Last week, 1st District Democrat Jimmy Farris lamented that the unavailability of his opponent, Cynthia Clinkingbeard, was denying him the opportunity to sharpen his skills and get his name known in his first-ever run for office.
"I was looking forward to the opportunity to have a legitimate challenge," Farris told the Idaho Statesman editorial board on Thursday. "That's why I was excited when she filed because I thought it would be an opportunity to have a debate or get on TV or have some more conversations with you guys. The most important thing for me at this point in time is to get myself out there, to get in forums where people can hear what I have to say and where I stand on issues and what I think about things. I was looking forward to maybe having a debate or getting on Public TV, but I don't think that's going to happen."
I took that to mean that Clinkingbeard, who faces felony charges in connection with an arrest last month, had declined to participate in the Idaho Public TV debate. It turns out Farris decided not to face Clinkingbeard on statewide television because of her legal and mental issues, Farris' campaign coordinator said Monday. Clinkingbeard was arrested March 16 on three felony counts of aggravated assault and one count of use of a deadly weapon in commission of a crime.
Employees at a Staples store told police that she pulled a 9 mm pistol out of a shoulder holster and pointed it at employees on March 16. A judge has ordered a mental health evaluation to determine whether Clinkingbeard can adequately understand the court proceedings against her and can actively in her own defense. A review hearing for the mental health evaluation is set for May 4.
"We didn't feel like a debate would be really reasonable at this point because she needs some time to get medication or whatever she needs," said Toni Sutton, Farris's campaign coordinator. "Mental illness is a big issue; that's just not something that you capitalize on."
Sutton said Clinkingbeard, who formerly practiced as an endocrinologist, had likely saved the life of a friend of Sutton's.
"This is a very brilliant human being and a good person," Sutton added. "Whatever privacy we can give her, we're going to."
Neither Farris nor Clinkingbeard responded to a March 16 letter from the League of Women Voters regarding the debate, according to the League's Elinor Cheney, who has coordinated debates with Idaho Public TV and the Idaho Press Club for many years. Sutton said she left a voicemail on April 6 saying Farris was declining to debate.
On Friday morning I wrote that Clinkingbeard did not reply to a request for comment for the post I wrote on Farris. I received an email from Clinkingbeard when I showed up this morning, which she sent late Friday afternoon.
Clinkingbeard apologized for not responding to a request to meet with the Idaho Statesman editorial board, which was sent to the mailing address she provided the Secretary of State in her candidate filing.
She also offered an update on the campaign: "I just got out of the hospital a couple days ago and have not quite caught up with everything yet. My media guy took off for Afghanistan so I am having to start over and gear back up. My legal case is a bit of a fly in the ointment, but I am hoping that will be closer to resolution soon."
There will also be no debate in the 1st District GOP race between incumbent Rep. Raul Labrador and Reed McCandless of Moscow, who did not respond to the letter regarding the debate. Labrador was prepared to debate, but the sponsors do not hold debates with a single candidate.
In the 2nd District Democratic contest between state Sen. Nicole LeFavour of Boise and Jack Wayne Chappell of Buhl, the sponsors decided that Chappell did not meet the standard for running an active campaign. Chappell told sponsors that his campaign manager's name was "Warm & Fuzzy the Magic Mule," who had a rural free delivery mailing address on Chuckhole Creek in the Sawtooth Mountains. Chappell held what he described as a campaign event at Woody's Lounge in Twin Falls on March 27, but debate organizers decided he wasn't acting in good faith.
"He's campaigning to appear on TV, not to run for Congress," Chehey said.
That leaves one debate on IPTV for the primary campaign, the 2nd District GOP race between incumbent Rep. Mike Simpson and challenger Chick Heileson, both of Idaho Falls. The debate is set for 7 p.m. May 13, a date the Simpson campaign suggested.
Simpson's campaign manager, Zach Hauge, said Monday, "We are a go for May 13."
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