Tuesday was an eventful day for political announcements — and curiously, the epicenter of the news was sprawling by sparsely populated Idaho County.
Idaho County Commissioner Jim Chmelik said he will take on incumbent Lt. Gov. Brad Little in the May 20 GOP primary.
“It’s time the Republican Party present opposition to what the federal government is bringing into Idaho in terms of health care, education and (public) lands,” Chmelik told the Lewiston Tribune’s Bill Spence. “I think we’re going down the wrong road and I’m going to stand up and say something about it.”
Chmelik, a second-term commissioner, has been an outspoken advocate of transferring federal lands into state management. A legislative interim committee is studying that issue and will make recommendations in 2015 — although the 2013 Legislature already went on record in support of a transfer, saying it would help boost public school funding.
Little, appointed in 2009 and elected in 2010, announced his re-election plans in September.
Lieutenant governor is a part-time post with limited responsibilities. The lieutenant governor presides over the state Senate and casts tie-breaking votes — a rarity in a 35-member chamber. As second in command in the executive branch, the lieutenant governor stands in when the governor is out of state or incapacitated.
Chmelik shared Tuesday’s spotlight with John Eynon — a Grangeville resident who teaches music and drama at Cottonwood’s Prairie Junior-Senior High School. Eynon announced his plans to run for state schools superintendent Tuesday, centering his campaign around the Idaho Core Standards championed by incumbent Tom Luna and other leading Idaho Republicans.
How unlikely is it for Idaho County to hold sway over the political news cycle, even for one day?
Consider the numbers. While Idaho County is the state’s most sprawling county, at 8,503 square miles, it ranks just 20th in population. According to 2012 U.S. Census Bureau estimates, the county’s population is 16,308.