Idaho U.S. House Candidates Face Off In Debates

By Drew Marshall and Marcos Guadarrama

District 1

Candidates for Idaho’s 1st district running for U.S. House of Representatives took to the debate stage on Friday Oct. 9 through the local Idaho Public Television (PBS) network.

Incumbent Rep. Russ Fulcher who is currently in his first term is being challenged by democrat army national guard veteran and legislative director to the National Indian Gaming Association Rudy Soto and Liberatarian candidate Joe Evans a veteran of the U.S. army who works in the information technology field. 

Among the topics discussed at the debate were the state of the country and President Trump’s performance, the COVID-19 response, immigration and health care. Unlike previous years where there is a formal debate and the event is held in person, all three candidates were asked the same questions via teleconference to practice safe COVID-19 physical distancing protocols.

Russ Fulcher, in his opening statement said he believes the opposing party and some of his colleagues in the U.S. House are what is wrong with the country.

“We’ve got a significant conflict within this country and at the root of it we have those who believe we should maintain our traditional representative republic and we have a strong opposing force that would like to see that system change into a much more socialistic model,” Fulcher said. 

Democratic challenger Rudy Soto believes the division is hurting our country and preventing us from getting anything done.

“I’ve always been balanced about my approach to politics and I’d be seeking to be a part of the bipartisan problem solvers caucus in congress which is made up of an equal amount of Republicans and Democrats that work across party lines to get things done,” Soto said.

Joe Evans sees this time in history as an opportunity to move forward with what works for us and what doesn’t. 

“We have an opportunity to go in and create changes in the system so that they work better,” Evans said. “We have an opportunity to empower the people at the lowest level and be able to move forward and do great things.”

The candidates discussed and labeled forest management, health care and ending the wars in the middle east as their top priorities.

View the full debate here.

District 2

In a debate that took place Wednesday, Oct. 14 Republican congressman Mike Simpson faced off against his Democratic opponent Aaron Swisher. The debate occurred virtually on KTVB. Topics covered pressing concerns about the local COVID response, as well as, national election issues.  

Simpson has served as Idaho’s Second District of Congress for the previous 11 years. 

Swisher, Simpson’s previous Democratic opponent in the midterm elections, is a local economist. 

The first topic covered was the local response to COVID-19. When asked if masks should be made mandatory in order for the state to attempt to lower infection rate Simpson responded, “masks should be worn just as a matter of common sense,” but he concluded by saying, “I wouldn’t mandate that though.”

Swisher favored a mask mandate. 

In terms of the economy, Swisher proposed to tax the rich and enable the lower-income populations. He also proposed raising the minimum wage in Idaho to $15 an hour. 

“The government should set a floor under wages to make sure that all Americans working 40 hours a week can meet their basic minimum needs,” Swisher said.

On the other hand, Simpson claimed current taxes are already in place to help lower-income families. He suggested that lowering the unemployment rate has caused jobs to become more competitive and increase wages. 

On the topic of education, both candidates were in favor of increasing funding for schools, but they differed in the selection of where that funding should be directed towards. 

Simpson wants states to be able to regulate education in order to maximize the budget. He also mentioned an increase in funding for broadband so students in rural areas of Idaho have access to schooling, directly in response to the force of online education due to COVID-19. 

The candidates moved onto the topic of social justice and the idea of defunding the police. 

 “I think police departments oughta engage with their community.” Simpson said. 

He promoted an increase in training and certification for police departments. 

“We have to establish a justice system that is fair and equitable for everyone, one that holds people accountable regardless of their race, regardless of their economic status,” Swisher said. 

With the issue of political polarization, both candidates expressed their willingness to work with the other side in order to unite the community. “I don’t care if there’s a Democrat or Republican, I care about whether they are just or unjust, whether they are rational or irrational. What is the quality of their thoughts?” Swisher said.

Watch the full debate here.

The election for Idaho’s 1st and 2nd congressional districts will be on Idaho’s ballot on Nov. 3.

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