Ybarra: ‘I took a different approach’

After 156 voicemails, countless emails — and one nomination that surprised many political observers — Sherri Ybarra is turning her attention to her next campaign.

Sherri Ybarra
Sherri Ybarra

The Republican nominee for state schools superintendent is sorting through offers to help with her general election campaign. After winning her party’s nomination on  a shoestring budget, she sounds prepared to engage more aggressively in campaign fundraising the second time around.

But the Mountain Home school administrator says she will maintain the grassroots focus and independent approach that she says was key to her May 20 primary victory.

“I took a different approach and I got a different result,” Ybarra said in an interview with Idaho Education News on Tuesday.

Ybarra collected 28.5 percent of the vote in the open four-way superintendent’s primary, enough to outpace runnerup Randy Jensen by more than 5,600 votes. She said she got her message out through a variety of formats, from Republican Lincoln Day functions to speaking to high school senior classes to newspaper ads to print and broadcast interviews.

But last week’s outcome raised eyebrows, even within the GOP. “I was on this campaign trail start to finish,” unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate Russ Fulcher told the Idaho Statesman last week. “And she might be a fine person, but she was not engaged. She was not engaged heavily in this campaign.”

Ybarra’s reaction?

“Everybody’s entitled to their opinion,” she said Tuesday. “I made it very clear that I was a different kind of campaigner. And I meant what I said.”

The May primary was defined by rifts within Republican ranks — and hotly contested races pitting establishment candidates such as Gov. Butch Otter against conservative upstarts such as Fulcher. Ybarra didn’t really align with either camp. She says it isn’t the state superintendent’s job to bring these political factions together, but she downplayed the impact of the rift. “I’ve not run into any snafus along the road.”

While many top-of-the-ticket GOP candidates gathered on May 20 to watch the election returns at a Boise hotel, Ybarra watched from home with a few close friends and family. “We kept it very grass roots like I have from the beginning.” She said she spent the Memorial Day weekend reconnecting with family, spending much of that time swimming in the family’s backyard pool.

Now, Ybarra is beginning to wade into planning for the fall election.

She is getting some help from one well-known Republican, Dan Goicoechea, Controller Brandon Woolf’s chief deputy. Goicoechea, one of Ybarra’s few campaign contributors during the primary, is helping Ybarra sort through offers of help for the campaign. Ybarra also is beginning the process of campaign scheduling; for example, she expects to attend the GOP state convention in Moscow in June.

However, Ybarra said she will continue to juggle her campaign with her work in the Mountain Home School District and with her studies. She anticipates receiving her doctoral degree this summer.

Ybarra said she is working this week on getting a handle on fall fundraising. She won the GOP nomination despite trailing badly in fundraising, collecting only a modest $2,850.14 from Jan. 1 through May 4, mostly in Mountain Home. She enters the general election at an early fundraising disadvantage; former state deputy superintendent Jana Jones, uncontested in the Democratic primary, has reported $52,404.31 in donations so far this year.

However, Ybarra said she will continue a grassroots approach to fundraising. “I’m very independent and want to remain independent.”

But now, the campaign contributions may come with little prodding — not unlike the post-election emails and voicemails.

“Ybarra won’t have a problem getting money,” David Adler, director of the Andrus Center for Public Policy at Boise State University, said in an interview last week.

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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