CHUCK MALLOY: Fringe gubernatorial candidate packs a big wallet

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Go into any newspaper advertising department and salespeople will talk in great lengths about the virtues of running ads and the results can be produced.

Steve Pankey of Twin Falls, a Republican candidate for governor, offers a test case on the value of newspaper advertising. Since November, he has been running full-page ads in the Idaho Statesman and will continue to run those through May 13 — spending about $250,000. He says he can cover the bill.

Realistically, his chances of winning are about the same as Harley Brown and Pro-Life Richardson, two fringe candidates from the recent past. The difference is, Brown and Richardson didn’t have a quarter of a million dollars to throw at their campaigns.

When analyzing a gubernatorial race, political handicappers will look at a number of factors such as potential strengths in rural and urban areas, the religious vote in South Idaho and general appeal to the north. Pankey does not have advantages in any of those areas. Maybe he’ll get a few votes from those who watch wrestling on TV and think it’s real, but don’t count on it. It’s unlikely that he will gain enough votes to matter in the primary election, or take away votes from anyone else.

On the positive side, he apparently can afford spending a truckload of money on full-page ads with the state’s largest newspaper. Who says newspapers are dying?

Pankey says he’s on a mission. “I am a Christian and I believe that government is falling apart, and I’d like to save the republic. When I take my last breath on earth, I want to say I did the best I could.”

The polls are all wrong, he says. “I seriously think I can win. Most people who are conservative get their news online and three companies are doing online advertising for me. I expect to either win, or do far better than a lot of people think.”

Politicians will bring up a variety of issues, but he’s the first I’ve seen who puts Joseph McCarthy — the anti-communist demagogue from the 1950s — in his campaign literature. Essentially, Pankey says that McCarthy really was a good guy whose reputation was soiled by Edward R. Murrow and the rest of the liberal media.

“Decades later, released government files would show Senator McCarthy’s Communist-Globalist claims were accurate, but the truth was not worthy of TV news,” Pankey says.

The takeaway from this story: The liberal media “leaves people ignorant, and its purpose is to concentrate power in a few.”

Not all of his views are off the wall. He wants an “effective” education system, supports parental choice and opposes common core — which are fairly standard views for Republican candidates. He promises to “vigorously resist” attempts by any government agency to void or reduce earned benefits to Idaho veterans and their survivors (without citing incidents in which that is occurring). He supports a “fair and level” uniform low corporate tax rate. And he wants to make sure that state dollars are “better spent.” Again, he’s not far off the track.

He also wants to eliminate Idaho’s state income tax and ban federal money in the state of Idaho. Now, if he could only block Idahoans from paying federal taxes …

He offers pointed criticisms aimed at Congressman Raul Labrador and Boise developer Tommy Ahlquist, while giving props to Lt. Gov. Brad Little for being a “gentleman” on the campaign trail.

Of Labrador, Pankey says, the congressman is not as conservative as he claims to be. “There’s a whole lot of difference. I worship Jesus from the Bible and he worships Satan’s brother.” So much for getting the Mormon vote.

As for Ahlquist, Pankey sees him as a “Democrat running as a Republican,” and his campaign workers are especially rude.

But give Pankey some credit for putting his name out there. He seemed like a pleasant fellow over the phone, and I imagine that the Statesman’s advertising department appreciates his business. Only he can judge whether he is getting his money’s worth.

• • •

Chuck Malloy, a Silver Valley native and longtime Idaho journalist, is a columnist with Idaho Politics Weekly and an editorial writer with the Idaho Press-Tribune.

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