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Candidates Introduce Themselves at Clint and Michelle Stennett Social
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Chris Hansen, a math teacher at Wood River High School, is running for a seat in the Idaho House.
   
Tuesday, May 7, 2024
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

A big, boisterous crowd turned out Friday evening for the annual Clint and Michelle Stennett Social.

About 170 people turned out for the event hosted by the Blaine County Democrats, filling the theater at the Argyros as they noshed on bacon-wrapped scallops, strips of tenderloin beef and fudgy brownies catered by Lisa Marie Ault.

“I’m grateful that the social has continued through the years,” said Michelle Stennett, who represented District 26 as a state senator for years, just as her late husband did before her. “The social is a great way to listen to candidates, a great way to get primary season going.”

 
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Michelle Stennett savors a bouquet from Blaine County Democrat representative Janie Davidson.
 

“This is the harvest of our political life,” Blaine County Vice Chair Chantal Westerman told the crowd. “Listen to your better angels fighting for so many things…women’s rights, our ability to choose…against climate change, Animals, forests and coral reefs are dying because people aren’t paying attention. With this election we can change and change and change and change.”

The event gave candidates from around the state and in the Wood River Valley two minutes to introduce themselves:

UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE ID 1

Kaylee Peterson said she’s fed up with her the current U.S. Representative from Idaho voting against access for funding to various programs that would benefit Idahoans. She wants to fight for higher minimum wages, access to healthcare and protection for education from pre-kindergarten to higher education. “I’m telling Idahoanas to believe in better,” she added.

 
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Lindsay Mollineaux just finished her first year as Blaine County Commissioner, having been appointed by Gov. Brad Little to replace Dick Fosbury.
 

UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE ID 2

David Roth, who grew up in Idaho Falls, said he became the second openly gay man to be nominated for the U.S. House when he got the Democratic nomination in 2022.

“Why do I continue to run? It’s Idaho, it’s expensive… So many things matter. I have two boy I adopted from foster care, and I want to make sure they can come home safely from school, that their daughters have a say over their bodies, that my grandmother who is about to turn 107 continues to have Social Security…”

DISTRICT 26 STATE SENATOR

 
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Chris Johnson, who has been involved in Bellevue politics, wants to unseat Lindsay Mollineaux.
 

Ron Taylor, who is finishing up his first term as senator, said that young voters tell him they need hope, they want Idaho to be less politically and ideologically divisive and that they want an Idaho that’s more welcoming and inclusive. “We need to get to know our neighbors…go to events. You don’t need to run but you do need to make your values known, have compassion…”

DISTRICT 26 STATE REPRESENTATIVE

Ned Burns, who joined the Idaho legislature after serving as Bellevue mayor, said Democrats helped kill a bill that would have provided school vouchers for private schools and a bill that would have limited the work of teacher’s union. They helped preserve budgets for Idaho Fish and Game, Idaho Public TV and “so many others.”

But, he added, they didn’t prevent a bill that would allow parents to sue libraries if they don’t believe they’ve handled material with sexual content appropriately. And he added that Idahoans can expect to see legislators coming for birth control.

 
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Kiara Quispe won the thousand-dollar 2024 Betty Murphy Scholarship started in 2017 to give a thousand dollars to students who have a passion to make a difference.
 

“That’s why it’s so critical that Ron (Taylor) and I retain our seats and that we expand our numbers,” he said. “I won by 37 votes, Ron a few thousand, and Karma Fitzgerald lost by a few dozen votes. I cannot stress how important it is that we win these seats.”

DISTRICT 26B STATE REPRESENTATIVE

Chris Hansen hopes to challenge Rep. Jack Nelsen, of Jerome. Hansen said his grandfather walked here from Missouri and that his parents met as wildland firefighters in Shoshone. Hansen said he has fought wildland fires, cut trails in Idaho and helped with act establishing the Owyhee River Wilderness, which is the second largest U.S. wilderness area not located within a National Forest, National Park or National Wildlife Refuge.

He helped the Sun Valley Institute for Resilience get its efforts to increase solar projects in the valley and currently teaches math at Wood River High School. Hansen said his 5- and 2-year-old sons are the reasons he’s in the race.

