Bair and Johnson: Statists of the Week

The last thing voters in Bingham County had to say to Julie Van Orden was that they didn’t want her to represent them in the Idaho Legislature. That was 2018, when the electors of District 31 ousted the liberal Republican in favor of a more conservative voice, Julianne Young. 

But now, Van Orden is back, and this time, she’s a senator, having received zero votes from the district constituents.

This is happening because Sen. Steve Bair has decided he won’t serve the remainder of his term, but he’s also not resigning from office. Instead, he’s allowing a substitute, Van Orden, to take his place in the Legislature. 

Similarly, Sen. Dan Johnson, a Lewiston liberal Republican who recently won the mayor’s race in that town, has decided he, too, will not resign his legislative seat and will appoint Robert Blair as his replacement. 

That’s not how any of this works. At least, that’s not how it’s supposed to work. That’s why Sens.  Steve Bair and Dan Johnson are this week’s Statists of the Week. 

If a legislator has no intent to return to Boise — as is the case with Bair and Johnson — their seats should be declared open. The local GOP central committee should be afforded the chance to send three names to the governor from which he would name a replacement. Why they’re doing it this way is anyone’s guess, but it’s probably because the GOP establishment is worried that the local Republican central committee will mount an effort to get the governor to appoint a conservative to the seats. 

This is what passes for normal in Idaho politics and at the statehouse, and it’s been like this for a long time. A decade ago, Edgar Malepeai, a Democrat state senator from Pocatello, skipped out the bulk of his last two terms in office to take care of his ailing wife. Malepeai appointed replacements to serve in his stead, making it confusing for constituents who couldn’t be certain who was representing their interests at the Capitol. 

More commonly, legislators appoint substitutes to cast votes on their behalf for days or weeks, and those substitutes are given the same rights and responsibilities as lawmakers who were actually elected to office. 

In 2003, as the legislative session dragged on into May, making it the longest session in the state’s history. Rep. Tom Trail of Moscow appointed former Rep. Gary Young to fill in. Young was a conservative, and rose to his feet to debate against then-Gov. Dirk Kempthorne’s proposed sales tax increase. “My constituents did not send me to Boise to raise taxes,” Young famously told the House. It was memorable because in 2002, voters sent Young packing. They hadn’t sent him to Boise at all, yet there he was, voting on stuff. 

A friend of mine once called this strange process “the legislator as a fungible commodity,” replaceable at the drop of a hat, like Dick York in “Bewitched.” Maybe you’ll notice, maybe you won’t. 

But this process diminishes accountability. It denies voters and the elected remembers of the political party an opportunity to select the men and women who will truly represent them during a legislative session. It’s a convenient way to give friends and supporters a chance to serve as a senator or representative for days, weeks, or months — a rare gift indeed. 

And that’s why Steve Bair and Dan Johnson are our statists of the week. Who should be next week’s winner? Drop me a line: and let me know your thoughts. 

Statist of the Week: Idaho Redistricting Commission

It’s time once again for our Statist of the Week, and this one only has a chance to come around once every 10 years. It’s the entire Idaho Redistricting Commission. That’s the six-member panel that’s charged with redrawing the state’s legislative and congressional boundaries after every U.S. Census. 

The commission is supposed to come up with the best map possible, playing within a specific set of rules — avoiding splitting up counties, keeping communities of interest together, and so on. Most importantly, it is supposed to not focus on incumbents in making decisions. During this process, the public has a chance to weigh in and present their own maps for dividing Idaho’s Legislature into 35 legislative districts. 

In the past redistricting efforts, long before the commission was created in the 1990s, dividing the state into new districts has been the stuff of partisan intrigue, moving a legislative boundary here or there to impact the number of Republicans or Democrats. But not any more. 

As I’ve noted before, Idaho’s House of Representatives is the most conservative it has ever been. Yet this year, the mapping process was all about building a map to hurt as many conservative legislators as possible. You do this by putting conservatives into districts with other conservatives, or by putting conservatives in races with more liberal incumbents and drawing the districts to benefit the liberals. Or you insert conservative legislators into brand new legislative districts so that they no longer benefit from the relationships and voting records their constituents have come to know. 

The best example is Heather Scott, who is one of the leading conservative members in the House of Representatives. Scott has represented Bonner and Boundary counties, Idaho’s two uppermost counties. But the new proposed map puts the border of the legislative district she once represented a tiny bit north of her house. Rather than representing Sandpoint, Bonners Ferry, and Moyie Springs, she would now need to drive about four hours south to Weippe to meet constituents. 

And this kind of anti-conservative gerrymandering is occurring all over the state with the new proposed map. It’s bad by design for conservatives in the Legislature, which in turn impacts the ability of Idahoans to access their legislators. 

This is the kind of political monkey business that only a statist would do, and that’s why the Idaho Redistricting Commission is our Statist of the Week. 

