Friday, December 31, 2010

New candidates characterize elections

5 contenders ran first-time campaigns


By WILLY COOK
Express Staff Writer

Michelle Stennett and the late state Sen. Clint Stennett posed for this photo last summer. Michelle successfully ran for her husbandís seat in November. Michelle had filled in for Clint during the 2010 legislative session and was officially appointed his substitute after his death in October. Clint was elected to nine terms and served District 25 for nearly 20 years before succumbing to brain cancer. Photo by Willy Cook

The county and state had a spate of elections this year, and though not all of them were contested, the ones that were ended up being more lively than usual.

While local state Senate candidates debated what constituted appropriate sources of campaign funding, two newbie candidates for county commissioner and state representative went up against a three-term legislator and a long-time local candidate.

District 25 Senate

First-time Senate candidates Democrat Michelle Stennett and Republican Jim Donoval faced off after a Democratic primary whittled down Stennett's opponents.

Though she had filled in for her late husband, former state Sen. Clint Stennett, when he was unable to serve during the 2009 legislative session, Stennett had not run for elected office before 2010. Clint Stennett, an influential Democrat who represented Blaine County in the Legislature for nearly 20 years, died in October after a long battle with brain cancer.

Donoval had run for a seat in his home state of Illinois in 1992, losing by a small margin. However, he had not run for office in Blaine County before this year.

Carey Mayor Randall Patterson, the Constitution Party candidate, challenged the two, despite Donoval's repeated demands for him to drop out of the race.

Donoval's demands for his opponents continued throughout the race, as he asked Stennett to "give back" donations from political action committees and attempted to set up his own political debates that would have excluded Patterson.

Neither demand was met. The political forums, including the one hosted by the Idaho Mountain Express, included all three contenders.

In the end, Stennett nearly swept the district, winning all precincts except Gooding (which favored Donoval) and Carey (which voted for mayor and native son Patterson).

Stennett will take her seat in the Legislature in January. Though she served as a fill-in during the 2010 session, Stennett was officially appointed as the substitute for her late husband in October before being officially sworn in on Dec. 2.

District 25 House

Democratic Rep. Wendy Jaquet ran unopposed to keep her seat for a ninth term, but Rep. Donna Pence fought first-time Republican candidate Alex Sutter to retain her seat for a fourth term.

One of the main issues of this race was state income tax. While Sutter argued for elimination of the tax, saying it would aid small businesses, Pence said the income tax is necessary to keep the state financially solvent.

Pence won her seat narrowly the last two times she ran in a contested election, and the 2010 race was no exception. Sutter, a Richfield resident, led in results for much of the night before Pence took 64 percent of Blaine County to win the district.

Blaine County Commission

Another first-time candidate, current appointed County Commissioner Angenie McCleary, was challenged by long-time candidate and Ketchum resident Mickey Garcia.

While Garcia railed against county planners, McCleary said she believed the county had benefited greatly from thoughtful planning and land-use decisions.

Garcia had run for commissioner in 2006, gaining 33 percent of the vote but losing to former Commissioner Sarah Michael.

This time, Garcia lost to McCleary, who was appointed to replace Michael in July 2008. McCleary won 76 percent of the county's vote to retain her seat.

Katherine Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com




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