Rural Canyon County’s District 11 has one of the busiest primaries in the state, with five Republicans vying for one open House seat as well as contested races for its second House seat and for state Senate.
Most of the attention is in the candidate pile-up in the race to succeed outgoing Rep. Gail Batt, who did not seek re-election. Republicans Myron Amsden, Martin Galvin, Tammy Nichols, Mike Pullin and Scott Syme will meet in the May 17 primary.
Amsden, 72, of Star, is a farrier who previously served one term on the Star City Council. Galvin, 83, is a retired farmer and rancher from Middleton long active in Canyon County Republican party politics.
Nichols, 40, of Caldwell, runs a small family farm with her husband and has been active on issues related to gun rights, marriage and abortion. Syme, 61, is also a small farm owner from Caldwell. A Republican party precinct chair, he ran for U.S. Senate in 2008 against Jim Risch and four other Republicans. Pullin, 47, is a security consultant from Middleton.
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In response to the Statesman’s candidate questionnaire, Nichols, a mother of five, cited her interest in issues including education, gun rights, taxes, marriage and abortion. She named education her top priority, followed by taxes and states’ rights.
Syme, who has four grown children, said funding for transportation “needs to be improved” and named it his top issue. Following that were water rights for agricultural irrgation and medical coverage for Idahoans.
Amsden, with three grown daughters, cited “fairness in government representation” and serving as a “voice for all citizens” as his top issues. Galvin, also with three grown daughters, said he wanted to keep state government “in the black” and preserve both farm land and “Idaho waters.”
Pullin, who ran for the Legislature in 2010, wants to improve state roads and said he was concerned with lawmakers passing unconstitutional legislation that the state Attorney General must then defend in court.
The dominant issue in this year’s legislative session was health care for the so-called “gap group” of 78,000 lower-income Idahoans who can’t get health coverage. Galvin said he supported Medicaid expansion to cover the group. Syme supported developing a Medicaid alternative. Nichols said she thought expanding Medicaid would “require more taxes” from all Idaho taxpayers; she took the position advocated by some free market proponents that permitting interstate competition among insurers would lead to lower costs. Amsden said he needed more information to respond. Pullin said he is “one of those 78,000” and also advocated interstate competition.
On education, Nichols said the state’s leading obligation “is to parents and teachers … not the schools.” She said there is “no evidence to support that spending more money equals smarter students.” The other candidates generally said support and funding for education was critical.
The winner will face Democrat Edward Savala in November.
Candidates in District 11 (rural Canyon County)
Republican State Senate primary
▪ Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, 73, Huston: Agribusiness owner and retired educator, seeking ninth term, chairs Senate Judiciary & Rules Committee.
▪ Zach Brooks, 35, Caldwell: Real estate investor, founding member of Idaho Second Amendment Alliance.
Republican primary, House Seat A (open seat)
▪ Myron Amsden, 72, Star: Farrier; served on Star City Council.
▪ Martin Galvin, 83, Middleton: Retired farmer and rancher; active in Canyon County GOP politics.
▪ Tammy Nichols, 40, Caldwell. Runs small family farm; active on gun rights, marriage, abortion.
▪ Mike Pullin, 47, Middleton: Security consultant; ran for Legislature in 2010.
▪ Scott Syme, 61, Caldwell: Small-farm owner; ran for U.S. Senate in 2008.
Republican primary, House Seat B
▪ Rep. Christy Perry, 47, Nampa: Co-owns family gun shop; seeks fourth term, chairs House Ways & Means Committee.
▪ Kathryn Ralstin, 47, Greenleaf: Wife and mother of three.
District 11 Senate
In the district’s Republican Senate primary, Sen. Patti Anne Lodge is seeking her ninth term against Zach Brooks, a self-employed real estate investor from Caldwell. Brooks is married with four children who are home-schooled. He’s an advocate for gun rights.
Brooks, 35, cited taxes, education and health care as his top issues. He said Idaho “taxes and spends too much.” He criticized Obamacare and said he opposed Medicaid expansion as an “entitlement for young people that are able to work.” In education, he suggested the need for an audit on how money is spent on maintenance and operations, and said some teachers and administrators were overpaid while others weren’t paid enough.
Lodge listed local concerns her top priority, namely roads and bridges and public safety. Local economic development and education followed. She said she sees Medicaid expansion as an entitlement that encourages recipients to “not seek long-term employment and depend on others.” She said education has been a “top priority” in the Legislature and good teachers are “very valuable and are not compensated for their expertise and teaching abilities.”
Democrat Pat Day Hartwell will face the winner.
District 11, House Seat B
The other House race pits incumbent Rep. Christy Perry, of Nampa, seeking her fourth term, against Kathryn Ralstin, of Greenleaf, a wife and mother of three girls.
Perry has chaired the House Ways & Means committee and was outspoken and active last session in public defense reform initiatives and the debate over Medicaid expansion. She said overall priorities for the state over the coming decade are transportation infrastructure, criminal justice reform, and education, but said her personal goals if re-elected are continued work on foster care reform, a health care plan for the gap population, and creation of an early learning program for the state.
Ralstin said she wants “vast improvements on our roads, widening and less potholes.” She also wants to lower taxes. Ralstin did not answer all the questions in the Statesman voter guide.
The Democratic candidate, Rita Burns, will face the winner.