Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Hansen looks to unseat experienced Simpson

Express Staff Writer

Jim Hansen believes money has tainted true democracy in America as large corporations and special interests dictate decision-making in the United States Congress, which he refers to as the "broken branch" of government.

Hansen, a Democrat, is challenging incumbent Republican Mike Simpson to represent Idaho's 2nd Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives. The 2nd Congressional District covers eastern Idaho and includes Blaine County.

Based on how he's run his campaign, Hansen's prepared to practice what he preaches—the Idaho native will not accept individual donations greater than $100.

Hansen claims Simpson, who's running for his fifth term in the House, has failed to address the nation's and Idaho's most critical issues: health care, energy, education, national security and immigration. Instead, Simpson and other Congressional incumbents have focused their attention on satisfying the agendas of those who fund their campaigns, Hansen contends.

Simpson, the creator of the Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act (CIEDRA), denies that financial contributions have ever influenced his political actions.

"I listen closely to the views of my constituents because I believe you are the real experts," Simpson said.

Born in Burley and raised in Blackfoot, Simpson's political career is lengthy and impressive. It began in 1980, when he was elected to the Blackfoot City Council. Four years later he was elected to the Idaho Legislature, where he served until 1998—the last six years as speaker. In 1998 he was elected to represent Idaho's 2nd Congressional District. He's been there ever since.

"I consider my work on your behalf to be the greatest honor of my life," he said.

Hansen, however, is not exactly lacking political experience.

The son of former Idaho legislator and U.S. Congressman Orval Hansen, Hasen was raised on politics.

Born in Idaho Falls, Hansen served in the Idaho Legislature from 1988-1994, when he voluntarily retired. In 1995 he founded United Vision for Idaho, which is a coalition of organizations working to empower participation in democracy.

Hansen wants to protect Idaho's public lands and, like many conservationists, is opposed to Simpson's proposal to transfer public lands to private hands to stimulate economies in Idaho's remote and rural towns.

He's opposed to coal-fired power plants and is an advocate of funding alternative energy programs. He's deeply concerned about the nation's increasingly negative image in the international community and believes "the current occupation strategy in Iraq is tragically misguided.

As the creator of CIEDRA, which among other things would designate 319,900 acres of wilderness in the Boulder and White Cloud mountains north of Ketchum in exchange for a series of land giveaways and economic concessions, Simpson also believes Idaho's public lands need permanent protection.

He defends the public land giveaways—more than 5,000 acres of public land will be transferred to Custer County and it's municipalities—as a necessary concession to solve difficult problems.

"There are circumstances where it is in the best interest of the public to transfer specific parcels to local governments," Simpson said. "CIEDRA was never intended to be only a wilderness bill; it is legislation that solves complex problems with local solutions."

Regardless of whether the United States should have invaded Iraq "the fact remains that we can not lose," Simpson said.

"Certainly, in retrospect, in any war, there are things you would do differently," he said. "What the President has to rely on are the commanders in the field."

Both candidates claim that education is one of their top priorities.

But they are split on how the public education system can be improved.

Simpson wants to reauthorize the "No Child Left Behind" mandate but make it more flexible for rural states like Idaho.

Hansen thinks "No Child Left Behind" is wrought with problems and believes states should be allowed to opt out of the mandate.

"The name of the bill has become a mockery because of the way it is structured from the top down and shifts funds away from education to bureaucracy," Hansen says on his Web site."

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