What is ‘The Idahoan,’ and what does it say about this election?

A new Idaho political newsletter and website hit the streets and the Internet this week, and it isn’t shy about its leanings.

Based in Eagle, “The Idahoan” declares itself as “written by conservatives,” and its co-authors fill the bill. Patrick Malloy served briefly in the state Senate as a substitute lawmaker, filling in for then-Sen. Shirley McKague, a conservative hardliner. Lou Esposito is a longtime GOP consultant; in 2011, he served on a state redistricting commission that feuded over maps and deadlocked along party lines, forcing the state to name a new commission that managed to agree on a plan to redraw Idaho’s congressional and legislative districts.

Some of the newsletter’s headlines are boilerplate conservative fare.

Says one: “Tommy Ahlquist A Real Conservative? Or Just Another Kind of Crony.”

Says another: “Urban Renewal Is A Blight On Our Wallets.”

Looking past the headlines — and the numerous typos, duly noted by more than one of my media friends — I dug into The Idahoan to get a read on a conservative mindset, heading into the May 15 Republican primary.

It’s interesting.

Using a variety of ratings — from groups such as the Idaho Freedom Foundation and Idaho Chooses Life — Malloy and Esposito collaborate on a spate of right-leaning endorsements and non-endorsements. Among them:

  • Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, is deemed not conservative enough for The Idahoan’s liking. The endorsement instead goes to Lowman Republican Marla Lawson.
  • The Idahoan sits out the Senate race in legislative District 20, but not before getting in a dig at Majority Leader Chuck Winder, R-Boise. “Leadership is an issue,” Esposito writes, “and Chuck Winder is part of the problem.”
  • The complaints about leadership are a recurring theme. Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, “would rather spend your money than cut taxes,” says Esposito. Hill, by the way, was the floor sponsor for two tax bills that passed the 2018 Legislature and resulted in a $125 million tax cut.
  • House leadership didn’t get a pass. House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, and his District 27 seatmate, House Health and Welfare Committee Chairman Fred Wood, R-Burley, “are a big part of the problem with the Legislature,” says Esposito. The Idahoan endorsed Wood’s GOP opponent, Kevin Williams of Elba.
  • The Idahoan endorsed Julianne Young, a Blackfoot Republican taking on House Education Committee Chair Julie VanOrden, R-Pingree.
  • And in the big-ticket races, several candidates are dismissed as Republicans who should be running as Democrats. That list includes Reps. Christy Perry of Nampa, running in the 1st Congressional District, and Kelley Packer of McCammon, running for lieutenant governor.

What to read into all of this?

Hard to say.

But I’m not inclined to completely ignore this — if only because of who advertised in the inaugural issue. The advertisers include the aforementioned Idaho Freedom Foundation and Idaho Chooses Life, not exactly newcomers in conservative circles.

If nothing else, the newsletter and its endorsements underscore the tension between some conservatives and legislative leadership. If that doesn’t play out at the polls on May 15, it might still play out in the in-house legislative leadership elections before the 2019 session.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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