Idaho House Minority Leader Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, has enjoyed years of uncontested re-election to the Idaho Legislature, but things are going to be different this time around.
Gooding cattle rancher Jeff Faulkner, a Republican, has filed to run against Jaquet for her District 25 House of Representatives seat in the general election on Nov. 4.
Jaquet, 64, was first elected in 1994 and is running for an eighth term. She has been opposed twice--in her first campaign in 1994 when she beat Wendell Republican John Koning, who received 44 percent of the vote, and in 1998 when she faced write-in candidate Helen Paoli, a Republican from Gooding who received 1.5 percent of the vote.
"I actually think it's good to have an opponent," Jaquet said. "I think it makes you reflect on what you've done and what you're going to do. I think it makes you more accountable to the voters that way."
Faulkner, 42, was born and raised in Gooding, and is no stranger to Idaho politics. He's served on the board of the Idaho Cattle Association since 2001, and served as the organization's president from November 2006 through November 2007.
"I think it's really prepared me," Faulkner said. "One, in working with the legislators who we had to work closely with on certain issues. Also, I got a good idea of how the process works. It put me in touch and in contact with the people in Boise."
Faulkner said he is very pro-agriculture and laments that farming and ranching in Idaho are slipping.
"The urban areas are getting bigger all the time," he said. "The small ranchers and farmers are folding up because the guys running them are getting old. And agriculture is becoming more corporate, and I don't want that."
Faulkner said it is too early in the election year to talk about issues at length, but his decision to run against Jaquet was thought out.
"Nobody had challenged Wendy for a long time," he said. "I like Wendy, but I thought this is a big district, and the southern portion of it has different issues than up there. I just felt there are some issues that maybe needed different representation."
In previous elections while running unopposed, Jaquet invested considerable time in recruiting Democratic candidates and raising money for others' campaigns.
"I've been grateful, frankly," she said. "One of my goals is to create more balance in the state, to create more Democratic voices in the state. That effort will be more limited this year."
That said, the Democratic caucus has compiled an election-year plan, which includes hiring someone to do the aforementioned tasks.
"I think he's a viable opponent, and I'm taking him seriously," Jaquet said. "He was president of the Idaho Cattleman's Association. He has the ability to fund-raise. He has that network in the agricultural community. I think he's just really interested in politics and wants to get involved."
Before her political career, Jaquet was executive director of the joint chamber of commerce for Sun Valley and Ketchum. She resigned from that post in 1997. She serves on the House Revenue and Taxation Committee and the Energy, Environment and Technology Committee. In previous sessions she has served on the Health and Welfare, Judiciary and Rules, Environmental Affairs, Education, and State Affairs committees.
As House Democratic Leader, Jaquet also serves on the House Ways and Means Committee, a leadership committee that approves legislation for printing late in legislative sessions.
Also up for re-election in District 25 are Senate Minority Leader Clint Stennett, D-Ketchum, and Rep. Donna Pence, D-Gooding. Both are running unopposed. District 25 includes Blaine, Gooding, Camas and Lincoln counties.