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This photo from police officer video body camera footage on Oct. 1, 2017, provided by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, shows officers searching hallways at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas.

Magic Valley senators face 'liberty-minded' challengers in Republican primaries

TWIN FALLS — Three powerful Magic Valley senators have opponents in the Republican primary election for the first time in years.

Sen. Bert Brackett of District 23, Sen. Lee Heider of District 24 and Sen. Jim Patrick of District 25, all longtime legislators who are committee chairmen, are facing challengers who denounce “top-down” government and say current representation in the Magic Valley isn’t conservative enough.

The other two senators in the Magic Valley, Sen. Kelly Anthon, R-Burley, and Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, are unopposed in the primaries, though Republican candidate Julie Lynn has filed to run against Stennett in the general election.

Here are all the local Senate candidates with opponents on May 15.

District 23

Gretel Kauffman / COURTESY PHOTO  


Sen. Bert Brackett, a rancher from Rogerson, has served in the legislature since 2005, first for two terms in the House of Representatives. Brackett, who is chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, hasn’t had a primary opponent since 2012.

This year he’ll face Mark Rhatigan, a Republican from Mountain Home.

If re-elected, Brackett told the Times-News, he’ll continue to work on the kinds of rural issues that take top priority in District 23, such as the maintenance of rural roads, ensuring adequate funding for small, rural schools, and increasing access to broadband internet, cell phone coverage, and other forms of technological infrastructure.

Brackett said he’s also looking forward to helping the College of Southern Idaho establish a four-year program for elementary education, with the goal of increasing the number of qualified teachers in the Magic Valley.

“District 23 is a large, rural area and it has its unique challenges,” Brackett said. “I think I’ve had some success in advocating for some of those unique challenges.”

Rhatigan did not respond to an interview request, but a Facebook page for his campaign describes him as “liberty-minded,” a “Constitutionalist,” and “the Real Conservative.”

The page also refers to him as an “Oath keeper,” though it’s unclear whether that it is a reference to the Oath Keepers, a group made up of current and former military members, law enforcement officers and first responders who “pledge to fulfill the ‘defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.’”

“The Conservative Liberty minded folks need reinforcements,” Rhatigan’s campaign page commented on a Facebook post about Rep. Ron Nate of District 34, one of Idaho’s “Liberty Legislators.” “Time for the status quo to be replaced!”

District 24


Gretel Kauffman / COURTESY PHOTO  

Jay S. Waters III 

Sen. Lee Heider, chairman of the Senate Health & Welfare Committee, attracted national attention this past legislative session when he refused to hold a committee hearing for a bill that would legalize cannabidiol, an oil that’s extracted from cannabis plants and used for medical purposes.

In a closed-door office meeting that violated Idaho’s open meeting law, Heider was quoted by an Associated Press reporter as saying: “The governor’s office doesn’t want this bill, the prosecutors don’t want this bill, the office on drug policy doesn’t want this bill.”

His opponent in the primary, Jay S. Waters III, told the Times-News that this highly publicized incident was one of the reasons he decided to run against Heider.

“It doesn’t matter what’s in the bill. It needs to be heard by the public and voted on by the people the public have chosen to represent them,” Waters said. “Nobody in a higher position of government should be silencing the average everyday citizen.”

For his part, Heider said he stands by his decision to not give the bill a hearing. He noted that an FDA advisory panel voted in April to recommend FDA approval of Epidiolex, a pharmaceutical brand of CBD oil. The FDA will vote in June whether to approve the drug, which would be used to treat severe epilepsy.

“It may have the same properties, but it’s done in the right way,” Heider said. “You don’t go out and buy it off the street.”

Heider, a Republican from Twin Falls, has served in Idaho’s state Senate since 2010. He’s run unopposed in the primary in every election since then, and was given the “Legislator of the Year” award for the 2018 session.

“I think I have the value system that people in Idaho like,” Heider said. “I’m not a liberal. I’m not an ultra-conservative. I’m right in the middle.”

Waters, who describes himself as a “true conservative — something I don’t believe my opponent is,” lives in Twin Falls and works in automotive restoration.

He is a member of the Real 3%ers of Idaho, a volunteer organization that advocates for “self-reliance, community sustainability, tactical civil defense and defending the Bill of Rights and Constitution,” according to Waters.

