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Joining the Wrong Side

by Marty Trillhaase, Editorial
Post Register, October 18, 2006

Take your pick: Who won Thursday's gubernatorial debate between Republican Butch Otter and Democrat Jerry Brady? It's clear who lost -- Idaho's salmon, eastern Idaho irrigators, electric ratepayers and taxpayers.

Speaking in Lewiston, both candidates ruled out breaching four dams on the Lower Snake River in eastern Washington state.

That's not new for Otter. But Brady, as publisher of this newspaper, presided over an editorial policy supporting dam breaching as a way to restore imperiled salmon runs.

Thursday, Brady was firm: "I'm not going to take out dams."

Is this a flip-flop on Brady's part? Otter says it is. Brady says a newspaper editor can be provocative. A governor must be practical.

You decide.

But what's disappointing is how Brady has now joined Otter on the wrong side. Here are the realities:

Politically, it's dicey for any candidate to tell Lewiston voters he'd consider breaching the dams and shutting down their seaport. The last guy to do it was Democratic gubernatorial candidate Robert Huntley in 1998 -- and he got trounced by Republican Dirk Kempthorne. What you look for is flexibility. For instance, Democratic congressional challenger Jim Hansen is willing to keep options on the table. A spokesman for Rep. Mike Simpson says he hasn't ruled anything out.

So why not ask:

It's time to challenge assumptions -- that all dams are the same, that there are no hard choices to make between fish or dams or that these dams in Washington state are cost-effective.

Otherwise, Idaho and the region remain adrift. And if someone like Brady won't lead, that's where we'll remain.

Marty Trillhaase, Editorial
Joining the Wrong Side
Post Register, October 18, 2006

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