Election Central

Melinda Smyser rules out run for Idaho school superintendent

Former Idaho Sen. Melinda Smyser told the Idaho Press-Tribune she will not run for Superintendent of Public Instruction to replace retiring Superintendent Tom Luna.

Top Republicans, including Luna, had said Smyser, a longtime teacher and counselor who now works for U.S. Sen. Jim Risch, would have made a formidable candidate.

“ … While I am flattered that he and many others would feel I am qualified to take on the challenge of succeeding him in this office, I am going to … decline the opportunity,” Smyser said in a news release submitted to the Press-Tribune Tuesday.

Luna said Monday he will not seek a third term. Smyser has served as Luna’s campaign treasurer.

Smyser’s quick decision may prompt others to consider making the race, including Luna’s chief deputy, former Caldwell Superintendent Roger Quarles, and former Rep. Steve Smylie, R-Boise, who narrowly lost to Luna in the 2006 GOP primary.

Two Republicans have already announced: Randy Jensen, a principal in American Falls, and John Eynon, a music teacher in Cottonwood.

Democrat Jana Jones, who lost a 51 percent to 49 percent race in the 2006 general election is the likely Democratic nominee.

In my column Tuesday, I reported that Smyser was lauded by GOP leaders including House Speaker Scott Bedke and Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill. Smyser declined comment Monday. She would have had to give up her job with Risch to run for partisan office, under the provisions of the Hatch Act.


Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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Posted in Election Central, Idaho Politics