State schools superintendent Tom Luna and two Boise Republican lawmakers won’t face a special election later this summer, as a drive to recall the three elected officials, due in large part to school reform measures, came up empty. Supporters gathered less than a third of the necessary signatures, though they say their efforts will have a lasting impact.
“We’re going to get more and more people interested in the legislative process, and that’s only good for the people of Idaho,” said Nancy Berto of Boise, who helped lead the recall effort after protesting Luna’s legislative plans. “I think there was a lot of apathy in the last election, and that’s why people were elected who shouldn’t have been.”
The recall group reported gathering 50,000 signatures to force a special election for Luna, but needed more than 150,000. They also fell far short of the 4,725 signatures for recalling Boise Republicans Rep. Julie Ellsworth and Sen. Mitch Toryanski, who voted for Luna’s plan.
Berto said she thought those signature requirements, in a 75-day span, were too tough, and wants lawmakers to look at lowering the bar. “I think it is too high,” she said. “If they’re going to raise it that high, they need to give us more time to collect signatures.”
Luna released a statement saying that he’s focused on the education reforms, which face a public vote on next November’s ballot. “Opponents of the laws have tried to make it personal,” Luna said. “Reforming education has never been about me; it’s about giving our students more opportunities.”
Though the recall effort targeted three Republicans, organizers said the effort wasn’t a partisan battle. “We have never been financed by any union, political party, special interests groups, business, or corporate entity,” said recall leader Morgan Hill Jr.
Hill also released an unofficial list of donors to the recall effort on Sunday. The list showed $4,372 in contributions. The largest single donation being a $250 check written by former GOP gubernatorial candidate Ron “Pete” Peterson, who was one of several people at a news conference Monday wearing a blue “Recall Luna” shirt.
However, the Idaho Democratic Party publicized recall events on its websites, though field director Sally Boynton Brown said the party offered informal support. “As Democrats, we all want to support democracy,” Brown said. Brown and Hill also worked together on Keith Allred’s campaign for governor.
“We are grateful that the efforts we engaged in were successful in beating back the recall petitions,” Idaho Republican Party Chairman Norm Semanko said in a statement. “This is a huge blow to the anti-education reform establishment.”