lawmakers necessarily deserve to be booted out, but it is troubling to see them getting a second term without going through the paces of a re-election campaign.
Some of the unopposed lawmakers represent staunchly GOP districts — such as Sen. John McGee and Rep. Darrell Bolz, Caldwell Republicans from Canyon County's legislative District 10. A few unopposed Democrats hail from deep blue districts, such as Anne Pasley-Stuart, who represents Boise's Democratic North and East ends. Meanwhile, Luker and Boise Republican Sen. John Andreason are running unopposed in West Boise's legislative District 15, which has had the look of a potential swing district.
And this only has so much to do with Democrats' failure to field opponents. While 26 of the unopposed candidates are Republicans, nine are Democrats — a breakdown that closely mirrors the current makeup of the Legislature.
When candidates run unopposed, they don't just get a free ride at the polls. They also get a chance to take their campaign contributions and distribute them to other candidates in their party, as a sort of political action committee of one. They whole system is a little less accountable for it.
I'm always of two minds when the filing period ends. When I see a long list of contested races, I recognize our editorial board has plenty of work ahead: interviewing candidates, researching voting records and writing endorsement editorials. It beats the alternative, however.