BOISE, Idaho — The New York Times sent Mike Baker from its Seattle bureau to Idaho recently. I’m glad he found his way to Coeur D’Alene instead of ending up in Des Moines — I mean, who hasn’t made that mistake before, right? But his obviously conscious decision to head straight for the crazy while covering our May 17 election tells you he knew exactly what he was doing. As a consequence, he missed a couple of interesting stories — and frankly, he deserved to miss them.

It’s one thing to base your coverage of an entire state on the nutjobs who actually win its elections. We have those, it's true. But it’s quite another to give the nuttiest people all the publicity you can, without covering anything else, only to have basically every single candidate who appears in your story lose his or her race. That's what happened here. It’s enough to make you wonder whether this was a setup, designed to make Idahoans look stupid. Did we just get punked by the New York Times?

For his piece, published Sunday, Baker attended a candidate forum in northern Idaho, apparently replete with John Birch Society adherents and other assorted fringe attendees, not to mention the candidates. Front and center was our admittedly daft lieutenant governor, Janice McGeachin. She was running for governor against the incumbent Republican, Brad Little. The other candidates you will not have heard of — in fact, I barely know who most of them are, but I include their names from Baker's parade of horribles below for a reason:

They clapped as one candidate advocated “machine guns for everyone” and another called for the state to take control of federal lands. A militia activist, who was once prosecuted for his role in an infamous 2014 standoff with federal agents in Nevada, promised to be a true representative of the people.

... Eric Parker, who was also involved in the 2014 standoff and has founded a Three Percenters group in Idaho, is running for a State Senate seat. Meanwhile, Ammon Bundy, who led an armed takeover of an Oregon wildlife refuge in 2016, is also running for governor, but doing so as an independent after calling the current Republican Party “corrupt and wicked.”

… Spencer Hutchings, a candidate for the State House, was the one who advocated making machine guns generally available. Scott Trotter, a candidate for U.S. Senate, promised to sing a Christian worship song on the floor of the chamber on his first day in office. Dorothy Moon, a candidate for secretary of state, called for Idaho, which has one of the nation’s highest concentrations of public lands, to reclaim control of them from the federal government.

State Representative Priscilla Giddings, who was censured by her colleagues after she publicly identified a state Capitol intern who reported being raped by a state lawmaker, is running for lieutenant governor against the State House Speaker, Scott Bedke, an anti-abortion, pro-gun constitutional conservative. Ms. Giddings ended her campaign speech at the Bonners Ferry forum with an ominous message, saying that if she did not win, people should “plant your gardens and keep buying ammo.”

So yeah, this pours it on pretty thick, making Idaho politics look as insane as possible. And I won't lie, this sort of thing probably keeps a lot of liberals out of our state, thank goodness. But I’m going to propose here that it isn’t a very good method of informing readers.

Let's look at the zoo animals first — the nutty candidates Baker wrote about. Ammon Bundy, the infamous Oregon militiaman, did not lose, but that’s only because he had dropped out of the primary earlier to avoid a humiliating single-digit finish. He will instead lose as an independent candidate for governor in November, unless he drops out again.

McGeachin lost her bid by 22 points. Out of her 32% support, I am guessing half was the result of a clever teachers union disinformation campaign (they tried to undermine Gov. Little by running radio ads supporting him) and the other half was because of her issue, Little’s handling of COVID. Not that most Idahoans were ever subjected to local mask mandates, or obeyed them if they were, but people here get kind of upset about that sort of thing. If we wanted to live in lockdown, we'd all move to Shanghai.

State Rep. Dorothy Moon, who had promised to take back Idaho lands from the federal government (this is a perennial issue in Idaho, by the way), came closest to winning her race for secretary of state. Campaigning against Mark Zuckerberg’s potential interference in Idaho elections, she lost a three-way race by 2 points to Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane. State Rep. Priscilla "keep buying ammo" Giddings lost her three-way race for lieutenant governor to the current state House speaker by 9 points.

Scott Trotter, whom Baker pointed out for promising to sing a Christian hymn on the U.S. Senate floor, lost to Sen. Mike Crapo by 57 points, to no one’s surprise.

Eric Parker, the militiaman candidate whom Baker mentioned above, lost his state Senate primary, actually in one of the least conservative parts of Idaho, by 26 points.

So OK, I get it. It’s fun to cover weird people in politics. But what if it means you miss a relevant political story?

There were, after all, two statewide incumbents who were defeated in upsets yesterday, only not by crazies. Those races will actually matter and will shape the future of Idaho politics long after people forget about the time a militiaman ran to try to represent Sun Valley in the state Senate. And neither of those races even rated a mention in Baker’s reporting.

Former U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador, a conservative who used to represent the part of the state where Baker was attending kook forums, lost a gubernatorial primary in 2018. Last night, he made his political comeback, crushing 20-year incumbent Attorney General Lawrence Wasden by 15 points. Labrador is precisely the sort of smart conservative whom Idaho voters like and liberal New York Times editors wish didn’t exist. I’m guessing that in 2027, when Labrador becomes the first Puerto Rican to govern any U.S. state, the New York Times will already be calling all Hispanics white supremacists.

The other statewide upset was harder to explain, but still certainly more relevant for Idahoans than anything Ammon Bundy does. State Superintendent of Instruction Sherri Ybarra had accidentally won a crowded primary in 2014 and became a statewide official for eight years as a consequence. Well, she finally ran out of luck yesterday. But with all the national outrage over critical race theory and parental involvement in education, that one at least seems worthy of some mention. Maybe the Times would have bothered with it if a militiaman had run for the office — who knows?

So yeah, it turns out that Idaho is actually a pretty normal place — a lot more normal than Seattle, I’m willing to bet. It's certainly more normal than Portland. The dream of the '80s is alive in Boise.

Oh, and by the way — the “machine guns for everybody” guy, Spencer Hutchings? He finished second in his two-person legislative district, making him the only guy from Baker’s report who will probably end up in elected office next year.

I have already requested my machine gun catalog — please send me an email if you have any recommendations.