Idaho Dem. executive director visits Weiser, talks about goals

Idaho Democratic Party Executive Director Jared DeLoof, left, speaks with members of the Washington County Democrats at their monthly meeting held last week at the Weiser Public Library. DeLoof says he wants at least one Democrat candidate in each Idaho legislative district in 2024.
Philip A. Janquart
Idaho Democratic Party Executive Director Jared DeLoof was in Weiser last week to meet with locals about the future of the party in Idaho and goals going forward.
 DeLoof, who moved to Idaho from central Pennsylvania in 2021, spoke during a monthly meeting of the Washington County Democrats held Tuesday, Feb. 28 at the Weiser Public Library.  
 About 25 people attended.
 “I had gotten my start in county politics and county parties,” said DeLoof who worked on former President Barack Obama’s two presidential campaigns. “I found out about the job in Idaho and did it (applied) just for a little bit of interview practice to begin with. The further I got in the process and the more I met people here, I thought this could be a great challenge. So, in May 2021, I packed up the car and moved to Boise and haven’t regretted it yet.”
 He told the Signal American on Friday that the goal is to use the 2022 midterm election as a model on how to move forward and strengthen the Democratic party in Idaho.
 “What I was talking to Dems (in Weiser) about was kind of a recap of the 2022 election and some of the lessons learned there and how we’re turning that into what our action plan is, not only for this year, but really kind of a focus of what we can accomplish in 10 years,” he said. “I think overall … the party showed a lot of strength. We raised more money than we ever have. I think we raised twice as much money as the Republican Party of Idaho; we have an operating budget of about $1.2 million and the vast majority of that went into supporting our candidates.” Idaho Democrats, according to DeLoof, had a good showing.
 “What we saw was that we held in the Senate, and that was a big win, and we only lost one seat in the House, which was very, very close,” he said. “If you look at the races, like out in (District) 26 or in 29 or 15, most of those races were decided by 200 votes or less … so, we really think the strength of the party and being able to invest in the party the way we did last year prevented what could have been a wipe-out scenario. We feel like we held the line.”
 DeLoof said 2023 is shaping up to be a big “build year,” the party investing in increasing voter rates among young voters. One way they are doing that is by putting college Dems on the payroll.
 “We started this January,” he said. “We told them, ‘We are going to train you on how to do voter registration, how to talk to your peers, how to put on an event.’ We have a weekly call where we train them and then they are on campuses, doing voter registration … talking to students about what is going on.” Idaho Democrats also plan to target Hispanic voters.
 “There are, by our estimates, about 50,000 unregistered Hispanic voters in the state and we are really – to gain credibility in the community – doing a lot of service-oriented stuff: we are putting on concerts, hosting festivals, and events, and just last month started a citizenship class series where we are actually taking members of the immigrant community and helping them prepare for the naturalization exam, which we are hoping will have a ripple effect on family members and, once they are citizens, remembering that the Democratic party was there for them.”
 DeLoof said that one of the biggest challenges facing the Democratic party in Idaho are newcomers to the state.
 “For the first time, we have some data [showing] the actual right-wing migration is real in Idaho,” he said, citing an annual poll conducted by Boise State University. “You really do see that the folks that have lived here for five years or less, or 10 years or less, really do rank themselves much more conservative than native Idahoans who have lived here their entire lives, or the past 20 years. It appears that big, right-wing experiment that folks have been calling for, there is some traction to that.” He added that it appears more conservative individuals are leaving California and coming to Idaho.
 “They are kind of taking over the traditional Republican party here,” he said. “I mean, if you look at the primary in 2022 … a bunch of these Republicans that have been there forever, that were more reasonable on some issues, got just totally taken out in the primary and I don’t know if that happens without the influx of these right-wing Californians coming here.”
 He said another problem facing Idaho Dems is that those who might run for the party feel they don’t have a chance of winning in a red state.
 “My goal is to have at least one Democrat running in all 35 legislative districts in 2024,” he said. “There’s got to be a choice. We have to give folks a choice or we become a one-party state and that just can’t happen, not how extreme the Republicans are now. That would be really bad for Idaho.”
 DeLoof said Idaho Democrats did not support Senate Bill 1038, which would have provided vouchers for families who choose to homeschool their children or send them to private schools. The bill, termed as the “Freedom in Education Savings Account,” failed in the Senate on a 12-23-0 vote. The legislation would have created education savings accounts for parents who would have received $6,000 annually per child for private school tuition, tutors, and books. The initial cost was projected to be around $45 million in 2024, with the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy estimating it to grow to more than $363 million by 2025.
 Idaho Democrats support HB48, which amends existing law to remove prohibition on minimum wage-setting by local governments. DeLoof said the party also supports the legalization of medical marijuana in Idaho. 
 “I want people in rural places to know that the Democrats are there for them,” DeLoof said. “We are in the communities, talking about the issues that matter to them.”
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