In Red Idaho, New Democratic Party Chair Says His Candidates Can Be Competitive

Aug 6, 2015

Bert Marley
Credit Idaho Democratic Party

Leaders of Idaho’s Democratic Party picked their next chairman Saturday. Bert Marley of McCammon replaces Larry Kenck, who resigned earlier this year for health reasons.

Marley, 67, is a former teacher and state lawmaker. He lost the lieutenant governor’s race last fall by 30 percentage points.  Democrats, in fact, lost all five statewide races. 

Marley spoke to KBSX’s Scott Graf Wednesday.  

Q: Considering the party’s recent struggles, what interested you in this job?

A: Well, there are probably a number of reasons, but I think the thing that I’m most excited about is that we’re growing, we’re moving in the right direction. It’s not as fast as I’d like to see it, but we’re making progress. We continue to grow, we continue to make gains, and we’re at a tipping point here in Idaho. I think we’re going to see us continue to grow and polling has shown that people are trending towards Democrats. It looks like a good time to be involved and try to move it forward.

Q: We are nine months removed from a clean sweep by the GOP in all five of the statewide races last year, including what many in the Democratic Party saw as a very winnable public schools superintendent race. There are a lot of people who might hear that message of optimism and say, what a minute, it wasn’t that long ago that that [sweep] happened. How do you reconcile those two things?

A: I think there’s a couple things we can look at. One is the race between Jana Jones and Sherri Ybarra where Democrats got almost 50 percent. That was a really close race. People talk about how Democrats are dead because they didn’t elect someone statewide, but I think that’s crazy. There are still a lot of people voting Democratic and it’s going to continue to grow. That race is an example that we had really good quality candidates and I think we’re going to continue to make progress.

Q: There’s a lament amongst Democrats that no matter the candidate, a lot of voters in Idaho will simply look for the candidate who happens to have the 'R' by their name. How do you get people who’ve done that for years to stop and take a closer look at Democratic candidates?

A: It goes back to we just have to keep sharing our message. We have a lot of strength here and I think we’re going to be able to keep moving people to look at Democrats. And you’re right, people just tend to vote the way they’ve always voted and now we’re in a position to have people stop and take a good look at our candidates, and as that happens—it’s a transition but we continue to make progress in that area—I think we’ll continue to do it, to where people are going to stop and say, I’m an independent. Idahoans are mostly independent. They have tended to be leaning one direction more than the other, but I think that’s trending away and we’re going to see more and more people stop and look at the individual candidates and say 'this guy makes more sense and I’m going to vote for him.'

Q: What are you going to do that past leaders of the party have not done as successfully?

A: I think most of our leaders in the past have been fairly successful. They’ve been hard working chairs and have done a good job. But I’m hoping that I am able to help us continue to grow, continue to focus on our message, and continue to work with our Democrats to move our agenda forward. I’m excited because I see this change, I see this tipping point coming and we’re going to continue to make gains and people are going to continue to look at the message we have and the people we have running. I’m pretty optimistic about the future and my job is going to be to help facilitate the people that are running, working with our staff and our democrats all over the state and to energize people and keep us focused on what the end game is here—and that’s to elect more democrats in the state of Idaho. 

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