For Republican state Senator Mitch Toryanski and state Rep. Julie Ellsworth their reelection may be out of their hands. It may come down to how voters in this swing SE Boise district view Propositions 1,2 and 3 (or if you prefer SB 1108, 1110, and 1113). The district is chalk full of supporters and opponents of the measures and they are sure to turn out at the ballot box on November 6th.
Branden Durst and Julie Ward-Endelking have fully capitalized on the angst that education reform has caused in Idaho. Durst had narrowly outraised Toryanski and Endelking has raised a whopping $57,000 for her second bid at the seat. Even in the 15th district, a comfortably Republican suburban district nestled outside Boise, a Democrat raised over 80K for his bid. This cannot simply be chalked up to good donor networks and charisma. Something more must be at work here.
Two recent polls, one conducted by Mason Dixon for the Idaho Statesman and the other commissioned by opponents of the laws, showed that the Propositions were in danger of failing and failing badly. If so, this could drag down Ellsworth and Toryanski. Toryanski was instrumental in getting SB 1113 passed and Ellsworth backed SBs 1108 and 1110.
None of the candidates in 18 are shy about discussing the issue. In their interviews with the Statesman none backed away from strong stances. Toryanski is a strong backer of all three bills. Ellsworth said she would vote yes on Props 1 and 2 but not three (she did not support SB 1113 on final passage). Challenger Brad Bolicek said he supports all three Props. Not surprisingly, Durst, Endelking and state Rep. Hart oppose all three measures.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that these two GOP incumbents could be dragged down by education reform. Legislative races, even in presidential years, are low turnout affairs with the most passionate voters going far enough down the ballot to vote in legislative races. No public polls have been taken on the enthusiasm of supporters or opponents of the measures. However, it is hard not to notice that the number of yard signs and street signs urging voters to reject Props 1, 2 and 3 are fear greater than those advocating supporting the Props though.
Money from wealthy Idaho businessmen and national unions have poured into Idaho regarding the Props making them highly politicized. In 2011 the issue was politicized enough for protests to erupt statewide and opponents trying to recall of Superintendent of Education Tom Luna, Ellsworth and Toryanski. All three failed miserably.
Ellsworth and Toryanski may not be the only Republicans dragged down by the Luna laws however. In moderate legislative district 28 based in Bannock County, Rep. Ken Andrus and former Rep. Jim Guthrie (running for senate) could be hurt because of widespread opposition to the laws in the district. Republican Kelly Packer could also find it hard to hold Guthrie’s old seat.
The quality of their challengers matter of course and none of District 28’s Democratic candidates match the quality of King, Endelking or Durst in 18. It also bears mentioning that all three Republicans running have easily out raised their opponents.
District 18 looks like the place where the Luna laws could drag down Republicans. Toryanski and Ellsworth are fighters, and without a doubt will continue to do so until election day, but they may be fighting an uphill battle against angry local voters and union money. There two hopes however. First, Obama is so unpopular they pick up some votes that way and second that the Mormon vote comes out strongly for any Republican on the ballot. If not, well……….