The last time an Idaho Republican failed to win a statewide campaign, the loser was Tom Luna. Democrats think they can do it again.
Seizing on the sweeping defeat of Superintendent of Public Instruction Lunas K-12 reforms last November, Idahos minority party wants to make education the signature issue of 2014.
The Democrats aim goes beyond unseating Luna. The party promises a vigorous challenge to Lunas close partner in enacting Students Come First, two-term GOP Gov. Butch Otter, as well as Republicans down the ticket.
The voters on Propositions 1, 2 and 3 voted against bad Republican ideas and theyre going to vote against bad Republican candidates, said Democratic Party Chairman Larry Kenck. It not only points at Tom Luna. It points at Governor Otter and the whole Republican Party.
While saying those who campaigned to save Students Come First botched it terribly, Idaho GOP Chairman Barry Peterson waves off Kencks threat. Peterson said 2012 is ancient history in political terms and predicted that the education loss will have zero effect in 2014.
The same people that voted no on those three referendums already had a chance to defeat legislators who voted for the laws, Peterson said.
Though Lunas three laws passed the Legislature without a single Democratic vote, the same electorate that rebuffed Luna kept a lopsided Statehouse wholly intact, with 85 Republicans and 20 Democrats.
Luna and other statewide officials who serve four-year terms werent on the 2012 ballot. They will be next year, along with all 105 legislative seats.
That, said Kenck, makes supporters of the so-called Luna Laws vulnerable. Kenck takes heart in polling by the No on Propositions 1, 2 and 3 campaign, which outspent proponents $3.6 million to $2.8 million.
David Williams, the Maryland consultant who ran the repeal campaign, said Lunas misreading of the electorate was so serious that half of the Republicans in a May 2012 poll rated his job performance negatively.
That led to our early decision to brand these propositions as the Luna Laws in our messaging, Williams wrote in the July/August edition of Campaigns & Elections magazine.
When the campaign to defend the propositions continued to use Luna as its chief champion, Williams was stunned.
We fully expected the other side would see what we saw in our polling Tom Luna was toxic and that he would eventually be put on the bench, he wrote. But it never happened.
A No on Props 1, 2 and 3 campaign poll showed that 33 percent put the principal blame for problems facing public schools on elected officials for failing to provide adequate funding. Seventeen percent blamed unions for making it hard to fire bad teachers.
The vote that counted wasnt close. While presidential candidate Mitt Romney won 65 percent of the vote in Idaho, 57 percent rejected limits on unions in Proposition 1, 58 percent opposed pay for performance in Proposition 2, and 67 percent killed the Proposition 3 mandate for laptops and online classes.
Be careful going after teachers, Williams wrote. They are beloved.
$4M DEMONIZING CAMPAIGN Luna hasnt made a formal announcement for re-election but has said he plans to run. He declined to comment for this story.