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Chenoweth May Get Second Challenger High-Tech Exec John Hale Considering Entering Primary

CORRECTION Views misstated: John Hale, a high-tech executive who is considering running against U.S. Rep. Helen Chenoweth, R-Idaho, is a moderate Republican. A story in Tuesday’s Idaho Spokesman-Review misstated his political philosophy.

Another high-tech executive is considering challenging U.S. Rep. Helen Chenoweth in next spring’s Republican primary.

John Hale, a 37-year-old manager for XN Technologies who splits his time between Moscow and Idaho Falls, said he’s considering taking on Idaho’s two-term congresswoman. That would mean a three-way race - Coeur d’Alene businessman Tony Paquin announced months ago.

It appears Chenoweth’s reputation as an advocate for anti-government extremists would figure prominently in Hale’s campaign.

In the past, when Hale told people around the country he was from Idaho, they responded with, “‘Oh, famous potatoes,”’ he said. “Now they say, ‘Oh, white supremacists, militias and Helen Chenoweth.’

“We’re getting sold short.”

Hale also criticizes Chenoweth for being too narrowly focused on the extractive industries, “a very small portion of the economic interests of the state,” he said. Outdoorsmen like he also feel left out with Chenoweth as their person in Washington.

Paquin is too narrowly focused on high-tech industries, Hale said. And he said both Hale and Chenoweth are ultraconservatives, which doesn’t help Idaho’s reputation.

Hale calls himself a native because his father’s residence of record while in the Air Force was Payette. Born on an Air Force base in Oklahoma, Hale came to Idaho after graduating from high school and earned bachelor’s degrees from the University of Idaho in wildlife resources and physics.

He served six years in the Air Force as a physicist and a flight test engineer. Hale then spent 3-1/2 years working for the Idaho Air National Guard in Boise and Caldwell.

He’s now employed by the Cheney, Wash., company founded by his father. Because his wife, Donna, works for the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory in Idaho Falls, he spends half of his time in southeastern Idaho. The rest of the time he stays in Moscow while commuting to Cheney.

Hale said his well-rounded outlook would help the state better prepare itself for high-tech industries, as well as promote agriculture and tourism.

Technology industries generally don’t hire Idaho residents because Idaho isn’t preparing its work force appropriately. More focus needs to be on encouraging the children of the state to go to college, he said.

Mismanagement of extractive industries threatens both the natural resource industry and tourism, he said. While not an environmentalist, Hale said he believes “if you just open up the forest to cutting without any protection, we will run out of those resources.”

Hale noted he’s the only Armed Forces veteran running. That’s important, he said, in an era with fewer veterans in Congress.

Both Chenoweth and Paquin take issue with Hale’s characterizations.

“It sounds like he’s running as a Democrat,” said Graham Paterson, of the Chenoweth campaign, when asked about Hale’s reputation.

“In a blind test. If you put Dan Williams, Tony Paquin and John Hale behind a curtain, you couldn’t tell the difference,” Paterson said. Williams, a Democrat, narrowly lost to Chenoweth in 1996.

Paterson argues Chenoweth represents smaller government and lower taxes, which benefits all sectors of the economy, he said. In the end, Paterson predicted that neither Paquin nor Hale would score as many votes against Chenoweth as Nampa physician William Levinger did in 1996. Levinger got 18,049 votes to Chenoweth’s 38,565.

Paquin, “would represent all of Idaho who wants effective leadership for the state,” said Sue Cuff, a campaign spokeswoman. The extractive industries rely on high tech, so Paquin is pulling for mining and timber by pulling for high tech.

“If Tony is elected, he would be a champion of the extractive industries and he is counting on their support for a successful campaign,” Cuff said.

Paquin also is a strong advocate for veterans and for education. And Agency One, the software company he and his brother recently sold, employed more than 100 people, mostly Idahoans, she said.

“To say Idaho is not ready for high tech is to say we are 20 years behind the times,” Cuff said. “Idaho is ready for the new jobs.”

, DataTimes

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