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For the week of April 17 - 23, 2002

  News

Challengers vie for 2 legislative seats


Blaine Dems to choose delegates

The Blaine County Democrats will hold a caucus Tuesday, April 23, at 8 p.m. at the Blaine County Senior Center to elect delegates to send to the State Democratic Convention in Burley.

The purpose of the convention, which will be held June 20, 22 and 23, is to draft the Democrats state platform.

Any Democratic Blaine County voter may participate in the selection caucus, and the meeting is open to the public. In addition, candidates who have filed for state and county elections will be invited to speak.

For information, call Blaine County Democrats Chairperson Jima Rice at 726-1848.


By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer

Idahoís 2002 legislative races are set, and two new candidates are slated to compete for seats in the new District 25, which includes Blaine, Camas, Gooding and Lincoln counties.

All of the candidates on the primary ballots May 28 will advance to the Nov. 5 general election because candidates of the same political stripe did not file for common seats in District 25.

Gooding County Commissioner Tom Faulkner, a Republican, is challenging four-term incumbent Sen. Clint Stennett, D-Ketchum, and Gooding resident Donna Pence, a Democrat, is challenging four-term incumbent Rep. Tim Ridinger, R-Shoshone.

Four-term incumbent Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, is running unopposed.

The filing deadline was April 5.

Faulkner, 43, was born and raised in Idaho and, in addition to serving two terms as Gooding County Commissioner, is a cattle rancher, a certified public accountant and chairman of the Bliss School District. He said his platform rests primarily on governmentís fiduciary responsibilities, which translate into less spending and smaller taxes, and local control.

"I believe in limited responsive government," he said. "I think government has the responsibility to provide for health and welfare, safety, education and transportation. Idahoís government is too far-reaching.

"Being a county commissioner and on the local school board, the more local control, the better. Every time the state tells you to do something, youíre taking away flexibility."

On last winterís repeal of term limits by the Legislature, Faulkner agrees with his opponent, Stennett. Despite seeing flaws with term limits legislation, the peopleís will should not have been overturned, the two candidates agreed.

"I think the people passed it, so there should have been term limits," Faulkner said. "I do believe the local people have the right to choose how their government is elected."

The Legislatureís unprecedented education spending cut last winter was a necessary evil, he said. Itís a point he and Stennett are likely to debate during the campaign.

"I donít think they had too much of a choice," Faulkner said. "Realistically, the cut should have been made two or three years ago, and we wouldnít have been growing the government so fast."

Stennett, who served in the House of Representatives for two terms before being elected to the Senate in 1994, said education funding will be among the highest profile issue in this yearís campaigns statewide.

"What we did to colleges and universities and public schools last year was a travesty," he said. "It will take us years to recover from it. Iíll continue my fight to ensure that education is a priority and treated that way."

And maintaining clean air and water continues to be among Stennettís focuses.

"I continue to be interested in insuring clean air, clean water and an accelerated cleanup at the INEEL," he said. "I think my record shows that."

Farmers and ranchers are not exceptions, he said.

"All businesses have a social responsibility to their community," he said.

Pence, 59, who is challenging Rep. Ridinger, has lived in Idaho since she was 6, and this is her first foray into the political arena.

She said she will focus her campaign on securing education funding, decreasing the number of teens and young adults who are suffering from drug and alcohol problems, managing natural resources and protecting water quality.

She said she will work hard to represent the people of District 25.

"I think I will bring a lot of energy to the position," she said. "Itís a big district, and it will take a lot of energy to cover it. I will go out and work with the people. I think we need to represent the feelings of the people. You need to get out and make yourself available."

Pence, a former teacher, said last winterís education cuts are going to be sore spots in Idaho for some time to come.

"When a kid loses out and doesnít learn to read or doesnít learn to read as best they can, itís really tough to get them caught up again," she said. "I think weíre going to have a group of kids who are going to be more at risk of dropping behind a little bit. Weíre not going to have the tools to get them caught up."

Ridinger, however, is among the stateís legislators who voted against last winterís education cut.

"Iíve always supported education," he said.

He voted for the repeal of term limits, and said he thinks he represented the majority of constituents who contacted him.

"Probably 95 percent of the information I got from our district was people supporting the repeal of term limits," he said.

He said he is an advocate of local control, including local option taxes. He co-sponsored legislation with Rep. Jaquet last winter that would have allowed counties to institute a .5 percent sales tax to help fund transportation projects. Local option taxation is a point all five District 25 candidates appear to agree on.

And Ridinger continues to be a steadfast advocate for Idahoís farmers and ranchers.

"I really support agriculture, and I think the state needs to continue to support it," he said. "These one-size-fits-all regulations end up hurting the small operations."

Finally, Ridinger said he is excited there are several challengers in the local district this year.

"I think it will be a good race, and thatís what itís all about," he said. "Itís too bad everybody in the state doesnít have a race that makes them discuss the issues."

 


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.