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Tuesday, January 21, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Idaho

Races in heavily GOP district feature conservative Idaho Rep. Vito Barbieri

North Idaho’s Legislative District 2 is among the most conservative in the state, and GOP incumbents Vito Barbieri and Eric Redman are hoping to keep it that way.

Both face Democratic challengers in November, with longtime area teacher Kathy Kahn challenging Barbieri, and Richard Kohles, a former Post Falls school board member, challenging Redman. The third conservative GOP lawmaker in the district, Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, is running unopposed for his fourth two-year term.

Kahn is rapping Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, on his opposition to public school funding.

He was the only House member to vote against all seven pieces of the public school budget this year.

Kahn says, “Almost every vote that he makes would not be the way I would have wanted that issue to go.”

Barbieri, an outspoken home-schooling advocate, says he fits the district, which hasn’t elected a Democrat to the Legislature since 1994. He still stands by his controversial call for Christians to pull their children out of Idaho’s “godless” public schools, and says, “My opponent has been focused on education, and the need to increase the budget. I don’t believe that the constituents in this district even acknowledge that those are top priorities.”

Originally recruited to run for the House by tax-protesting former state Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, Barbieri is now seeking his fourth House term, and has risen to lead the House Business Committee.

“It takes time to learn the ropes and learn what’s necessary to get things done,” Barbieri said. He said he has a “positive feeling” that if he’s re-elected, “the north is going to have some influence in Boise.”

Barbieri received national attention in 2015 for asking a doctor during a hearing on an anti-abortion bill whether a woman could swallow a pill containing a tiny camera for a remote gynecological exam; the answer was no, Dr. Julie Madsen responded, “simply because when you swallow a pill, it would not end up in the vagina.”

Amid hoots of laughter from the audience, Barbieri responded, “Fascinating. That certainly makes sense, doctor.” The exchange went viral; Barbieri said his question was rhetorical and he was making a point about the differences between various medical procedures.

Barbieri lists his top issues as standing up to federal influence and watching out for taxpayers. Kahn says her biggest issue is education.

Redman, R-Athol, who is seeking a second term, is an ardent Christian conservative who has pushed unsuccessfully to ban Shariah law from being cited in Idaho court decisions. He’s hoping to continue that effort in a second term, and also push for other causes he’s learned about at four national conferences this year and 10 last year, mostly sponsored by conservative groups. Those include calling a convention of the states to amend the U.S. Constitution and add a balanced-budget amendment.

Kohles, a Catholic seminary graduate who also has a strong religious background, says the state’s GOP-heavy Legislature is “working on ideology rather than on kindness or taking care of the people of Idaho.” He said, “As a Democrat, I can come in and express a different view, and what we need in the Legislature right now is two opposing points of view and compromise.”

According to campaign finance reports filed with the Idaho secretary of state, both incumbents have outraised their challengers. Barbieri has raised $7,900 in campaign contributions since the primary and $20,109 for the year to date. Kahn has raised about $8,900 – $8,872 since the primary and nearly $12,300 for the year.

Barbieri’s contributions since the primary were largely from political action committees. The largest was $1,000 from Winning for Idaho, a political action committee that represents the Greyhound Park Event Center in Post Falls.

Kahn’s donations were mostly from individuals in the district; her largest were $1,605 from the Kootenai County Democratic Central Committee and $1,000 from Idaho Forest Group.

Redman, who withstood a primary challenge from the right, has raised about $24,200 this year but just $6,187 since the primary, all of it from businesses or PACs. He has spent nearly $11,200 for the year but just $1,000 since the primary, nearly all of it in donations to other GOP legislative candidates. Redman also has run up $5,000 in campaign debt. His biggest donation since the primary was $1,000 from Winning for Idaho.

Kohles has raised around $2,500 and spent about $1,500; most of his contributions were small ones from individuals in the district. His largest donations were $500 from Joel Elgee, of Liberty Lake, and $250 from the Kootenai County Democratic Central Committee.

Vick, while running unopposed, has drawn about $3,400 in campaign contributions since June, all from PACs.

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