Election Central

Top lobbyists organized campaign school for 50 Idaho GOP incumbents

Eight of Idaho’s savviest Republican campaign hands advised incumbent lawmakers how to survive what Idaho GOP Chairman Barry Peterson has predicted will be the hottest primary election of his lifetime.

The “Republican Incumbents Campaign School” drew about 50 of the 85 GOP lawmakers to a 2 1/4-hour session held Jan. 10 at an event center two blocks from the Statehouse. The class was organized by former Sen. Skip Smyser and his lobbying partner Jason Kreizenbeck, a former chief of staff to Gov. Butch Otter. House Speaker Scott Bedke and Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill gave opening remarks.

The lawmakers got schooled in campaign messaging, fundraising and polling.

The school’s other panelists were Jason Lehosit, a former campaign aide to Otter and campaign consultant; Todd Cranney, a top aide on the Mitt Romney presidential campaign; Greg Strimple, who polled for John McCain’s 2008 presidential run; Jeff Malmen, a former chief of staff to Otter and former Gov. Phil Batt and now vice president of public affairs at Idaho Power; Phil Reberger, former chief of staff to Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, the dean of Idaho Republican strategists and a lobbyist whose clients include Blue Cross and United Health; and Mike Reynoldson, a former executive director of the Idaho GOP who is government affairs manager at Micron and chairman of the board of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry.

“These guys have been around for a long time,” said Sen. Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls. “They have valuable information and made it available to a large cross-section of candidates.”

For a full report, check out Sunday’s Idaho Statesman in print and online. The package will include comment from Otter’s primary opponent, Sen. Russ Fulcher, who was invited but did not attend; House Democratic Leader John Rusche; polling dope from Strimple on state and national issues; and a primer on the rules for voting in the May 20 primary.

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