Who should be next week’s winner? Write to me,, and we’ll talk to you again next time.

Wayne crowns Statist of the Quarter, Statist of the Week

It’s time once again for our Statist of the Week, but before we get to that, we also need to announce the winner of the Statist of the Quarter for Q3 2021. The winners, clocking in with an amazing 47.6 percent of the vote — almost a majority — are U.S. Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch. Way to go, Mike and Jim. You might remember that they famously voted for Joe Biden’s massive, horrific, and completely unjustifiable $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, in which less than half of the bill is about infrastructure. 

Crapo and Risch narrowly beat out Congressman Mike Simpson, who was nominated for voting for a bill that would take away guns from American service men and women without due process. But don’t worry. Simpson will face Crapo, Risch, and Brad Little and friends in the contest for Statist of the Year. 

Now, let’s turn to this week’s Statist of the Week. This week’s winner is none other than State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra. Ybarra would have won just for defending the state’s efforts to promote social emotional learning. But after I wrote about how Ybarra’s Department of Education has decided to stop using the words “social emotional learning” and will instead obscure the agency’s social justice work in words that are less politically charged, Ybarra decided to attack the Idaho Freedom Foundation. She all but accused us of causing students to commit suicide. That’s just pathetic and wrong. Ybarra should know better. 

But Ybarra followed up that rant with yet another barrage of lies. Her office put out a press release that tries to hide from parents the fact that Idaho’s education test scores are going down, not up. This is the exact kind of thing that statists do — defend government failures, hide real results from the public, use euphemisms to describe programs that constituents wouldn’t like, and blame others when the heat is on. That’s Sherri Ybarra. And that’s why she’s this week’s Statist of the Week. 
Who should be next week’s winner? Drop me a note,, or leave a comment below. Be sure to also share this content with your friends and we’ll talk to you again next time.

Statist of the Week: Gov. Brad Little

brad little

A lot of people ask me about what the government can or should do about affordable housing. They may or may not know that I won a pretty big award in 1999 for investigative reporting on housing in Idaho, so I know something about the topic. 

And what I have learned is that the lack of affordable housing has everything to do with the government. If housing is unaffordable, most of that is a problem caused by government. Not all of it, most of it. 

And that’s why this week’s Statist of the Week is Gov. Brad Little. Little is reportedly looking to dump a bunch of federal money into the state’s Housing Trust Fund. The fund was set up in the early 1990s but never funded. There’s never been so much as a plug nickel in it. But now, Gov. Little is looking to change that.

Housing affordability is a problem the government created, and you would not expect government to solve it. I can’t begin to tell you how many times over the years some politician has promised some program to make housing more affordable. But pay no attention to the government officials who are responsible for higher property taxes, mandates on building construction, zoning regulations, requirements for open space, and so on. 

Isn’t it kind of weird that two-thirds of Idaho land is locked up and housing is unaffordable? Isn’t it strange that government officials, like those in Boise, resist housing projects and then complain about the lack of affordable housing?

The last thing that Idahoans need is another program — or more bureaucrats, or another governor — meddling in the housing market. But statists have a weird habit of always suggesting that government will solve this problem when it has never done so before. And that’s why this week’s Statist of the Week is Gov. Brad Little. 

Who should be next week’s winner? Drop me a note at and tell me what you think.

Statist of the Week: Congressman Mike Simpson

I have been re-reading my U.S. Constitution. Did you know there’s a part where it says “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”? Of course you did! But this week’s Statist of the Week apparently does not know this. Or he does not think it’s important enough of a principle to defend. He’s Congressman Mike Simpson, and he just voted to infringe on our Second Amendment rights.  

Simpson voted in favor of a bill that would allow the government to confiscate guns from members of our armed forces. The gun-seizing provisions are in the annual National Defense Authorization Act that provides money for the U.S. military. 

This gun-grab without due process is known as a “red flag” law, which gives the government the ability to take away someone’s weapons or prevent them from  possessing a firearm. A member of the American military could be denied their Second Amendment rights, and they wouldn’t be able to do anything about it for a minimum of 30 days.

I asked Congressman Simpson’s office for an explanation for this vote, and his office sent out a statement in which Simpson is quoted as saying he opposes the anti-gun rights provision that he voted for. He said it was added by House Democrats during the initial drafting process. Simpson went on to say that he expects the provision to be removed from the NDAA before it becomes law but that the bill needed to advance to the Senate so that a conference committee could work out the differences between the two chambers. 

But that explanation just does not sit well for me. Just go back to the Constitution, which Simpson took an oath to uphold. Simpson swore, without condition, he’d support the Constitution. There’s no asterisk in that oath that says it’s OK to let a constitutionally-protected right or two slide here and there, with the promise that the U.S. Senate will clean things up later. 

