[Vision2020] Ringo juggles congressional hopes with legislative duties

Moscow Cares moscowcares at moscow.com
Thu Jan 30 03:56:14 PST 2014

Courtesy of today's (January 30, 2014) Lewiston Tribune.

Up Front/Commentary: Ringo juggles congressional hopes with legislative duties

BOISE - You wouldn't know from watching her that this is the final session of Shirley Ringo's final year in the Idaho Legislature.
She's been as active as ever in the budget committee, grilling agency heads about unmet needs and highlighting the consequences of past fiscal decisions.
What's different this time around is what goes on after her legislative day is done.
The 73-year-old Moscow Democrat announced last summer that she won't seek an eighth term in the Idaho House. Instead, she's challenging incumbent Republican Raul Labrador for the 1st Congressional District seat.
While she looks forward to debating Labrador on the issues, much of Ringo's time now is spent on her least-favorite aspect of running for office: trying to raise the $750,000 to $1 million that will likely be needed to win the race.
That's roughly six times the amount she raised in her eight legislative contests combined.
"I think the most I ever raised in any one race was in the low 20s," Ringo said last week, during a break in her committee activities.
Budget isn't as critical an issue in legislative campaigns. If a candidate comes up short in donations, Ringo said, they can always work harder, knocking on more doors and attending more events. But in a congressional district that stretches from Nevada to the Canadian border, lack of money is more likely to translate into lack of votes.
"We can't do it all with parades," she said.
Ringo tries to spend a couple of hours each day making fundraising phone calls - or as she calls it, "putting the ask out there." If she has any free time during the day, she'll step over to a friend's law office a few blocks from the Capitol; otherwise, she makes calls from her daughter's home in the evening.
Although she has a 7-1 record in campaigns since 1998, the biggest issue she's run into so far is well-heeled donors who are reluctant to commit.
"I have a number of people who support me enthusiastically, but who don't have deep pockets," Ringo said. "For them, writing a check for $50 is hard. It takes a lot of those to add up to $750,000. The most problematic thing for me is the strong Democratic donors who could comfortably write a check for $500 or $1,000, but don't because they don't think the investment will pay off."
That type of thinking "becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy," she said, as it adds to the already significant fundraising disadvantage any Idaho Democrat or challenger faces when trying to unseat incumbent Republicans.
The money issue is particularly frustrating since Ringo thinks Labrador is vulnerable on policy.
"There's no doubt voters are frustrated with Congress because it's so dysfunctional - and there's no doubt in my mind that Raul is part of that problem," Ringo said.
She said her own voting record, by contrast, demonstrates a long commitment to issues like education - both K-12 and higher education - a fair and adequate tax system, and social safety net programs that ensure individuals have reasonable opportunities to lead productive, happy lives.
"I think many Idahoans share those values," Ringo said. "If I get the opportunity to talk with them, the Democratic label becomes less important and we can start focusing on what we'd like to accomplish together."
Strategizing with her small campaign staff about how to reach those pools of potential supporters is an aspect of the race she greatly enjoys. She also looks forward to visiting different communities in the district.
"Even in Latah County there's such a difference between communities," she said. "When you look at the cultural differences from Bonners Ferry to southwestern Idaho, it's quite a range. I look forward to learning more about that. I know it will be a rich experience."
Once the legislative session is over, she'll switch from fundraising mode to more active campaigning. Her staff is laying the groundwork now.
"As soon as the session is over I'll put my running shoes on and be on my way," Ringo said.

Seeya 'round town, Moscow, because . . .

"Moscow Cares" (the most fun you can have with your pants on)
Tom Hansen
Moscow, Idaho
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