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Idaho state Rep. Ron Mendive facing Democratic challenger Christopher Matthews in 3rd LD

UPDATED: Thu., Oct. 8, 2020

By Ellen Dennis For The Spokesman-Review

Incumbent Republican Rep. Ron Mendive is trying for his fifth consecutive term representing District 3 in the Idaho House of Representatives, but this year he has a new Democratic opponent in Christopher Matthews.

Both candidates consider themselves strong supporters of the Constitution, would like to see property tax reform and would vote to abolish the state’s 6% grocery tax. Their opinions differ on education reform and the potential legalization of marijuana.

The challenger

Matthews is making his first run for office. Although he recognizes the constituency he seeks to represent usually votes red, he believes he can bridge the divide across the aisle.

After six years of service in the U.S. Navy, Matthews earned a Clinical Laboratory Science degree before moving back to Idaho in 2013. Today he works at the nonprofit blood donation organization Vitalant.

Education reform is one of the issues Matthews plans to tackle first if he is elected . Along with increased funding for public education, Matthews believes legislators should do a better job creating policy to help children who often fall through the cracks – something caused by the system’s over-dependence on standardized tests, he said.

“Eighty percent of all learning disabilities are associated with dyslexia. Currently, Idaho has no legislation whatsoever to identify dyslexia in early childhood education,” he said. “This is definitely an area we need to fix.”

Matthews said parents of children with learning disabilities often have to switch their children to private schools even though the tax dollars they pay should be used to provide ample public school resources.

“I want to see legislation that sets these students off for success in our public education, so these parents who have children with learning disabilities don’t have to spend extra money to set their kids up for success,” he said.

Matthews said the taxes that would come from the state’s legalization of marijuana would be an ideal source to fund those programs.

The incumbent

Mendive is running for what would be his fifth two-year term because he believes there’s still work to be done in areas such as education reform.

Unlike his opponent, the incumbent representative believes the state should be incentivizing parents who want to pull their children out of public schools to do so.

In the 2019 legislative session, Mendive introduced a bill called the Education Savings Account Act. The bill would allow parents to opt out of enrolling their children in public schools, at which point they would be granted access to an education savings account to fund an alternative method of education for their children.

Mendive said he plans to reintroduce the bill this year if re-elected.

“We’re all unique individuals, and parents should be able to choose what’s best for their children,” he said. “There are some children who don’t fit in the current education delivery model. Sometimes we give them drugs, we say, ‘They’re ADD and can’t sit straight,’ but a different type of education delivery system might work for those children.”

Mendive’s bill aims to decrease education spending. It would save the state money for every child opting out of public education, as the savings accounts created would only contain 90% of the amount it costs for each child to be enrolled in public school.

Unlike his competition, the incumbent representative is adamantly opposesd to the legalizinglegalization of marijuana in Idaho.

“Marijuana is a gateway drug,” he said. “The states that have (legalized) it act like it’s going to be a cash cow and generate state money, but the fact is it creates more problems than it solves.”

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