Simspon could have voted no, and if enough members did the same, the bill might have failed. Rejecting the NDAA would not mean that our military would not be funded. It just means that Congress would have had to go work on another bill. And maybe that second attempt would advance without the gun-snagging provision included. 

If a majority of the Congress opposed the provision to take guns away from service members without due process, it’s quite possible the matter would stop being pushed each year. 

This is not Mike Simpson’s first time as a Statist of the Week. In fact, he’s in the running for Statist of the Year because he proposed breaching the Snake River dams that are vital to Idaho’s economy, agriculture, tourism, and electricity generation He famously said he doesn’t even know if breaching the dams will accomplish his stated goal of saving the salmon.

On guns and salmon, Simpson is out of touch with Idahoans, but he’s very much in touch with his inner statist, which is why he’s this week’s Statist of the Week. 

Who should be next week’s winner? Drop me a note at or leave a comment down below the video. Don’t forget to subscribe to our video upload channels, hit the like button and share this with your friends and frenemies. We’ll talk to you again soon.

Statist of the Week: Marlene Tromp

I was just getting ready to declare this week’s winner of the coveted Statist of the Week award. It was just about to be the entire Boise City Council, which just voted to spend $15,000 warning pet owners about the dangers of hot asphalt. 

I mean, that’s really important, I guess, what with it being almost October and temperatures getting down into the 40s and all. And plus, what did people do about their pets before city government came along to warn them that hot pavement might hurt your dog’s paws? Maybe next, the city will put signs up at Starbucks warning that your coffee is hot. Or maybe signs at the ice cream store warning that you’ll get brain freeze if you eat too fast. 

Warn your neighbors, there’s bad stuff out there, and you can never be too careful. Boise city government is here to save the day.

But just as I was about to start writing, along comes Boise State University President Marlene Tromp to steal the show. Tromp announced Friday afternoon that students attending the Boise State Broncos football game would need to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test. 

Putting aside the fact that BSU waited until the day before the game to announce its decision — that’s just bad leadership — Tromp is now the first state employee to impose a COVID vaccine mandate on people in Idaho. 

And why wouldn’t she? Tromp has been acting like a tyrant since she got here. She does whatever the heck she wants. If the Legislature tells BSU to get back to its core mission or it cuts $1.5 million from BSU’s social justice programs, Tromp has proven she’ll just ignore the state’s elected senators and representatives. 

Cut our funding? We’ll make sure the gender equity center and the school’s various racist programs stay no matter what lawmakers say.

This time, Tromp is ignoring the intent of Gov. Brad Little’s executive order banning state agencies from requiring vaccine passports. Yes, it’s a problem that Little has decided to let Tromp get away with it, but that does not change the fact that she is openly a statist who believes in the use of government force, and this time she’s applying that force to ticket holders for Boise State football games. 

Sure she uses BSU as an extension of her own social justice views, but now she’s happy to test out some authoritarianism, too, in a move that is clearly about government control. So while the do-gooders at Boise City Hall are definitely statists for believing government has to solve every problem, Marlene Tromp is a statist who uses force when given the opportunity. And that’s why BSU President Marlene Tromp is our statist of the week. 

Who should be next week’s winner? Drop me a note,, leave a comment, like, and share this view and we’ll talk to you again soon. 

Statist of the Week: Luke Malek

This week’s Statist of the Week wants you to believe he’s a true conservative. Malek, who is running to serve as Idaho’s next lieutenant governor, recently sent out a fundraising letter in which he says, “True conservatives stand for smaller government. True conservatives don’t tell employers how to run their businesses.” 

We agree. What Malek is saying is 100% true. True conservatives stand for smaller government and they stay out of the business of running someone else’s business. And that’s why Malek is not a true conservative. Just look at his voting record from when he was in the state House of Representatives. 

Malek voted to increase government regulation over the bail bondsmen, credit reporting agencies, electricians, HVAC technicians, sign language interpreters, dietitians, insurance companies, marriage counselors, genetic counselors, optometrists, massage therapy schools, oil and gas industry, real estate agents, auto dealers, and naturopaths. And that’s just spending a few minutes looking at his record of his last few years in office. 

Malek also voted to create or expand numerous government agencies and programs, including his vote in 2013, his first year in office, to create an Obamacare insurance exchange, and later in his career, to create a new taxpayer-funded scholarship program for college dropouts. 

In 2015, Malek scored a 37 percent on the Freedom Index. In 2016, his Freedom score was 59 percent. In 2017, he clocked in at 42 percent. And in 2018, his final year in the Legislature, he came in with a Freedom score at 66.4 percent.

In his tenure in the Legislature, no one could mistake Malek for a conservative. But now, he wants to convince people that he’s the guy who would vote against telling businesses what to do and how to do it. And that’s why he’s this week’s Statist of the Week. Who should be next week’s winner? Let me know by emailing

And this is your last chance to vote for our Statist of the Quarter for Q2 of 2021. You can vote by clicking here.