Friday, October 31, 2014

6 vie for 3 seats in state Legislature

A quick guide to District 26 candidates

Express Staff Writer

    For those who occasionally find themselves running into an unfamiliar name while at the polls, here’s a brief rundown of each House and Senate candidate in District 26, which encompasses Blaine, Camas, Lincoln and Gooding counties.

Michelle Stennett
(incumbent, District 26 Senate seat)
    Stennett, a Democrat from Ketchum, is the Senate minority leader. She took over for her husband, the late Clint Stennett, in 2010 when he fell ill, and has served as the District 26 senator ever since.
    Stennett said educational funding, while increased last sessions, only matches 2008 levels, and there are far more students in the system now. She wants to see an increase to the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour and said a boost to wages would help retain workers and jumpstart the economy.
    Stennett deems attempts to transfer federal lands into the hands of the state unconstitutional. She also opposes the $400,000 allocated to the Wolf Depredation Control Board, citing the lethal-only management efforts within the legislation’s language. Stennett said she opposed the “ag-gag” bill, which prohibits secret filming on Idahoan farms and dairy operations, because she the state shouldn’t protect businesses inflicting animal cruelty. Stennett favors national monument designation of the Boulder-White Cloud Mountains, contending that all interests have been represented during the decade of talks and negotiations that have gone into discussions over protecting the area.

Dale Ewersen
(challenger, District 26 Senate seat)
    Ewersen is a Republican from Bellevue with a background in business and insurance sales. He was previously the mayor of Bellevue and has also served as a councilman.
    Ewersen said he supported a 5 percent increase to education funding last session and would vote to increase that as the economy improves. Ewersen is opposed to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule under the Clean Water Act, contending that the language defining the waters under the act’s jurisdiction curtails agrarian interests.
Ewersen said he doesn’t support a Boulder White Clouds National Monument as the area should continue to be multi-use. He promotes a low income tax, to keep more money in citizens’ pockets. Ewersen is a proponent of the Wolf Depredation Board, but would like to see a wildlife biologist added to the board’s panel. Ewersen is a supporter of the “ag-gag” bill, as he believes that outside groups’ going onto private property to secretly film violates businesses’ right to privacy.
    Ewersen said he doesn’t think a wholesale federal lands transfer is possible, but he has said that the state should allocate individual “test parcels” to be managed by the state Department of Lands to determine feasibility.

Steve Miller
(incumbent, District 26-A House seat)
    Miller, a Republican from Fairfield, is seeking a second term in the House. He comes from a long line of Idahoans and has worked in the ranching and organic farming business. Miller voted to form the Federal Lands Interim Committee, which is examining whether Idaho could take control of federal lands. He said he believes Idaho would be a better steward of the land, and because he’d like to see statewide resources translate into dollars for the state (think timber harvesting). An opponent of a Boulder-White Clouds National Monument designation, Miller said increased government access would close roads and obstruct mining claims.
    He says he voted for increased education funding last session and will continue to advocate for it in the future. He supports the $400,000 allocated to the Wolf Depredation Board to kill wolves because he believes the federal government introduced nonindigenous wolves to the state and then refused to control their population.
    He has said he wants to protect Idaho’s water rights from outside interests. Miller is also a proponent of decreasing health-care costs in order to be less reliant on federal funding.

Richard “Dick” Fosbury
(challenger, District 26-A House seat)
    Fosbury is a Democrat from Bellevue who has lived in the Wood River Valley for almost 40 years. He owns a farm and was co-owner of Galena Engineering. He revolutionized a new style of high-jumping in the 1960s as an Olympic gold medalist.
    Fosbury wants to increase educational funding in the state, citing large differences between large and small school districts in Idaho. He is opposed to the Federal Lands Interim Committee, calling attempts to co-opt federal lands “unconstitutional” both on a statewide and national level. He has said that national monument designation of the Boulder-White Cloud Mountains is a complex issue, but he believes it is the best choice for the state. He says the Idaho Wolf Depredation Control Board is misdirecting funds and should advocate for both lethal and nonlethal control measures.
    Fosbury is also concerned with statewide water issues, and has said publically that conservation should be a priority. He believes Idaho needs to provide for residents who fall in the Medicaid gap and stop ignoring mental health needs.

Donna Pence
(incumbent, District 26-B House seat)
    Pence is a Democrat from Gooding who is hoping to win a sixth term as the District 26-B representative. She’s a retired school teacher and athletic coach, and co-owns a tree farm. Education reform is something Pence frequently emphasizes; she wants to see competitive teacher salaries to keep good educators in the state. Pence says she would vote for incremental funding increases toward education as the economy improves and diversifies.
    On the federal lands debate, Pence takes a moderate position. She wants to see a private/public management partnership to create economic viability for Idaho’s natural resources, but she believes the state lacks the funds to manage federal lands. She says management of the Idaho wolf population is necessary, but not to the point of putting wolves back on the endangered species list. She says the Department of Fish and Game, rather than the Legislature, would be a better manager of wolf populations.
    Pence voted to allocate $15 million toward studying water rights and installing water-measuring technologies as a way to ensure that aquifers can meet future needs.

Don Hudson
(challenger, District 26-B House seat)
    Hudson is a Republican who lives north of Shoshone, having moved there a few years ago from Colorado. He’s a retired mechanical engineer for AT&T and has been active in the Lincoln County community as a Search and Rescue volunteer and Planning and Zoning commissioner.
    Hudson said he believes in quashing federal government overreach, and giving more power to the states. He supports increased state autonomy in controlling health care, welfare and education. Hudson says Idaho should own and manage its federal lands. Using East Coast state land access as an example, he said Idaho should harness its natural resources for economic gain. He doesn’t support the Boulder-White Clouds National Monument designation.
    Hudson reiterates Steve Miller’s stance on wolf control; he believes the wolves currently in Idaho are an invasive species that may have destroyed the indigenous wolf population. He supports legislative efforts to control wolves through lethal means. Hudson said Idaho’s education system needs systematic, not financial, changes. He said school districts should focus on individual student needs to make sure that kids don’t fall between the cracks.

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