SHOSHONE — Candidates for the state legislature and county commission answered questions from Lincoln County fairgoers Thursday night, addressing topics ranging from education to building a new county courthouse.
The debate, hosted by the Lincoln County Republican Party, was open to candidates from all parties but attracted mostly GOP candidates. Julia Oxarango-Ingram, a Democrat running a write-in campaign for the county commission, was the only non-Republican to participate.
Oxarango-Ingram, fellow write-in candidate Larry Kerner, and incumbent Roy Hubert shared their thoughts on county matters, while District 26 legislative candidates Julie Lynn of Ketchum, Mike McFadyen of Fairfield, and incumbent Rep. Steve Miller of Fairfield answered questions on statewide issues.
The legislative candidates’ Democratic opponents — incumbent Sen. Michelle Stennett of Ketchum, incumbent Rep. Sally Toone of Gooding, and Muffy Davis of Ketchum, respectively — were invited to the debate but did not attend, county chair Don Hudson said.
Toone walked in the fair’s parade earlier that evening but was unable to participate in the debate because of a family commitment, Hudson said.
Miller, who is serving his third term in Idaho’s House, primarily fielded questions about recent bills and his stance on them. One audience member asked Miller to explain why he voted for the controversial trespass law passed this past legislative session, which changes the standard for marking private property and strengthens penalties for those caught trespassing.
Miller said he supported the bill because it clarified some points of confusion in Idaho’s previous laws on trespassing.
“This law really simplifies what private property trespass law is and makes it more clear to understand,” Miller said. “And I just think it’s a much better law.”
Lynn and McFadyen spent much of their time at the lectern telling the crowd about their backgrounds and priorities if elected.
Lynn said her main focus is providing affordable health insurance for Idahoans. She said she would be in favor of expanding Medicaid, “but not the way Democrats are talking about it.”
“I think that there is a way to expand Medicaid in a fashion that is affordable for the state of Idaho and for citizens who need the help,” Lynn said. “I think that would be a nice compromise that we could do.”
McFadyen’s top goals were education-related: increasing the programming and training opportunities available to high school students, and keeping Idaho schools safe. He said his family had been personally affected by a shooting in California.
“I want to make sure nothing like that comes to this state, and I’ll do everything I can to make sure,” he said. He did not elaborate on his ideas for improving school safety.
A question asking commission candidates for their thoughts on raising the salary of county commissioners produced some disagreement and debate. The commissioners received a raise last year from $18,900 per year to $31,330.
“I think when you compare what’s happening around us in other counties, we are behind in what we are paying the commissioners,” Oxarango-Ingram said. “It’s increasingly not a part-time job. It’s a full-time job.”
Hubert said he felt a salary increase was justified, noting that last week he put in more than 40 hours of work.
“I feel that my time is worth at least $15 an hour,” he said.
“I am tired of hearing the argument that if we don’t have enough money we won’t have enough candidates running,” he said. Fifteen dollars an hour, he added, “is more than most of the clerks are making in our office, and you can physically see them working.”
Another question that sparked debate was whether the candidates favored building a new courthouse or renovating the courthouse downtown.
Oxarango-Ingram said she was in favor of renovating the existing courthouse and bringing it up to code.
“I’m very passionate about saving our historic buildings, and that’s a particularly beautiful one,” she said. She said that moving the courthouse and other businesses out of downtown would lead to a “less alive community.”
Hubert said he was “leaning toward” building a new facility, primarily because he anticipated the cost of renovations would be more than constructing a new building, an argument Oxarango-Ingram disputed.
Kerner said he would let the taxpayers decide.
“Whatever you guys want to do with the courthouse is alright by me,” he said. “It’s not up to me to make any decisions.”