In his first time running for state office, GOP challenger Don Hudson of Lincoln County has devoted the past year and a half to his race against District 26-B incumbent Rep. Donna Pence, D-Gooding.
District 26 includes Blaine, Camas, Lincoln and Gooding counties.
Hudson moved to Idaho just three years ago, but he’s immersed himself in local politics and community participation, he said. In an interview this week, Hudson said preserving Idaho’s water rights and promoting economic development are his two biggest issues.
Hudson, 69, and his wife moved to Idaho from Colorado, following children and grandchildren who migrated west. Originally from Virginia, he’s a retired mechanical engineer for AT&T with an energy management specialty. After moving just north of Shoshone, he joined the Search and Rescue unit and served as a Planning and Zoning commissioner for Lincoln County.
He was inspired to run for state representative because he “feels a change coming” in state and federal governments. He said he feels he is uniquely qualified to make that transition seamless because of his years in management and his good listening skills.
“Federal government overreach is burdensome,” Hudson said. “A lot of things the federal government has done in the past are going to change [and] the load for those things are going to end up on the states.”
Citing healthcare, welfare and education as prime examples, Hudson said he hopes to be there when responsibility begins shifting onto states in terms of independent operation. State autonomy and preserving the autonomy of citizens, Hudson said, mean everything.
“[Constituents] don’t want more legislation or more programs they want government off their backs,” Hudson said.
Idaho needs to take initiative when it comes to bringing skills and dollars into the state, Hudson said. He believes in a three-pronged approach: attracting new businesses to the state, promoting an educational system that churns out graduates who can fit into the Idaho business landscape, and infrastructure improvement.
“[Constituents] don’t want more legislation or more programs they want government off their backs.”
“It’s not just fixing old roads and bridges,” he said. “We have to do new things, build new infrastructure that will accommodate growth for new workers and businesses.”
That includes protecting Idaho water rights so that the economy doesn’t exceed the parameters of existing resources, Hudson said.
Following his thread about state resiliency, Hudson would like to see Idaho own and manage federal lands. He said east of the Mississippi, federal lands make up a small fraction of a state’s total land area, and Idaho’s lands being 63.1 percent federally owned and managed “isn’t reasonable.”
That extends to making the Boulder-White Cloud Mountains into a national monument—Hudson said the federal sequester that closed national parks last year should teach us that federal management is a bad idea.
“When the sequester kicked in, all federal parks closed,” he said. “[If they were managed by states], citizens could’ve continued to enjoy their parks.”
The argument that states will sell off formerly federal lands, Hudson said, isn’t something citizens should be afraid of. He said the state managing the lands to best suit its interests could entail selling off land and utilizing resources both above and below the soil.
Hudson has a moderate position on the statewide Wolf Depredation Board, which was allocated $400,000 this year for lethal control measures on the gray wolf population. Hudson said he sat in on the deliberations in Boise last year and was impressed by the careful decision-making that went into the wolf-management bill. He said he can see both the conservationists’ and environmentalists’ point of view when it comes to species preservation but he also empathizes with ranchers who have lost livestock to wolves. Hudson contends that the Canadian gray wolves reintroduced to the state are larger and more destructive than wolves native to the Rocky Mountains.
“We’re not dealing with the wolves that are indigenous,” he said. “Canadian wolves are very different than Idaho wolves. Idaho wolves are down the food chain from the Canadian wolves. I’m looking forward to hearing testimony from Idaho Fish and Game on whether or not we have actually destroyed the species we were trying to protect.”
The election is on Tuesday, Nov. 4.