Reps. Steve Hartgen and Maxine Bell each face a challenge in Tuesday’s GOP primary from ideologues of the far-right.
It’d be foolish to give their challengers much serious thought.
Make no mistake that Hartgen and Bell are conservatives. But they’re practical conservatives and willing to compromise to pass meaningful legislation when it’s in the best interest of their constituents. Put more plainly, they’re not beholden to the radical right wing of their party. And thank God for that.
Their opponents, on the other hand, are zealots who’ll take their marching orders from the Idaho Freedom Foundation, a far-right lobbying group masquerading as a conservative think tank.
The Idaho Legislature needs free thinkers like Hartgen and Bell, who are guided by conservative principles in the pursuit of improving the lives of all Idahoans, not just the ones who can quote Ayn Rand.
That puts them head and shoulders above the zealots seeking to oust them from office — especially Bell, the most powerful woman in Idaho and one of the most respected members of the Idaho Legislature. Of all the lawmakers in the Capitol, Bell is more deserving than any other to stay in office. Period. A vote against Bell is a vote against the Idaho ethos.
A master politician and co-chairwoman of the Legislature’s powerful budget-setting committee, Bell is one of the few lawmakers who can stand up to the governor or GOP leadership or special interests — or just about anybody else — and she often does to put Idahoans first.
We can’t imagine any scenario where her challenger, real estate broker Reggy Sternes, would be a better fit. Sternes says he decided to run simply to support the platform of the Idaho Freedom Foundation. How repugnant.
Hartgen’s challenger is Mary Bello, who runs a horse-riding program called Saddle Up for Kids and says politics is a hobby. For her, smaller government and a free market is the solution to just about all of the state’s problems. While we generally agree that smaller governments and free markets are preferable, clearly there is a role for government to play in our society. We wonder why Bello is running to join a government she’d seemingly want to dismantle. For us, her one bright spot is that she pledges to be a politician that reflects the will of the people. Problem for Bello, we doubt her far-right positions reflect the majority opinion on most issues in southern Idaho.
Bello’s motivation for running also lacks class and integrity. She says she opted to run against Hartgen when folks told her Hartgen was in poor health and potentially unable to serve if he were reelected. While it’s true that Hartgen missed a portion of the last legislative session to recover from pneumonia, he’s more than fit to continue to serve. And to suggest otherwise is unsavory.
Excuse us if we sound harsh in our assessments of these candidates, but these two particular primaries represent more than just the fate of two legislative seats. At issue is the heart and control of Idaho’s Republican Party, and we’d simply hate to see the Magic Valley’s moderate and effective delegation devolve into another obstructionist bloc the likes of which are causing problems for the party in northern Idaho, where lawmakers routinely vote no on simple appropriations bills based on their far-right beliefs.
The choice for us is beyond clear: Vote Hartgen and Bell.