Debbie Holmes, a Democratic candidate for Idaho's 2nd District congressional seat, is passionate about family and education. It comes through in almost everything she says.
"Every day I see what's wrong," she said. "I see problems that can be solved, can be legislated. I'm a Democrat because I believe in helping the average person. I believe the way a society treats its weakest citizens is a measure of its worth."
Holmes, 46, is facing off against "Blue Dog Democrat" David Sneddon in the May 27 primary election. She is a chemist by education but works as a real estate agent in Boise. She is a wife and mother of three, and on Tuesday, May 20, she traveled to Ketchum to attend a meeting of the Blaine County Democrats. On Wednesday, following a visit with the Idaho Mountain Express, she traveled to Salmon to continue campaigning.
This is Holmes' first run for elected office, and though her political positions are clear she said she is working at becoming better at public speaking.
"I feel so strongly about what I have to say," she said. "I'm not nervous. I'm passionate. But I know I have room to improve on speaking."
Like Democrats throughout Idaho, Holmes was engaged by the caucuses that brought out record numbers of participants.
"I've been to caucus every year," she said. "There was never any crowd. This time 4,000 of us didn't get in. I thought to myself, 'Maybe this spring we're ready for a change.' I think if a man (Barak Obama) can inspire that many people who have never voted, who can bring so many people out in a red state, maybe he can help change the country."
Holmes said she's always been involved in Democratic Party politics. She'd put signs in her yard. She'd attend caucuses and volunteer on election day. But this past year, as a real estate agent, she began helping people who were in over their heads with mortgages.
"They were normal people in a lot of trouble," she said. "The banks said it's not their problem. I got madder and madder."
In March, her oldest son who was home on spring break from University of Cambridge, helped encourage her to run for Congress.
Holmes called for education, healthcare and business-regulation reforms.
The federal No Child Left Behind mandate does not work, she said. It penalizes schools in need of help. For all Americans, she supports health care "that is not connected to the workplace and does not have pre-existing conditions."
"This is why we need change," she said. "Medical care is bankrupting Americans. It's keeping us from creating new jobs, from being innovative. We're good at being innovative if you give us the chance."
And even if she doesn't win a seat on Capitol Hill, there are other forms of winning, she said.
"I get the progressive message out. That helps our state candidates," she said. "The more people who say the same thing, or near the same thing, the more we're heard. I don't have to be a congresswoman to make this run a success."
Holmes' opponent, Sneddon, has run for political office before, most recently in the 2002 U.S. Senate primary, which he lost to Wood River Valley resident Alan Blinken.
Sneddon is proud of his fiscal conservatism and "strong Western values," according to a press release.
Also a Boise real estate agent, Sneddon holds a B.A. in political science with an emphasis in international relations. He said the abuse of earmarks by Congress is indicative of how out of touch Washington has become.
"Cutting a politician off earmarks is like separating a calf from its mama," he said. "With a $9.5 trillion national debt, now is the time to do what's right instead of what's easy."
Sneddon also argues for federal term limits, a position he has maintained for the past 15 years.
"Confidence in Congress is at an all-time low and Americans are fed up with partisan bickering, the national debt, earmarks and 'girlie-man' legislation. If wholesale firing of Congress was a national initiative, I suspect the 110th Congress would become an endangered species with no plan for recovery."
Sneddon noted that Americans have attempted grass-roots efforts to legislate term limits for House and Senate members.
"As with many grass-roots efforts, Congress gives lip service until the cameras are turned off," he said. "If the American people are going to get the government 'we' deserve, term limits must be implemented."