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School reform issue draws candidates

Goedde was lead sponsor of controversial laws

Two decades ago, Coeur d’Alene’s delegation to the state Legislature was all-Democrat, like most of the North Idaho Panhandle back then. Now, it’s all-Republican, but District 4, which includes the city, was the last Panhandle district to send a Democrat to Boise – Democratic state Rep. George Sayler’s fourth term ended two years ago.

Now a new crop of Democrats, all first-time candidates and opponents of Idaho’s controversial school reform laws, is trying to retake the district’s seats.

• Six-term state Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, has drawn a challenge from Warren Ducote Jr., a retired teacher and military veteran who opposes the Students Come First school reforms. Goedde was the controversial school package’s lead legislative sponsor.

“There are still some things that I’d like to get done,” Goedde said of his bid for a seventh term. “I’ve been very closely involved with the education reform movement, and I think there are parts of that that need a little more tweaking, and I want to see what we’ve done in education translate into better employment opportunities for our kids.”

Ducote accuses Goedde of “ramrodding” the school reforms through the Legislature and calls him “a great example of reasons that we might consider term limits in the future.” Said Ducote, “I think it’s time for some new ideas, some new blood.”

Independent Jeremy Boggess also is running, challenging Goedde for a fourth time.

• Three candidates are vying for an open House seat in the district, after four-term GOP Rep. Marge Chadderdon retired.

Luke Malek is an up-and-coming Republican whom Chadderdon endorsed; he won a two-way GOP primary with 65 percent of the vote, but his GOP opponent did little campaigning.

Janet Callen, the Democratic candidate, says she was motivated to run by this year’s legislative session. “I did not like their actions against women – that’s what really got my attention,” she said.

Callen is critical of the school reform laws, saying, “We would get more job creation by just investing in our teachers than we would by buying out-of-state laptops.”

Constitution Party candidate Ray Writz is making his third run for the Legislature. “I want to keep reminding the other two parties that we need to rethink what we’re doing, since what we’re doing is not working, particularly on a national scale,” he said.

Malek, who supports the school reform laws, said, “I’m going to be supportive of innovation. … We’re just providing teachers with every avenue and resource that we can to make sure that we have our kids in a competitive position.”

• In the district’s other legislative seat, incumbent Rep. Kathy Sims, R-Coeur d’Alene, won the seat after Sayler retired two years ago. She’s a local car dealer and former county GOP chair who was a high-profile advocate of this year’s failed Coeur d’Alene City Council recall attempt, and has been a leading critic of the state’s urban renewal laws and of the local redevelopment agency.

Sims is being challenged by Anne Nesse, a Democrat who’s a retired teacher and nurse, and who promises a more “positive” approach. “I try to look at how we can solve problems together, rather than negatively being against something without providing a positive approach,” Nesse said.

Sims backs Idaho’s new school reform laws, saying, “I totally support Tom Luna’s initiatives to bring technology into our classrooms. As a business person, I know every person I employ has got to have those skills.”

Nesse opposes them. “We’re so low on funding – below Mississippi – and trying to drive it lower by just putting in computers doesn’t solve the problem,” she said. “The problem is lack of investment in the first place and increasing class size.”

Idaho Senate, District 4

• John Goedde , Republican

Age: 63

Occupation: Insurance broker, incumbent

Notable experience: Serving sixth term in Senate, chairs the Education Committee. Former school board member; former GOP precinct committeeman and state committeeman. Past president, Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce. Eight years on steering committee for education at National Conference of State Legislatures, the last two as co-chair. Thirty years as small-business owner.

Key campaign promises: Wants to see through education reforms he sponsored. Through his seat on Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission Council, wants to work to turn university research into employment opportunities for Idahoans. Working on legislation to make some changes in workers’ compensation that will “make Idaho a better state for business.”

• Warren Ducote Jr. , Democrat

Age: 64

Occupation: Retired teacher, military retiree

Notable experience: First run for office. Worked in education for 33 years, including 11 years in student services at North Idaho College after middle-school teaching career. Retired from Washington Air National Guard with rank of major in 1996, after 11 years in active reserve and four years active duty.

Key campaign promises: Wants to strengthen economy by working for jobs with “livable wages,” saying economy can only grow “if people have the money, the income to be able to buy things.” Wants more teacher and parent input into education reforms. Favors creating an independent ethics commission; opposes prison privatization; supports veterans programs.

