Tuesday, July 16, 2019
Muffy Davis Is Up for a Challenge, Rolling On Through Flats and Heat
Muffy Davis said she knows the value of affordable health care, having lived with a disability for half her life.
Friday, October 26, 2018


Muffy Davis wrapped one hand around a looped rope on her husband’s bicycle, letting him pull her  wheelchair down the street as she scrolled through addresses on her cell phone with the other hand.

Ahead, her 9-year-old daughter Elle bounced off her bicycle and ran up a couple porch steps to a door, knocking on it.

“My Mom’s running for the legislature,” she told the woman who answered the door. “Would you like to come out and meet her?”

Nine-year-old Elle said she’s learned how “you’ve got to persuade them you’re going to be good. And then you thank them for their support and you thank them for their time. And it’s good to be prepared so you can answer questions if they have them.”

Life on the campaign trail comes with additional challenges for this Paralympic medalist, who has used a wheelchair since being paralyzed in a ski training accident at 16.

She incurred five flats on her wheelchair, thanks to goat’s head thorns from puncture vines in Gooding. She got a flat on her car in Shoshone. And she’s fallen out of her chair a couple times trying to wheel it through grass.

But she’s also used her wheelchair to her advantage, inviting Wood River Valley residents to roll to the polls with her to cast early ballots.

Davis, who has won a couple fistfuls of Paralympic medals in alpine skiing and hand cycling, declared her candidacy for the Idaho Legislature’s District 26A House seat after she attended an informational meeting on Medicaid expansion last winter.

Jeff Burley, who works with Higher Ground Sun Valley, uses a battery-operated pump for his wife’s wheels so they can go campaigning.

“I learned that even if they collected enough signatures to place the issue on the ballot, that even if Idahoans voted to expand Medicaid, the legislature could turn it down. That is not a democracy if you’re not listening to the voices of the people!” said Davis who resigned from her position as stewardship coordinator for St. Luke’s Wood River Foundation to campaign.

Davis has traveled thousands of miles around the world serving with the U.S. Paralympics Governing Board, Los Angeles 2028 Executive Board, International Paralympics Committee and other. She put thousands of miles on her car this summer campaigning.

She’s played Bingo at senior centers in Hailey and Lincoln County and volunteered for the Papoose Club’s Wagon Days Breakfast. She met with dozens of groups representing physicians, Realtors and even dairymen, who told her about their challenges getting visas for workers.

And she campaigned in 106-degree temperatures in Hagerman—the sweltering discomfort made bearable only by the sprinklers her daughter found to run through.

Whoops! Once in awhile, Muffy Davis finishes multitasking long enough to flash her famous smile.

“Campaigning is way more arduous than I could have imagined. And it’s overwhelming to think that every rule you make as a legislator affects someone,” she said. “But it’s been a gift because I’ve spent so much time with my daughter knocking on doors.  And it’s given me a chance to explore my community—I even found myself in places near Bellevue that I had never been to before.”

Her daughter is a big part of the reason she and her husband Jeff Burley moved back to the Sun Valley area a few years ago. And her daughter is a big part of the reason she’s running, she said.

“I wanted my daughter to grow up here because this community is so special and because the people are so special. But, upon returning, I was disheartened to learn that we’re 49th in the nation in education funding, that we’re not giving teachers and others the resources they need,” she said.

Davis is running against Rep. Steven Miller, a third-generation Fairfield rancher who has represented District 26 on the Republican ticket since 2012.

 “I’m running as a Democrat but, as someone who’s lived with a label for a long time, I try not to be about labels,” Davis said. “(Dist. 26 Sen.) Michelle Stennett has taught me well that, when you serve in the legislature, you’re serving all your constituents. If I can use my name for good, I would be honored to build bridges across the aisles.”

Topping the list of issues on Davis’ agenda is affordable housing and school funding. She’s also passionate about keeping public lands public.

“Our public land is what brought my family to Idaho. And the outdoors here has been a huge part of my life, even after I had my accident. Jeff and I want the land to be a value my daughter can cherish and her children, as well.

Davis has heard from people in Gooding who want medical marijuana. She’s heard from those concerned about access to Veterans Administration.  And she’s talked to people in rural communities who are frustrated by four-day school weeks and 20-year-old textbooks.

“A lot of people are struggling. We’ve got to take care of the basic infrastructure. We’ve got to make sure that people have the basics, like shelter. And we’ve got to think about the future--the work force, for instance, will be 50,000 short of workers with technical skills soon.”

Davis said she wants to push for leadership in the legislature.

“I don’t think our legislature has vision,” she added. “We have a surplus, and we‘re 49th in the nation in school funding. We keep passing unconstitutional legislation, then have to pay to defend it. We’ve spent millions of dollars trying to defend bad legislation since 1996.”

 “We need to ask ourselves: Where do we see ourselves in 10 years? What goals can we set and how can we find way to get there?”

The most difficult part of the campaign, she said, is waiting to see if voters will give her the mandate to act on her beliefs.

“When I was a skier I could look at my times and know where I stood and what I needed to do to improve. But I can’t do that with this,” she lamented. “All I can do is just go out and do the best I can and hope.”


A look at Rep. Steve Miller.


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