Phil Hart, the four-term North Idaho legislator defeated in a primary six years ago, is back before voters.
The tax-protesting politician – who lost his house after a protracted fight with the IRS, which included allegations of seven years of unpaid federal taxes – will pay off his tax debt in nine years, he said.
This election, he’s in a different district and was motivated, he said, by President Donald Trump.
“I think Donald Trump is going to cause us to redefine how we do government in America, and I want to be part of that discussion when it happens,” he said in an article on his LinkedIn page.
In Tuesday’s Republican primary, he’s challenging seven-term incumbent state Rep. Paul Shepherd in District 7, which includes Shoshone, Clearwater and Idaho counties and a portion of Bonner County.
Shepherd and Hart share many of the same opinions. They are against abortion rights, oppose gun restrictions and seek to limit the federal government.
Hart was ordered off the ballot late last month by the Idaho secretary of state because he will not have been a registered voter in District 7 for a year prior to the November election. A judge, however, determined he could remain a candidate.
If Hart wins the primary election, the Idaho secretary of state’s office may appeal the decision and remove his name from the general election.
Shepherd said the action was unfortunate, coming so close to the election.
“If it’s a real close race, he’s had some damage,” he said.
But Shepherd doesn’t blame the secretary of state.
“He’s got to be technical,” Shepherd said.
Kathy Sims, a candidate for a state Legislature seat that represents Post Falls, also lost her spot on the ballot, but regained it after a court ruling on a residency issue.
Trump and Hart are graduates of the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.
Hart backed an effort to repeal the state’s grocery tax when he was in the Legislature and says he continues to oppose the tax.
“A tax on food is literally a tax on our right to exist,” he said.
Hart said he wants to audit the wolf introduction process if elected to the House. With big game as an important part of economy, Hart wants to be more careful about allowing more wolves to kill elk, a position he’s detailed in YouTube videos.
He also wants to streamline highway development costs, he said, and with Trump in office, there could be a chance to simplify regulations. One way is allowing the private sector a place at the table, he said.
Voters in November may get a chance to expand Medicaid to 62,000 Idaho residents.
The Legislature could overturn the voters’ decision if they back it. While Shepherd said he opposes the initiative, he wouldn’t support overturning the will of the voters.
“Health care is an individual’s responsibility, not a government’s,” he said.
Earlier this year, Shepherd’s bill allowing the state to overturn federal law won support in a House committee. Shepherd said he would like to make another run at passing it through the Legislature.
Hart stopped filing federal and state income tax returns in 1996 while he unsuccessfully pressed a lawsuit challenging the federal income tax as unconstitutional. Hart settled his federal tax case in January 2015 and agreed to allow the auction of his home in Athol, which sold in 2016.
Hart’s debt started in 1995 when he sued the IRS to get a refund for federal income taxes that he paid because he wanted to challenge the legality of the income tax. He had written a book challenging it.
During his lawsuit, he went to tax court and circuit court but lost. Seven years later, when the U.S. Supreme Court did not take his case, he started paying back taxes and income tax again, but was then audited for eight years of his tax returns, he said.