TWIN FALLS, Idaho (AP) The Idaho Education Association's political fundraising arm endorsed Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson in his 2012 election against Democrat Nicole LeFavour.
The endorsement has raised questions, because Simpson is a supporter of Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, the architect of "Students Come First" education overhauls that the union is attempting to repeal this November.
Simpson gave $1,000 to Luna's election campaign in 2010, while LeFavour voted against the reforms as a state senator in 2011.
The Twin Falls Times-News reports the decision to support Simpson was "completely member-driven," according to the union. That's despite some members' criticism of the move on Internet forums.
"Any IEA member who wants to get involved is welcome to get involved," said Whitney Rearick, an Idaho Education Association spokeswoman who defended the endorsement.
Simpson won the endorsement when the IEA's Political Action Committee for Education recommended to the National Education Association that it get behind the seven-term Republican.
The group cites Simpson's strengths, including his efforts to work with national union leaders to reverse part of federal No Child Left Behind rules, voting against private school vouchers and supporting publicly funded health care for low-income students.
This is the sixth straight endorsement for Simpson by the union.
LeFavour says she was disappointed with the union's decision to back Simpson. She's asking backers to come up with $5,000 in contributions, to help offset the union's decision to back her GOP rival.
In response to questions from the newspaper, the Idaho Education Association sent out a statement saying it believes LeFavour is "a true friend of education."
She "has worked tirelessly for teachers and students during her time in the Idaho Legislature," the IEA said.
Information from: The Times-News, http://www.magicvalley.com