State political party chairpersons are supposed to be optimists, and Larry Grant serviceably played the role Tuesday.
Holding court with KBOI 670’s Nate Shelman and me on Election Night, the state Democratic Party head predicted state Sen. Nicole LeFavour could raise $1 million in her run against 2nd Congressional District Rep. Mike Simpson, suggested 1st District Rep. Raul Labrador is vulnerable this fall, and said his party could pick up four to eight legislative seats.
Considering the results that unfolded later Tuesday night, Grant’s on-air goals seem awfully lofty.
• The 2nd District: Simpson was expected to defeat Chick Heileson, an underfunded tea party candidate making his second run for Congress. Simpson rolled, getting 69.6 percent of the vote — a marked improvement over the 58.3 percent he received in a four-person primary in 2010. And Simpson’s raw vote count increased by more than 5,500 votes.
This doesn’t make Simpson invulnerable. It does make him very difficult to beat.
Grant believes LeFavour, an open lesbian, can raise $1 million from gay-rights groups. Her unlikely campaign, in one of the nation’s most politically and socially conservative congressional districts, could generate some buzz. But that excitement could well be muted by Simpson’s easy primary win, the $762,248 he has raised so far in his bid for an eighth term — and the fact that, as an Appropriations subcommittee chairman, Simpson can raise money with ease, setting the price of admission for this campaign.
Even with financial backing from gay-rights groups, itself a double-edged sword in the 2nd District, LeFavour isn’t likely to outraise or outspend Simpson.
• The 1st District: Jimmy Farris’ opponent Tuesday was Cynthia Clinkingbeard — who was charged in March with pulling a gun on Staples employees, spent much of the primary season in the hospital, and still faces a court-ordered mental health examination. Yet Farris won the nomination by barely 600 votes, a 53 percent showing.
I’m sure Farris and his campaign didn’t really know how to campaign in the primary, given the unusual circumstances. But after Tuesday’s showing, Farris could have an even tougher time raising money and generating a groundswell — making Labrador even more of a prohibitive favorite.
• The Legislature: Grant hopes to pick up ground in Idaho’s obvious (and few) swing districts. That includes Boise’s District 18, where former Rep. Branden Durst and Janie Ward-Engelking hope to avenge narrow 2010 losses to Sen. Mitch Toryanski and Rep. Julie Ellsworth, respectively.
Yes, the Democrats did a better job of fielding legislative candidates this year. The Legislature handed Democrats some good issues, such as ethics and the ultrasound bill. The Students Come First referenda, and a get-out-the-vote effort, might help Democrats in swing districts.
But then there’s the big picture. A presidential election year usually hurts Democratic legislative candidates. The congressional races aren’t likely to provide Democrats any momentum down the ticket. And the closed GOP primary didn’t result in a purge of moderates and a surge for ultraconservative ideologues; the most prominent incumbent to lose was tax-dodging Rep. Phil Hart, and his loss probably helps the GOP keep a seat in a Republican district in Kootenai County.
I’ve got nothing against Election Night optimism. Just bringing it all back to reality. It’s part of the job description.