What Idaho’s Superintendent Race Looks Like Now That Tom Luna Is Out

Jan 28, 2014

Tom Luna, flanked by his chief of staff Luci Willits, walks away from the podium after announcing he won't seek re-election.
Credit Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho’s top education job is up for grabs. That's after Superintendent Tom Luna said Monday he won't run for a third term.

Two Republicans planned to run against Luna in the May primary - north Idaho teacher John Eynon and American Falls principle Randy Jensen. But Luna's announcement that he wouldn't seek re-election could now open the door for more candidates.

There's been speculation that Deputy Superintendent Rodger Quarrels could run, or former state lawmaker Steve Smylie. Another former lawmaker, Melinda Smyser seems to be topping the speculation lists at the moment. 

Political analyst Jim Weatherby says this GOP primary could take away a possible advantage from the one Democrat who's running, Jana Jones.

“Given the fact now that there is going to be significant competition in the Republican primary, there won’t be much focus on the Democrat until the end of May, at the earliest,” Weatherby says.  

Weatherby says Jones' campaign head start won’t do her much good if no one is watching her run. And he says Jones may be disappointed she won’t get a rematch with Luna who narrowly beat her for the job in 2006. Weatherby says Jones would already have a strategy for facing Luna, but will have to start from scratch with anyone else.  

“I’m sure Jana Jones was looking at matching her professional credentials with Tom Luna’s in the educational realm,” Weatherby says. “And now she may actually be running against someone who has very strong credentials as well.”  

Jana Jones is a former teacher and administrator, Luna came to politics from the business world. Weatherby says Republican Randy Jensen has an impressive resume as a teacher and administrator, but not much political experience or resources. John Eynon, also a Republican, has even less political clout.  Weatherby says the race for Idaho's next school superintendent will come down to who else enters the race and who eventually wins that May Republican primary.

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