The ballot looks very different in North Idaho’s most Republican legislative district this fall, now that tax-protesting four-term state Rep. Phil Hart is out and an array of new candidates are jostling for attention.
Democrats are challenging Republicans for all three of District 2’s seats this fall – the first time a Democrat has appeared on the ballot there since 2002. The last time one won was in 1994.
Cheryl Stransky is among the new crop of candidates. A retired high school counselor who’s been active in the community for 35 years, she has a quote from her opponent, first-term Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, emblazoned on her campaign website: “If I wanted a reasonable Republican, I’d vote for a Democrat.”
“I feel like I am almost a polar opposite of my opponent,” said Stransky, who says the district’s lawmakers have gone too far and crossed a “tipping point.” Says the Democratic challenger, “I sense that people are ready for a reasoned representative.”
Barbieri acknowledges he made the comment to a gathering of the United Conservatives of North Idaho last December. “It got a good laugh – it was a joke,” Barbieri said. But he said he stands by the sentiment.
“The bottom line is … since I’m conservative, it’s my position that compromise has gotten the United States in the situation that it’s in,” Barbieri said. “To be reasonable is to compromise, and to compromise in these days with taxpayers overburdened like they are – it’s time for someone to take a stand and not be making all these compromises.”
Barbieri, a first-term representative and Hart ally – Hart recruited both Barbieri and first-term Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, to run for the Legislature – is confident the heavily conservative district supports his hard-line slant. “This district is a conservative district,” he reiterated.
Stransky has, however, won a key endorsement from a group that usually backs Republicans: The North Idaho Building Contractors Association.
A similar dynamic is playing out in Democrat Shirley McFaddan’s run against Vick. “For 30 years we’ve been under basically a single-party rule,” McFaddan said. “I think people are thinking maybe that’s not the best representation in their government.”
Meanwhile, Hart’s former seat, now up for grabs, is the subject of a hotly contested race between longtime area real estate appraiser Ed Morse, who defeated Hart in the GOP primary, and Dan English, a longtime area nonprofit head and local elected official who for years was the only elected Democrat in Kootenai County government; he was the longtime county clerk and also served on the Coeur d’Alene City Council.
English said, “The fact that we are so lopsided politically, I just don’t think it’s healthy.”
But Barbieri said, “They’re saying that they want balance in Idaho. And you know, that’s exactly the opposite of my perspective: If we have balance, then we’re back to compromise again. So I think they’re playing into our political hands.”
Idaho Senate, District 2
STEVE VICK, 56, Republican incumbent; owner, home renovation company.
NOTABLE EXPERIENCE: Serving first two-year term in Senate. Served four terms in Montana House of Representatives. Worked for two and a half years as program manager, utility division, for the Montana Public Service Commission. Bachelor’s degree in engineering.
KEY PROMISES: “My main focus is to keep government limited and efficient. The private sector will do a good job of figuring out where the opportunities are and the jobs will come.” Vick plans to try again with his failed legislation from this year to amend the Idaho Constitution to require a two-thirds vote for any tax or fee increase or removing any tax break.
SHIRLEY MCFADDAN, 58, Democrat; retired after 29 years with Verizon.
NOTABLE EXPERIENCE: Former teacher, worked on family farm in Southern Idaho for three years, born in Grangeville. Started with Verizon in Moscow when it was General Telephone, working as a telephone operator. First run for office.
KEY PROMISES: Wants to avoid promises, but says she’ll work to move Idaho to higher standards for education, better economy, support small businesses, and help people feel like they have a voice in state government. “I would hope that if we can get the government more balanced in the state Capitol, that people will start talking to one another and stop just pushing a party agenda or a personal agenda.”
Idaho House, District 2, Seat A
VITO BARBIERI, 60, Republican incumbent; small-business owner.
NOTABLE EXPERIENCE: Serving first two-year term in House. Unsuccessfully pushed legislation to “nullify” federal health care reform law. Chairman of the board, Open Arms Pregnancy Care Center and Real Choices Clinic, Coeur d’Alene. Practiced law in California for 20 years.
KEY PROMISES: “I think the key is to remain true to the conservative ideology, and that is to somehow shrink government … shrink the regulations that are stifling businesses.” Working on legislation to deregulate driver’s training businesses in Idaho; and to look into a way to charge the federal government for destruction of Idaho wildlife by wolves. Backs tax credits for private schools, supports “Students Come First” school reform laws.
CHERYL STRANSKY, no age given, Democrat; retired school counselor.
NOTABLE EXPERIENCE: Holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in psychology. Counselor at Coeur d’Alene High School for 23 years, then at Woodland Middle School until 2010 retirement. Served as president of the North Idaho Counseling Association.
KEY PROMISES: “I sense that people are ready for a reasoned representative. … Idaho has real problems that need real solutions.” Wants to focus on education quality, tax fairness. Opposes “Students Come First” school reform laws; supports expansion of Medicaid. Says, “State mandates that single out women with respect to their medical procedures and decisions are an unacceptable intrusion into the lives of private citizens.”
Idaho House, District 2, Seat B
ED MORSE, 62, Republican; real estate appraiser and consultant.
NOTABLE EXPERIENCE: Thirty-nine years in the real estate appraisal business in Hayden; MBA, University of Idaho; law degree, Gonzaga University; board member, Kootenai County Reagan Republicans; past board member, Coeur d’Alene Library Foundation; member, Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce. Served on state and national professional boards.
KEY PROMISES: Promises to work for job creation and economic development, saying, “Jobs are better than any social entitlement, and much cheaper”; and to “protect property rights, reduce regulatory burdens, and create an environment to attract new business.” He also wants “more ethics oversight for legislators,” saying, “The current House rules lack adequate disclosures and prevent complaints by average citizens.”
DAN ENGLISH, 61, Democrat; resident manager, Twin Lakes Friends Camp.
NOTABLE EXPERIENCE: Served as Kootenai County clerk, Coeur d’Alene city councilman, and on Coeur d’Alene school board. Served as national standards board chair, U.S. Election Commission, and president, Idaho county clerks association. Former juvenile detective, Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department. Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Founded Anchor House home for troubled teens and North Idaho Youth for Christ. Licensed professional counselor. Former LCSC adjunct faculty in justice studies and social work.
KEY PROMISES: Favors Medicaid expansion because “it makes fiscal sense and … it’s the morally right thing to do.” Wants party precinct officials removed from public primary election ballot to save county taxpayers money. Opposes closed primaries because “right now all of the taxpayers are paying for the elections, and they are very expensive, and yet so many of them are closed out of the process.”