Some of his priorities if elected will be increasing local control over education and advocating for a “Stand Your Ground” bill that goes further than the Castle Doctrine law passed in the 2018 legislative session, Waters said.

“I will consider my campaign a positive, regardless of whether I’m elected or not, if more people come out and vote in the primary than did previously,” Waters said. “If we can get people out to the least the voice is being heard the way it’s set up to be heard in government. They’re having that choice.”

District 25

Gretel Kauffman / COURTESY PHOTO  

Jim Patrick 

Gretel Kauffman / COURTESY PHOTO  

Terry Edwards 

Sen. Jim Patrick, a farmer from Twin Falls, will face Terry Edwards of Jerome in the Republican primary.

Patrick was first elected to the legislature in 2006. He served three terms in the Idaho House of Representatives before running for the Senate, where he chairs the Commerce & Human Resources Committee. He’s now seeking a third term as a state senator.

Patrick’s to-do list if re-elected includes working on regulation reform, improving infrastructure in the Magic Valley and elsewhere, and continuing aquifer recharge efforts.

He said he also hopes to help bridge what he sees as a growing divide between rural and urban lawmakers, as the population of the Treasure Valley continues to explode.

“There’s not a big divide yet. There’s just a lack of understanding,” Patrick said. “It’s up to the rest of us in those rural areas to explain what we need and why we do what we do.”

Edwards declined to be interviewed for this article, but directed the Times-News to a campaign flier in which he calls for “Republicans-In-Name-Only” to be “replaced with Freedom and Liberty loving patriots who still have a moral compass.”

“If you thought the Swamp was only in Washington, D.C., think again; it’s right here in the Idaho statehouse,” the flier says.

Some of Edwards’ top priorities if elected are Idaho control of Idaho land and water, reducing state and local taxes, and limiting federal regulations, he said in an emailed statement to the Times-News. He is a Marine Corps veteran with a background in the agriculture industry.

'We the People' forum features far-right Republican candidates

TWIN FALLS — Five conservative legislative candidates appeared at a forum organized by a local far-right advocacy group Thursday night.

Jay S. Waters III, Rocky Ferrenburg, Glenneda Zuiderveld, Lyle Johnstone and Terry Edwards, all of whom are seeking state House or Senate seats in Districts 24 and 25, spoke to a crowd of about two dozen people, addressing topics ranging from education to marijuana to public lands.

The forum was hosted by “We the People,” a group that describes itself as a “coalition of patriots who are concerned with the direction our nation — and our community — is heading in.” The organization is associated with several conservative groups, including a local chapter of the John Birch Society.

The gathering struck a hopeful tone as the candidates, some of whom are challenging longtime Republican incumbents, spoke of a recently formed coalition of “Liberty Legislators” in the statehouse and the large number of primary challengers across Idaho and the Magic Valley.

“The shift is changing in Boise,” said Lyle Johnstone, who is challenging Rep. Clark Kauffman for House Seat 25B. “If we can continue to put constitutional Republican-type, small-government people in there, we can continue to move that in the right direction.”

One of the “Liberty Legislators,” Rep. Christy Zito of Hammett, was in attendance Thursday night, though she clarified to the Times-News after the event that she was only there as an observer.

She asked the candidates for their thoughts on several controversial bills introduced in the legislature during the 2018 session, including a bill that would remove mandatory minimum sentences for drug trafficking cases and a civil asset forfeiture reform bill that became law.

Questions about a widely controversial bill to increase penalties for trespassers sparked the most heated debate, with attendees and candidates on both sides of the issue.

All candidates agreed, however, on one central message: that current Republican representation in the Idaho statehouse is not conservative enough for their liking.

Terry Edwards, who’s running for the Senate seat in District 25 against incumbent Sen. Jim Patrick, told attendees he had taken an oath as a member of the Marine Corps to “defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

“I believe some of those folks at the statehouse are domestic enemies,” Edwards said.

“We’re showing people that we’re stepping up,” added Waters, a candidate for the District 24 Senate seat. “And we’re going to take back this country.”