“I want to tell them that good people run towards problems, not away.”

Hansen added that the Idaho legislature has lost its way. “I want to find a way to get behind the pendulum as it swings back. Republicans say they want local control. Give it to a woman and her doctors, give it to libraries…help public schools, help those paying bills for childcare…”

BLAINE COUNTY COMMISSIONER, District 1

Lindsay Mollineaux, who was appointed to fill out Dick Fosbury’s seat following his death in March 2023, is seeking election to her first term. She reminded those in attendance that everyone can vote in the District 1 race in the primary even if they don’t live in the district.

Mollineaux grew up in the Wood River Valley, got a B.A. in Economics at Brown University and promptly went to work as assistant economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and as a research assistant at the International Monetary Fund. She also worked as the Deputy Chief Analytics officer for the City of New York and Deputy Director of the Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics.

Upon returning to Picabo, she served as a policy analyst for the City of Ketchum before becoming the director of the Environmental Resource Center in 2019. Mollineaux said her work experience has taught her how to analyze data to ask the questions necessary to continue a valley with thriving cities surrounded by farmland and open space with clean water and healthy wildlife.

Chris Johnson, who is challenging Mollineaux, grew up in North Idaho and lived in Oregon, Washington, Utah and Colorado while serving with the military. He also served in Iraq. He moved to the Wood River Valley when his wife Teressa got a job with the Wood River Community YMCA; she now heads up Girls on the Run-Southern Idaho.

Johnson has served on the Bellevue P&Z and Bellevue City Council. He believes he has experiences that can help EMS and firefighters and make road work, water and wastewater projects more sustainable.

BLAINE COUNTY SHERIFF

Blaine County Sheriff Steve Harkins told the audience that he is a working sheriff on the front lines with his men. He has 33 years of experience in the field, including a stint as a dispatcher in Twin Fall, as a detective and as Ketchum Police Chief. He has spent 15 years in administration, including two 4-year stints as Blaine County Sheriff.

Mental health is a priority of his administration—the sheriff’s office is developing a Crisis Intervention Team to teach best practices for those dealing with someone having a mental health crisis. The office also has established a liaison for the Hispanic community to assure them they will not be treated any differently if they are undocumented. “We tell them: You need to report crime. You will be treated like everyone else,” he said.

Morgan Ballis, named Hailey Police Officer of the Year in 2023, is a school resource officer at Wood River High School, and he is challenging Harkins because he believes the Sheriff’s Department can be more collaborative in preventing problems.

Ballis helped overhaul the School District’s emergency response protocol—a response that won the National Association of School Resource Officer’s Model Agency Award. He currently serves as president of the Idaho Association of School Resource Officers.  He says he was the only law enforcement officer to oppose the legislature’s attempt to have teachers carry firearms.

“Law enforcement is uniquely powerful,” he said. “I was saying the same things as school board members and counselors, but as I stepped in as a law enforcement officer, both members of both parties started listening.”

BLAINE COUNTY SCHOOL LEVY

Board Member Dan Turner noted that Idaho ranks last among the states when it comes to the amount spent for each pupil. New York spends the most, allocating $25,139 for each pupil; Idaho allocates $7,985 per student.

“We believe our students deserve better,” he said.

Turner said the school district Is asking voters to approve a supplemental levy on May 21 that would provide financial support for Gifted and Talented, preschool, kindergarten and summer school salaries and benefits.

Turner said the average estimated cost to BCSD property taxpayers would be $8.53 per $100,000 of taxable assessed value per year. The levy would be assessed for two years beginning July 1, 2024 and end at the conclusion of the 2025-26 school year.

Turner noted that the levy was needed because the state has changed the way schools are funded. Local taxpayer support has not increased in 17 years yet the cost of a bus has gone up 450 percent.

“We’re facing a $2 million a year shortfall even after cutting 14 positions,” he said. “Our kids deserve a better education than our state is willing to fund.”

Early voting started on Monday. Polls will be open on May 21 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Blaine County election information is available at https://www.co.blaine.id.us/196/Elections

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