• Jeremy Boggess , Independent

Age: 41

Occupation: In-home care for people who are elderly or disabled

Notable experience: Fourth run against Goedde, all as an independent. Raised in the Silver Valley; graduated from Coeur d’Alene High School; bachelor’s degree in business from Lewis-Clark State College Coeur d’Alene center. Buys used items at auctions and elsewhere and sells them online, as in the TV show “Storage Wars.”

Key campaign promises: Wants to work to expand manufacturing in North Idaho. “I’m going to start calling a lot of businesses and organizations throughout the country and try and get them to relocate to Idaho.” Wants to seek out and address major obstacles those firms identify. Supports expansion of renewable energy development.

Idaho House, District 4, Seat A

• Luke Malek , Republican

Age: 30

Occupation: Business consultant for community health centers, with Community Link Consulting

Notable experience: Former Kootenai County deputy prosecutor; law degree, University of Idaho; bachelor’s degree, College of Idaho. Former communications director, Dirne Community Health Center; Northern Idaho regional director for then-Gov. Jim Risch; former executive director, Post Falls Urban Renewal Agency. Helped found the Kootenai County Young Professionals in 2007.

Key campaign promises: “Every decision I make, I’m going to run through my philosophical lens of … should government be involved in this, or is this better left to individuals?” Says jobs will be his main focus. Supports the Students Come First school reforms. Also wants to look at some areas of criminal law based on his experience serving as a deputy prosecutor.

• Janet Callen , Democrat

Age: “Over 65”

Occupation: Retired CPA

Notable experience: Worked her way through college at age 50 to become a CPA, after raising three children. Owned H&R Block franchise in Grangeville. Worked as an IRS revenue agent for 15 years. Idaho resident for 42 years, including 19 years in Coeur d’Alene. Active member of Coeur d’Alene Audubon Society. First-time candidate.

Key campaign promises: “I haven’t promised anything, except that I will listen to people.” Favors investing in infrastructure to create jobs, instead of granting tax breaks to the wealthy like this year’s $35 million tax cut for top earners. Opposes school reform laws, saying money for laptops and online learning goes out of state. Opposes legislative intrusions on women’s rights.

• Ray Writz , Constitution Party

Age: 61

Occupation: Driver/dispatcher for contractor at Burlington Northern depot; also operates janitorial business

Notable experience: Has worked in a variety of jobs, from construction to selling cellphones; has some business and electronics training. Does his own taxes for janitorial business of 25 years, and says, “I read the tax laws – that’s why we need new tax laws.” Born-again Christian. Says with his longtime involvement in janitorial business, “I’m used to cleaning up other people’s messes.”

Key campaign promises: Supports school reform laws; supports tax breaks for those who home school or use private rather than public schools. Wants to eliminate property and state income taxes and replace with a sales tax, while reducing both regulation and spending. Promises to “tell the federal government to go take a hike.”

Idaho House, District 4, Seat B

• Kathy Sims , Republican

Age: 70

Occupation: Auto and motorcycle dealer, Coeur d’Alene Honda

Notable experience: Incumbent; also served one term in the Senate after being appointed in 2001. Served on Idaho Human Rights Commission; National Auto Dealers board of directors; was Kootenai County GOP chairwoman for eight years. In business for 44 years. Former 4-H motorcycle instructor; still rides a scooter.

Key campaign promises: Keep government efficient and tax-friendly for businesses. Review land-use planning laws to ensure private property rights aren’t eroded. Support school reforms. Make sure “Idaho sticks to a budget.”

• Anne Nesse , Democrat

Age: Declined to state

Occupation: Retired nurse, teacher and small-business owner

Notable experience: Degrees in nursing, psychology. Eighteen years in Coeur d’Alene. Worked eight years as a nurse before returning to school to study education. Married to a family practice doctor, which she said helps her be informed about current health care issues. Recently learned grandmother, who opened law practice in 1915, was first female law graduate at University of California Berkeley.

Key campaign promises: Supports health care system changes in which physicians would be paid to keep people well. Favors a “fairer tax code”; opposes this year’s $35 million tax cut for corporations and top earners. Backs increased school funding, saying, “You kind of get what you pay for.”