If you do one thing

If you do one thing: Music starts at 6 p.m. in downtown Twin Falls, featuring Blaze and Kelly at Rudy’s — A Cook’s Paradise, 147 Main Ave. W.; Gary and Cindy Braun at the Sandwich Company, 128 Main Ave. N.; and Heather Platts at Yellow Brick Cafe, 136 Main Ave. N.


Canyon Ridge senior Orion Shirley (middle) receives applause after signing with Grinnell College for basketball and track on Thursday at Canyon Ridge High School.

Trump: Repayment not campaign-related

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump insisted Thursday his reimbursement of a 2016 hush payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels had nothing to do with his election campaign. But the surprise revelation of the president’s payment clashed with his past statements, created new legal headaches and stunned many in the West Wing.

White House aides were blindsided when Trump’s recently added attorney, Rudy Giuliani, said Wednesday night that the president had repaid Michael Cohen for $130,000 that was given to Daniels to keep her quiet before the 2016 election about her allegations of an affair with Trump. Giuliani’s revelation, which seemed to contradict Trump’s past statements, came as the president’s newly configured outside legal team pursued his defense, apparently with zero coordination with the West Wing.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she first learned that Trump had repaid the hush money from Giuliani’s interview on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity.” Staffers’ phones began to buzz within moments. Deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley, who had pre-taped an interview with Fox News earlier Wednesday evening, was suddenly summoned to return for a live interview.

While Giuliani said the payment to Daniels was “going to turn out to be perfectly legal,” legal experts said the new information raised a number of questions, including whether the money represented repayment of an undisclosed loan or could be seen as reimbursement for a campaign expenditure. Either could be legally problematic.

Giuliani insisted Trump didn’t know the specifics of Cohen’s arrangement with Daniels until recently, telling “Fox & Friends” on Thursday that the president didn’t know all the details until “maybe 10 days ago.” Giuliani told The New York Times that Trump had repaid Cohen $35,000 a month “out of his personal family account” after the campaign was over. He said Cohen received $460,000 or $470,000 in all for expenses related to Trump.

But no debt to Cohen was listed on Trump’s personal financial disclosure form, which was certified on June 16, 2017. Asked if Trump had filed a fraudulent form, Sanders said: “I don’t know.”

Giuliani said the payment was not a campaign finance violation, but also acknowledged that Daniels’ hushed-up allegations could have affected the campaign, saying: “Imagine if that came out on October 15, 2016, in the middle of the last debate with Hillary Clinton.”

Questions remain about just what Trump knew and when.

Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, is seeking to be released from a non-disclosure deal she signed in the days before the 2016 election to keep her from talking about a 2006 sexual encounter she said she had with Trump. She has also filed defamation suits against Cohen and Trump.

Speaking to reporters on Air Force One several weeks ago, Trump said he did not know about the payment or where the money came from. In a phone interview with “Fox and Friends” last week, however, he appeared to muddy the waters, saying that Cohen represented him in the “crazy Stormy Daniels deal.”

Sanders said Thursday that Trump “eventually learned” about the payment, but she did not offer details.

For all the controversy Giuliani stirred up, some Trump supporters said it was wise to get the payment acknowledgement out in the open.

Said former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie: “You know, there’s an old saying in the law, ‘Hang a lantern on your problems.’ ... So the fact is that Rudy has to go out there now and clean it up. That’s what lawyers get hired to do.”

Daniels herself weighed in via Twitter, saying: “I don’t think Cohen is qualified to ‘clean up’ my horse’s manure. Too soon?”

Her attorney, Michael Avenatti, who engaged in his own press tour Thursday, slammed both Trump and Giuliani.

“The admissions by Mr. Giuliani as to Mr. Trump’s conduct and the acts of Mr. Cohen are directly contrary to the lies previously told to the American people,” he said. “There will ultimately be severe consequences.”

Trump is facing mounting legal threats from the Cohen-Daniels situation and the special counsel’s investigation of Russian meddling in the election and possible coordination with the Trump campaign.

Cohen is facing a criminal investigation in New York, and FBI agents raided his home and office several weeks ago seeking records about the Daniels nondisclosure agreement. Giuliani has warned Trump that he fears Cohen, the president’s longtime personal attorney, will “flip,” bending in the face of a potential prison sentence, and he has urged Trump to cut off communications with him, according to a person close to Giuliani.

