Republican Fred Martin has judiciously avoided stating his position on Propositions 1, 2 and 3, the education reforms that were opposed by retiring GOP Sen. John Andreason.
At a forum on Monday at Centennial High School, Martin twice avoided the question, saying, "Is it perfect? No. I have reservations on each one of them. But again, they need to be looked at very closely."
Later Martin said he agreed with Democrat Betty Richardson that Superintendent Tom Luna didn't reach out to teachers as he might have. "I agree that maybe the teachers weren't included fully in negotiating with this or setting up the laws. I wish they had been."
Richardson said flatly: "I'm going to give you a very straight answer. I will be voting 'no' on Propositions 1, 2 and 3."
Finally, Paymon Shariat, the student moderator from the Centennial Political Action Club, pressed Martin, asking, "Just to clarify: How will you be voting for these propositions on Nov. 6?"
Martin: "I've already voted. I voted absentee several weeks ago. I voted 'yes' on each proposition. I believe, again, that it's important that we start someplace."
Martin explained his reluctance to state his view before joining the Senate, which will again deal with education issues. "I want to be part of the solution, not going in them thinking I'm part of the problem."
Richardson criticized Martin in a news release Thursday, noting that he'd avoided a direct answer in a September meeting with the Idaho Statesman editorial board and in October in the Statesman Voter Guide. Richardson sent a mailer this week saying Martin "WON'T SAY!" where he stands on the propositions.
"The mailer was completely fair and accurate when it left our hands," Richardson said, "but now that my opponent has come clean, I want to be sure the record is straight. He finally told us how he voted. And it was the wrong vote for Idaho's kids."
Richardson said District 15 voters largely oppose the propositions. "Fred Martin is in step with his political party, but he is out of step with educators, out of step with parents and out of step with the district."
On Friday, Martin told me he answered the question about his vote as a citizen, not as a potential senator. "The question was how had I personally voted."
Martin said he agrees that the propositions trail in District 15 and statewide, but that proponents have gained ground in recent weeks. He said a new ad with Gov. Butch Otter is helping. "I still think they have an advantage, but it's much closer. I don't think it will directly necessarily affect my race. I think it'll be a wash."
The following is a video excerpt of the exchange between Martin and Richardson, provided by the Richardson campaign: