Ybarra happy with quiet convention performance

Although she may not have made the biggest splash at last week’s Republican State Convention, state superintendent’s candidate Sherri Ybarra felt motivated by the experience.

Sherri Ybarra
Sherri Ybarra

Ybarra attended less than half the convention, which ultimately broke down Saturday amidst intraparty squabbles, without any business accomplished.

But in her first convention, Ybarra said she accomplished her three main goals. She hoped to meet fellow Republicans, talk to them about the state of education and raise campaign funds.

“I think I accomplished all those,” she said. “I did raise some money and met people and heard their concerns.”

Ybarra raised just $3,150.14 between Jan. 1 and May 30 – with just $300 of that coming in the weeks leading up to the primary. She did not say how much she raised at the convention, but appeared optimistic.

On Saturday, as the convention deteriorated, Ybarra spoke to about 550 Republican delegates and guests. As with spring debates and forums, she focused her message on “doing whatever is best for kids” and focusing “on the whole child.”

Ybarra left before the convention broke apart.

In the aftermath, she stayed out of the fray – staying true to her message in the spring, that she is not a politician, but someone who instead wants to focus on education.

“It was a unique convention,” Ybarra said. “But I’ve always said from day one I’m a positive person and don’t allow (negative) things to surround me. I think that radiates.”

Since her primary win, Ybarra has been busy. She attended a state Land Board meeting in May as part of an effort to prepare for the responsibilities the next superintendent will face. She’s also filling out her campaign staff and summer schedule.

On Wednesday, she said former state Sen. Tim Corder, R-Mountain Home, and Chuck Zimmerly, interim director of Idaho State University’s Intermountain Center for Education Excellence, have joined her team and are finalizing numerous campaign events.

Ybarra’s time at the convention was limited. She did not attend a Republican convention rally with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on Thursday evening, nor any of Friday’s events and activities at the Kibbie Dome. Ybarra said she had prior commitments on Friday.

Ybarra had less of a visible presence than Gov. Butch Otter and Lt. Gov. Brad Little, who plastered campaign signs and literature all over the convention space.

One challenge Ybarra may face is making peace with conservatives who harbor concerns over Common Core standards and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium tests.

Otter’s Task Force for Improving Education endorsed “rigorous and successful implementation of Idaho Core Standards as an essential component of high performing schools” last year. The standards also survived the 2014 legislative session intact, but came under fire before last week’s convention melted down.

Ybarra said many people who talked to her at the convention had questions or concerns about the new English and math standards. “A lot of it was (them) getting to know me and expressing some of their concerns about some topics like Common Core and finances and testing,” Ybarra said.

Maria Nate, a delegate from Eastern Idaho’ s legislative District 34, was not impressed by Ybarra’s speech.

“I don’t know what she stands for, and I see no real difference between her and (Democratic nominee) Jana Jones,” Nate said. “My big issue is Common Core and I think she has tough fight ahead in November.”

Leading up to the general election, Nate would like to see more of a presence from Ybarra, who she described as coming across “vague.”

But anti-Common Core voters have no clear option. Ybarra and Jones support the standards. Ybarra backed the standards before the primary, and still won a crowded four-way race. The only superintendent’s candidate who opposed Common Core, Cottonwood teacher John Eynon, finished third.