The president’s self-proclaimed legal fixer has been surprised and concerned by Trump’s recent stance toward him, according to a Cohen confidant. Cohen was dismayed to hear Trump marginalize his role during an interview last week with “Fox & Friends” and interpreted a recent negative National Enquirer cover story as a warning shot from a publication that has long been cozy with Trump, said the person who was not authorized to talk about private conversations and spoke only on condition of anonymity. Cohen also had not indicated to friends that Trump’s legal team was going to contradict his original claim that he was not reimbursed for the payment to Daniels.

Giuliani, a former New York City mayor and U.S. attorney, joined Trump’s legal team last month. He told CNN on Thursday that the announcement of Trump’s repayment of the hush money was a planned strategy, saying: “You won’t see daylight between me and the president.” He was quickly backed up by Trump, who said on Twitter that he had repaid Cohen.

Idaho's open congressional seat attracts crowd of candidates

BOISE — Anything can happen in a crowded race to secure Idaho’s 1st Congressional District.

The seat has attracted a wide range of candidates, now that four-term GOP U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador is running for governor.

On the Republican side, this includes former gubernatorial candidate Russ Fulcher, former Attorney General and former Lt. Gov. David Leroy and state Reps. Luke Malek and Christy Perry. First time GOP candidates Michael Snyder, Alex Gallegos and Nicholas Henderson are also running.

It’s a competitive, crowded race marked by little differentiation between the Republican hopeful. All of them have said they support President Donald Trump’s agenda while also promising to cut taxes, stand up to Congress and cut back regulations to help promote economic growth.

Fulcher has raised more campaign funds compared to his opponents and secured big name endorsements from groups such as Club for Growth, which started running television ads for the Meridian Republican in the final weeks leading up to the May 15 primary.

Fulcher, 56, originally filed to run for Idaho’s open gubernatorial seat nearly a year ago with the hope of securing the top statewide seat after narrowly failing to do so in 2014 against Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter. Fulcher instead jumped into the congressional race, saying he and Labrador should serve in complimentary roles.

Fulcher since received criticism from his opponents that he only half-heartedly jumped into the congressional race because he knew he couldn’t win the coveted GOP governor’s nomination. He was teased because he used tape to cover the word “governor” on his congressional campaign signs.

For Leroy, the former politician hopes his past experience winning statewide elections will give him the extra push in the competitive race.

Leroy, 70, served as Idaho’s attorney general from 1979 to 1983, and lieutenant governor from 1983 to 1987. He was appointed by President H.W. Bush to be a U.S. nuclear waste negotiator from 1990 to 1993.

He narrowly lost to Democratic Gov. Cecil Andrus as the Republican nominee in 1986 and lost the GOP primary for the same congressional seat in 1994.

Malek is an attorney, former deputy Kootenai County prosecutor and three-term state representative from northern Idaho. During his time at the Idaho Legislature, he was vice chair of the House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee and a member of the influential budget setting committee.

Malek, 36, received an endorsement from the Idaho Fraternal Order of Police following his opposition to legislation that would have allowed Idaho judges to vary from the current mandatory minimum sentences for drug possession.

Meanwhile, Perry — Malek’s legislative colleague and congressional opponent —was one of the key sponsors of the drug sentencing reform proposal. The two sparred during this year’s legislative session as the bill progressed through the statehouse, which ultimately failed to make it to the governor’s desk.

Perry, 49, is a gun store co-owner and describes herself as “the girl with all the guns,” urging voters to pick her over her opponents because she argues Congress has enough white male attorneys.

Snyder, 48, has attempted to cast himself as the most pro-Trump candidate in a race where nearly every Republican candidate has attempted to out-Trump one another. Known as an end-times enthusiast to some, due to his multiple books on preparing for the pending doomsday, Snyder, also a former attorney, supports eliminating the Internal Revenue Service, the federal income tax, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of Education.

Henderson and Gallegos are both military veterans who jumped into the congressional race late. Like Snyder, as first-time candidates, the two Republicans face an uphill battle developing the campaign support an infrastructure to secure the nomination. Both have campaigned on improving veteran services, with Gallegos pushing to control debt and improve combat readiness.

James Vandermaas is the only Democratic candidate who has filed to run for the seat. He will likely remain unopposed until November.

Otto Kitsinger