Idaho Teachers’ Union Endorses Incumbent Over Teacher

Jul 11, 2012

Idaho’s teacher’s union created a hubbub when it endorsed Republican Mike Simpson in his reelection bid for Idaho's Second Congressional District. It picked Simpson over Democratic state senator and part time teacher Nicole LeFavour.

“I know that I had spent years fighting in the legislature for budgets that didn’t cut teachers and increase class sizes,” LeFavour, says. She adds because of that work she deserved the support of the teachers’ union. “I was very surprised by the endorsement because I think that the IEA would base that on a person’s policy background and work for education.”

The endorsement has upset Democrats and some members of the Idaho Education Association. But IEA president Penni Cyr says Mike Simpson is a friend to education.

“Representative Simpson has been very supportive of making sure we have health care for children," she says. "He’s just been a good advocate for public education across the nation, frankly.”

The National Education Association that actually writes the $5,000 check based on the IEA’s recommendation, grades members of congress based on their support for education. Last year it gave Simpson a C.

Nicole LeFavour says not only has she been a stronger supporter of education. She’s been a champion of the teacher’s union and its priorities. Penni Cyr does not disagree.

“Nicole has been a great friend," Cyr says. "And we hope that we can continue with her help and I know that she comes out in support of rejecting the Luna laws and we appreciate that very much too.”

Idaho’s Student’s Come First education overhaul, what Cyr calls the Luna Laws, are up for voter repeal in November. The effort tops the IEA’s priority list and LeFavour is helping in the campaign. Simpson, though he's never publicly expressed an opinion on those laws, has historically supported Superintendent Tom Luna who champions them.

Penni Cyr points out the association’s political action committee, that voted to endorse Simpson, is made up of members. Doug Nilson says it was probably a very hard decision for them. Nilson teaches political science at Idaho State University. He says IEA members probably wanted to support LeFavour. But they also wanted to be on the winning team.

“If Nicole had provided evidence that she had a real good shot at winning they might have decided differently," he says. "But based on their analysis of the race they’re quite certain that Mike Simpson will win again as he’s won for several races in a row.”   

LaFavour says if the IEA was trying to pick the winner it misread the race. She says she has the support and organization to beat the seven term incumbent. And she says she’ll continue to be a friend to the IEA and to work for the repeal of Students Come First. Congressman Simpson declined to comment on the IEA’s endorsement, even to say whether or not he was glad to have it.