Idaho state Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, was unopposed in his bid for a fourth term until Hayden businessman Howard Griffiths, angered by Hart’s continuing tax problems, filed to run against him as a write-in.
Hart, a former Constitution Party member who defeated the late GOP moderate Rep. Wayne Meyer in 2004, is an outspoken conservative and longtime tax protester who continued his personal fight against back federal and state income taxes while serving on the House tax committee. This year, he introduced legislation to eliminate Idaho’s state income tax on all earned income while bumping up the sales tax, though the bill didn’t advance.
Public records show Hart owes more than $500,000 in state and federal taxes, penalties and interest; he’s in the midst of fighting a state order to pay $53,000. This summer, a special House Ethics Committee cleared him of two ethics charges related to his tax issues, but unanimously recommended he be removed from the tax committee.
“We all pay our taxes, and my feeling is what he did was wrong,” Griffiths said.
• Phil Hart , 54
Bio: Structural engineer and owner of Alpine Engineering; three-term state representative; previously ran unsuccessfully as a Constitution Party candidate; bachelor’s degree, University of Utah; MBA, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania; author of “Constitutional Income: Do you have any?” Divorced, one daughter.
Campaign promises: “I’m not trying to spend money if we don’t have money to spend. My focus is more to try to defend the rights and privacy of people.”
Notable: Hart introduced a dozen bills this year, most having to do with constitutional rights or privacy, though few passed. One that did: A resolution congratulating Olympic cyclist Kristin Armstrong; Hart is a former bike racer himself.
• Howard Griffiths , 62
Bio: Retired businessman; sold Clean Check Inc., in which he was a partner, three years ago; Kootenai County marine deputy, summer 2003; public works director, city of Rathdrum, 1989 to 1994; Navy veteran. Married, three children and two grandchildren.
Campaign promises: “To listen to the constituents and what the majority wants or doesn’t want. That’s the primary thing, I think, is representing people.”
Notable: Griffiths and his business partners patented an extendable backwater valve for sewer systems that was sold by Clean Check.