If opinion writers were in charge of the Kentucky Derby, they'd declare the winner to be the only horse that could ever win. Then, they'd shoot all the other horses and fire the jockeys, the trainers and the owners.

That's about how the Tribune approached criticism of the Idaho Democratic Party.

Make no mistake, Idaho Democrats are dismayed by the 2014 elections. The results were painful, in part, because of how much we did well. Unknown to outsiders, we had one of the most effective Get Out the Vote efforts in the nation. We had superior candidates up and down the ticket. The issues were on our side. A heck of a lot of voters were on our side, too.

Despite our disappointment, the evidence gives us plenty to cheer about, plenty of cause for optimism. In one statewide race, very close to half of Idaho voters favored the Idaho Democrat. Other races were highly competitive.

So, the Tribune suggests that all is lost?

A sober look at 2014 deeply troubles GOP insiders.

Bottom line: In 2014, Idaho Democrats expanded while Idaho Republicans contracted. Factor in the context of what 2014 was like for Democratic candidates nationwide (abysmal), and conventional wisdom - such as that found in newspaper opinion pages - tells you that it should have doomed Idaho Democrats. That's what happened in the 2010 Republican wave election. That year, Idaho Democrats lost five legislative seats.

Be assured that Idaho Democrats are very realistic.

We are two years into a 10-year strategic plan, and we are exceeding our goals. We won't share details of that plan with our opponents - who read newspapers. But, we assure the Tribune that the plan was created by the capable members of the Idaho Democratic State Central Committee. The members updated the plan in March of this year to factor in what we learned in 2014.

As we advance toward winning Idaho the balanced political leadership we all need, we see steady growth in volunteers, donors and candidates running for office. We already have legislative candidates actively campaigning for 2016.

We are a professional organization that understands that many factors go into winning elections. The final vote at the ballot box is the goal. That final vote, however, is not a particularly useful metric for deciding how to achieve the goal - at least, not if that is the only metric you are using.

Today, polling tells us that more and more Idahoans are leaving the GOP and calling themselves independents. Opportunity for growth is expanding. The Idaho Democratic Party has the expertise and infrastructure to seize this opportunity.

Understand this: Idaho Democrats put families, workers, businesses and communities first. Enough Idahoans know this to enable us to gain ground in a miserable year like 2014. More Idahoans are joining that group and that means you will see Idaho Democrats continue to expand.

Opinion writers could reconsider their approach to covering Idaho politics. If you really must cover elections like they are horse races, don't forget that the Kentucky Derby is only the first race for the Triple Crown.

We have the Preakness and Belmont Stakes to run. We are running to win.

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Marley is chairman of the Idaho Democratic Party.

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