Democrats haven’t won a seat representing Coeur d’Alene in the state Legislature for a decade.
But this year, with Luke Malek’s decision not to run for re-election to pursue a bid for Congress, Democrats think they have a shot, and Democrat Rebecca Schroeder has raised more campaign funds than her Republican opponent, Republican Jim Addis.
Winning the seat won’t be easy for Democrats, however. In 2016, Malek won his last election over a Democrat by 38 percentage points.
Health care is one of the issues Schroeder is highlighting in her bid.
Schroeder helped get Proposition 2, the initiative to expand Medicaid in Idaho, on the ballot and is a staunch supporter. Addis said expanding Medicaid is not the long-term solution the state needs.
Addis said he wants to work to lower the cost of health care and ensure there are enough doctors and nurses to provide care to the residents of the state. He also wants to keep government out of health care as much as possible, arguing that Medicaid expansion is not the long-term solution.
“The only way to make health care work long term is to reduce the cost of health care so we can afford it,” he said.
But Addis said he has no problem giving Medicaid to people who work hard but still can’t afford health care on their own.
“I want to help our people,” he said.
Schroeder’s support of Proposition 2 has its roots in her family. Her son, Brady, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis two weeks after he was born in 2007.
“Things got really serious really fast,” she said.
As a scientist, her instinct was to attend conferences about the disease to learn as much as she could. She began doing advocacy work for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and, as the group’s Idaho state advocacy chair, often appeared before the Legislature on health care issues.
“I had zero experience in policy,” she said.
Her son’s health has been well-managed since 2012 thanks to a new drug called Kalydeco, which costs $30,000 a month, Schroeder said. She’s so appreciative of what the drug has done for her son that she had its molecular structure tattooed on the top of her foot.
“If you think I don’t live in fear about access, I do,” she said. “It’s frightening to be so dependent on something so expensive.”
She got involved in the efforts to get Proposition 2 on the ballot and decided to run for office after the Legislature considered a plan to eliminate co-pay assistance for adults with cystic fibrosis.
“That was like a slap in the face,” she said.
Schroeder was the national advocacy co-chair for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation before stepping down to focus on her campaign.
“We need people on the inside,” she said. “I have been working on the outside for 10 years. I had to do something different.”
One of Addis’ key campaign issues is taking over management of federal lands in Idaho, which comprise 60 percent of all land in the state. But Addis said he wants only a limited takeover, to allow logging and mining.
“If Idaho took over all federal lands, we’d go broke the first fire season,” he said. “We need the ability to responsibly harvest some of those natural resources for the betterment of Idaho.”
He said he wants to thin the forests and allow mining without hurting the environment or inhibiting access to hunting, fishing and hiking.
“I think we need to keep public land open to the public,” he said. “I would do nothing to hurt that.”
Addis wants to mine rare-earth minerals in the Lemhi Pass area.
“We’re good at mining,” he said. “We need to do it responsibly, though. No one wants to make the mistakes of the past.”
Rare-earth mining could have a huge impact on Idaho’s economy, bringing in much-needed income to pay for roads, bridges, health care and education, he said.
“I’m just enthusiastic as all get out,” he said.
Schroeder said Idaho has an ecology-based tourism economy and the risk to that is too great.
“I am against the transfer of federally managed land to state ownership,” she said. “That’s the first step toward privatization.”
The state already has sold a large percentage of its land to private interests, Schroeder said, removing that land from public access.
“I am from a logging town,” she said. “I am aware of how important logging and mining are to Idaho.”
She is actively working against the proposed Upper Lochsa Land Exchange, under which Idaho would purchase 38,000 acres of previously logged land from Western Pacific Timber and trade it to the U.S. Forest Service for federal lands.
Schroeder said she doesn’t want to see “virgin” public lands traded away.
“I am against that,” she said. “It is a sale. They tried to do the same sale 10 years ago and failed.”
The previous effort to complete the land exchange died in 2016 in the face of opposition from the public and from the Idaho County Commission, but Idaho officials brought the plan back to consideration earlier this year.
Both candidates say they want to improve the education system. Addis said he’s concerned that children can’t learn properly if they are hungry or lack proper clothing.
“Idaho is working hard to do a lot better on education,” he said. “We can’t educate our children if our children are not prepared to learn. We have to address that.”
Education is the key to growing a society and reducing crime and other social problems, Addis said. He said the state should devote more resources to teachers and their classrooms, as well as hire, train and keep the best teachers possible.
Schroeder said Idaho needs comprehensive full-day kindergarten and also needs to improve pre-kindergarten options.
“Idaho is one of six states that put zero dollars into pre-kindergarten,” she said.
Teacher wages also need to increase, Schroeder said. Recent teacher wage increases in Washington have led to more teachers driving across the Washington border to work, she said.
“We are struggling to recruit and retain qualified teachers,” she said.
Teachers aren’t the only Idaho residents driving across the border for work. Washington’s minimum wage of $11.50 per hour is much higher than Idaho’s $7.25. People in Idaho can work two minimum-wage jobs and still not make enough to afford rent and health care, Schroeder said.
“We also have the highest number of minimum-wage jobs of all the states in the United States,” she said. “We are bleeding our best and brightest across the border because we are not valuing them.”
Though Addis and Schroeder are political novices, both say they have the experience needed to do the job.
Addis points to his experience serving twice as president of the Idaho Auto Dealers Association. He said he isn’t looking for a second career and only wants to make things better.
“I’m at a phase in my life where I have plenty of time to give back,” he said. “I want a better Idaho for my children and my children’s children. That’s my sole goal.”
Schroeder said she has experience working as a voice for the people.
“I just felt like I had to do it,” she said. “Someone had to step up and lead.”
Financial records show that as of early this week Schroeder reported contributions of more than $59,000, including a large number of small donations from individuals. Addis had raised just over $29,000, the majority from businesses and political action committees. Addis has loaned his campaign $23,000 to bring his cash total to just over $52,000.
Addis’ top contributions include $2,000 each from Mary Addis and Thomas Addis, of Hayden Lake, and the Idaho Automobile Dealers Association; $1,300 from the Idaho Committee on Hospitality and Sports; and $1,250 from Idaho Power. He also received $1,000 each from BNSF Railway; Gee Automotive Companies; the Idaho Credit Union Legislative Action Committee; the Idaho Association of Realtors; and Winning for Idaho, a political action committee that represents Coeur d’Alene Racing, operators of Greyhound Park in Post Falls.
Schroeder’s top contributions include $2,000 from Coralyn Alexander, of Post Falls; former gubernatorial candidate A.J. Balukoff, of Boise; Steven Carmichael, of Coeur d’Alene; and the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades. She also has received donations ranging from $1,000 to $2,000 from the Idaho Democratic Campaign Committee, the Idaho Democratic Central Committee, the Kootenai County Democratic Central Committee and Kootenai County Democrats.
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