Former state superintendent candidate Randy Jensen is not working for GOP nominee Sherri Ybarra’s campaign team, despite information posted on Ybarra’s official website.
Jensen was incorrectly listed as one of five members of Ybarra’s “Campaign Committee” as of Monday morning.
Jensen told Idaho Education News that he has not endorsed either candidate in the race and is not a member of Ybarra’s team. Ybarra defeated Jensen, an American Falls principal, in the May 20 Republican primary election.
Ybarra said the issue stems from a conversation she had with Jensen days after her primary victory.
“After the primary he indicated he would support my candidacy,” Ybarra said. “He called me this morning and said due to a work project and family, he would not support either candidate and remain neutral.”
Ybarra said she will “absolutely honor his wishes” and removed Jensen’s name from her website.
Jensen was not aware his name was on the website until Friday, when he was alerted by Democrat Jana Jones’ campaign.
“I never intended my name be on anyone’s website or endorsement list,” Jensen said Monday. “I told Jones the same thing.”
Jensen said he has only spoken to Ybarra once since approximately June 1.
At about that time, Ybarra asked Jensen if he would be interested in helping her when she was in his southeast Idaho region of the state. Jensen said he told Ybarra he would be happy to do what he could to help – but he never intended to endorse her or become a member of her official campaign.
Jensen said he also made a similar offer to Jones – without endorsing her either.
“Whoever the new superintendent is I want to help, because I care about kids, not because I want a job after,” Jensen said. “I have not endorsed either candidate.”
After speaking with Idaho Education News late Monday morning, Jensen called Ybarra to discuss the issue and he said Ybarra agreed to remove his name from her website.
Jensen has frequently stressed that he is not a political person. He also did not register with the Republican Party until shortly before he filed to run for state superintendent.
“I don’t think (Ybarra) was trying to be misleading having my name on there,” Jensen said. “But at this point, I want to stay politically neutral.”
A week ago, Ybarra made headlines when she declined an invitation to answer questions and participate in a candidate forum sponsored by the Idaho Association of School Administrators.
Jones participated in the forum and fielded questions from school leaders at the conference, which was attended by 460 administrators.
While the conference was taking place, Ybarra was having coffee alone in the same downtown neighborhood where the event was taking place, saying she was waiting to meet a Republican legislator and her schedule was too busy to attend the school conference.
Later, Ybarra sent out a news release defending her decision. She also gave interviews saying her schedule was too busy and she also had to be at a doctor’s appointment.
IASA director of operations Kristen Massingale said IASA leaders originally invited Ybarra to attend the forum nearly two months before the event took place. Ybarra did not respond to that invitation at all, Massingale said, and IASA executive director Rob Winslow made a personal appeal to Ybarra about three weeks before the Aug. 4 event. At that point, Ybarra told IASA officials she would not attend, Massingale said.
Ybarra and Jones will square off in the Nov. 4 general election to succeed outgoing Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna.