- Associated Press - Friday, October 28, 2016

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Republican Sen. Curt McKenzie downplayed his partisan ties and defended his resume as a qualified candidate for an open seat on the Idaho Supreme Court, while Rupert attorney Robyn Brody pointed to her 20 years of working in a variety of court rooms during their first and only televised debate Friday.

“I am proud that those who I worked closely with have supported me,” said McKenzie. “Every member of the majority leadership team on the House and Senate has endorsed me.”

McKenzie is currently endorsed almost entirely by Republican lawmakers, as well as Idaho Chooses Life, an anti- abortion advocacy group, and the National Rifle Association.

Under questioning, McKenzie said that even though he had never argued a case before either the Idaho Supreme Court or the Idaho Court Appeals, he still had valuable experience working in front of district and magistrate judges.

McKenzie added that Idaho has a long history of lawmakers who went on to serve on the state’s highest court.

Brody has argued nine cases in front of the state’s highest court.

“I’ve had one job my whole career and that’s taking care of people’s problems in the courts and talking about what the law is, what the policies are and making excellent decisions,” Brody said.

Brody, a first-time political candidate, recently received higher ratings than McKenzie in an anonymous survey conducted by the Idaho State Bar, which asked members to rank the candidates running in the supreme court race.

Brody described the rating “incredibly important” because it’s based on attorneys who have to work with judges on a daily basis. McKenzie countered that anonymous surveys are often biased and that members may only know him as “conservative lawmaker” - not for his time in a courtroom.

Supreme Court candidates are banned from talking about their past of current political party affiliations - even though political party registrations are public records - as well as giving their opinions on how they would vote on previous or pending state supreme court decisions.

Excluding experience, both candidates overall agreed on most of the questions submitted by the moderators, reiterating that they would apply the law as it is written and not what they would like to see happen.

Both came out against requiring attorneys to report their pro bono work and the two agreed that they would like to see more electronic transparency inside the judicial system to make public documents accessible to Idahoans.

Friday’s hour-long debate was sponsored by the Idaho Press Club, Idaho Public Television and the League of Women Voters of Idaho.

The battle over the state Supreme Court seat is the top statewide competitive race in the upcoming general election.

Court Chief Justice Jim Jones announced in March that he would not run for a third, six-year term on the state’s highest court. That attracted four candidates to the non-partisan post, which was whittled down to two after no one got the majority of the vote in the May primary.

The last time a supreme court justice race required a runoff was in 1998.

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