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Overshadowed Gov. John Evans gets some love [The Idaho Statesman :: ]
[July 08, 2014]

Overshadowed Gov. John Evans gets some love [The Idaho Statesman :: ]

(Idaho Statesman (Boise) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) July 08--This story originally appeared in he Idaho Statesman May 24, 2013 "Medimont Reflections" is written by Chris Carlson, who served nine years as spokesman for former Gov. Cecil Andrus. In it, former Idaho Gov. John Evans receives some well-deserved attention.

Evans assumed the governor's office in 1977 when Andrus became President Jimmy Carter's interior secretary, taking Carlson with him to Washington.

Far less flashy than Andrus, Evans served for 10 years and might have upset GOP Sen. Steve Symms in 1986 had it not been for a late campaign visit from President Ronald Reagan. Andrus was narrowly elected to his third term that year.

Between them, Andrus and Evans maintained an unlikely Democratic grip on the governor's office for 24 years. No Idaho Democrat has come within 8 percentage points since Andrus chose not to seek a fifth term in 1994.

Two years ago Carlson published, "Cecil Andrus: Idaho's Greatest Governor, " a title Andrus attributed to his role as Carlson's surrogate father. After leaving office in 1995, Andrus was a business partner in a regional PR firm co-founded by Carlson, now called Gallatin Public Affairs.

Behind the curtain "Medimont Reflections, " Carlson's second book, is a pull-back-the-curtain account of his 40 years as a player in public life in Idaho.

Some of the freshest material comes in his chapter on Evans, who was elected to the state Senate at age 27 in 1952 and served 2 1/2 terms as governor.

Evans was "shrewd enough to back off" when Andrus decided to run for governor in 1970. Four years later, Evans got his reward: Andrus aggressively campaigned for Evans in his bid for lieutenant governor, including shifting his TV money into ads for Evans in the last days of the campaign.

Now 88 and living in Boise and Burley, Evans was a transparent man, who often left his office door open so visitors knew what he was up to.

Evans governed through extraordinarily difficult times. The 1980s recession hit Idaho's natural resource industries particularly hard, prompting so much migration that the state lost population from 1984 to 1986 despite a relatively high birth rate.

Working with a GOP Legislature, Evans managed to bolster education spending with a sales tax increase, preparing the state for the boom years enjoyed by Andrus in his second go-round.

"During his 10 years with his hand on the tiller most would say John Evans' hand was every bit as steady as Cecil Andrus', " writes Carlson.

The author When Chris Carlson couldn't find a job after the defeat of President Carter in 1980, he got one from Evans, "who didn't owe me a thing, " and convinced Evans to appoint him to the newly established Northwest Power Planning Council.

Carlson, who lives in the Kootenai County hamlet of Medimont, writes a newspaper column and has larded his 13 chapters with opinions. He says the council should be abolished because of its failure to revive salmon and steelhead; advocates breaching four dams on the lower Snake River; and offers his ideas on nuclear waste, the LDS influence on Idaho politics, gun control, abortion and end-of-life ethics.

Other tidbits His behind-the-scenes accounts of the creation of the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area and Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area include lovely details.

Among them: Andrus and former Republican Sen. Jim McClure poring over Hells Canyon maps on the floor of the governor's office; Andrus supplying the remnants of ducks and geese he'd shot to feed Nelson's eagles and falcons; and Carlson commandeering the Stetson of another press aide to protect Andrus' bald pate during a float trip with Robert Redford.

Carlson also recounts a kinder political era, when Republicans joined Democrats in celebrating Andrus being named interior secretary. Among those greeting Andrus at the Boise Airport were prominent Republicans including former Gov. and Sen. Len Jordan and his wife, Grace, state Sens. Lyle Cobbs and Dean Summers and Rep. Jack Kennevick.

Finally, the chapter on the compelling 1972 Senate race to replace the retiring Jordan is a entertaining tale of the twists and turns of a contest won by McClure.

Democrat Bud Davis, president of Idaho State University, was McClure's worthy opponent. Other characters include GOP Congressmen George Hansen tossing rhetorical bombs and the two campaign managers -- McClure's brilliant strategist Jim Goller and Davis' flamboyant chief, Jay Shelledy.

In a decisive blunder, Davis had signed a petition supporting the boycott of nonunion lettuce growers organized by Cesar Chavez. That misstep prompted distorted but effective full-page ads alleging Davis would cotton to a potato boycott. He lost by 21,000 votes, but retained his post at ISU because he was a good and competent man.

___ (c)2014 The Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho) Visit The Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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