TWIN FALLS — The five declared Republican candidates for Lieutenant Governor appeared in Twin Falls on Thursday afternoon, speaking at a Kiwanis Club forum. The candidates each answered questions from a moderator and one question from an audience member, including inquiries about how they view the role of lieutenant governor, what they see as the greatest challenges facing the state, and what they would do on their first day if they were to find themselves taking on the role of governor.
Sen. Bob Nonini
Nonini, who has served 14 years in the Idaho state legislature, eight in the House and six in the Senate, emphasized the value of his experience in Boise and his commitment to education issues.
“I can tell you one thing: there is no swamp in Idaho,” he said. “Yeah, there is a swamp in DC. But there is no swamp in Idaho. We just want to make a great state great.”
If elected, Nonini told forum-goers, any of the three leading candidates for governor could stand to benefit from his years in the Senate and House: Boise businessman Tommy Ahlquist, who’s “going to need someone with my experience,” U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador, who’s “going to need some help on the Senate side of the Idaho cabinet,” and current Lt. Gov. Brad Little, who has earned Nonini’s support.
Nonini repeatedly stressed education as his first priority, calling it “the most important thing we do,” and touting his position on the Senate Education Committee and former time as chairman of the House Education Committee. Other priorities, he said, are economic development and affordable quality health care.
McGeachin, an Idaho Falls business owner who served in the House from 2002-2012, vowed to tackle corruption among powerful politicians and make state government more accessible to ordinary citizens. “Government is not the solution to the problem. It is the problem,” McGeachin said in her introduction, quoting Ronald Reagan. “That pretty much sums up my philosophy of government.”
“How many of you really feel that your government truly understands your concerns?” she asked forum attendees, later adding, “I am just a regular Idahoan, just like you.”
In a geographically expansive state like Idaho, McGeachin said, she sees a need to improve all constituents’ access to politicians.
“In Boise, you can swing a dead cat by the tail and hit someone in government,” she said. In places like Twin Falls County, she continued, people may only have a chance to hear from their elected officials “several times a year.”
She expressed a desire to change this through increased use of technology, including social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.
Sen. Marv Hagedorn
Sen. Hagedorn has represented District 14 since 2012, having served as a state representative representing District 20 for five years before that.
On Thursday, he named issues surrounding economic development as one of his priorities, citing his experience working in business.
Particularly, Hagedorn said, the state should consider the importance of local communities having control over economic development.
“We need to be very careful about how to develop economic development in this state,” he said. “Idaho’s been discovered. We’re gonna grow. But we need to manage that growth in the most careful, productive way that we can.”
Rep. Kelley Packer
Rep. Packer, who has served Idaho’s 28th district since 2012, told attendees that as lieutenant governor, she would look forward to acting as president of the Senate and “helping to prioritize the issues and the needs that our state faces every year.”
Another focus of Packer’s would be building “strong relationships” with other leaders and stakeholders “to make sure we flesh out the issues.”
When asked what she would do if she found herself needing to take on the role of governor, she touched again on the importance of relationships.
“The governor is the person who leads the state, but they are surrounded by other amazing leaders,” she said. “I would need to make sure that I have in place relationships with the individual stakeholders so I could counsel them and understand what is necessary to move things forward.”
Yates, former chairman of the Idaho Republican Party and policy analyst for the DC-based think tank Heritage Foundation, said he believes the state should “fundamentally change” the way it engages in the state policy process.
He called for a new team in government committed to “getting key coalitions of support for key policy areas.”
“If we have more of an orderly and engaged process throughout the year, we should have more collaborators delivering on things you know were their priorities and we have more time to hear feedback about whether we’re on the right or wrong track,” Yates said.
“[Gubernatorial candidates] need help on how to build those coalitions and how to build that grassroots support to allow each of our partners in government to support you,” he added.