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Candidates hope history takes a new turn

by CHUCK MALLOY
| June 27, 2022 8:33 AM

If history holds true in this beet-red state, then the two Democrats running for Congress — Kaylee Peterson of Eagle (First District) and Wendy Norman of Rigby (Second District) — will struggle to get 30 percent of the vote against two Republican incumbents.

There was a time when Democrats Larry LaRocco and Richard Stallings held both seats, but that was way back in the 1990s. More recently, Democrat Walt Minnick was the First District representative for one term (2009-2011). So, in this incumbent-happy state, there doesn’t seem to be a path of victory in November for two political newcomers.

Unless …

Well, it’s hardly worth mentioning. But there is a small chance that voters will catch “Trump fatigue,” given all the testimony in the Jan. 6 hearings about the former president’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. The chances of Idahoans getting their fill of Trump are small, mind you — somewhere between a Hail Mary in football, or a full-court buzzer beater in basketball. But there are plenty of talking points on the Democratic side, and stone silence from Republicans.

Peterson, a 32-year-old mom and sophomore at the College of Western Idaho, is taking the fight to Fulcher.

“A growing body of evidence … demonstrates that President Trump betrayed our Constitution, betrayed the legal framework of our nation, and betrayed his own conservative values when he demanded that Vice President Mike Pence unilaterally and illegally decide the outcome of the 2020 election,” she said. “The question I have, as a candidate for Congress, is, where is Russ Fulcher’s response?”

It has been crickets with Fulcher and most Republicans in Congress who have dismissed the Jan. 6 congressional committee as a political sideshow.

Jan. 6 isn’t the only area where Peterson is at odds with Fulcher. She’s trying to line up support from Republicans and independents who disagree with Fulcher’s approach. She notes that the Freedom Caucus, which includes Fulcher, has been described by other Republicans as “obstructionists” and “anarchists.”

She says he’s siding with the party’s far-right element at the expense of “very moderate people who just want effective resolution of the issues they are seeing on a daily basis.”

Peterson is involved with politics on various levels at CWI and is president of the college’s speech and debate team, but politics at a two-year school is a far cry from Washington, D.C. Peterson says that unlike some Democrats who run for high office, then disappear, she plans to stick around a while.

“This is not the end of my role in Idaho’s political scene,” she says. “The relationships I have built, the connections I’ve built and the solutions I have offered need to be carried through whether I win the congressional seat, or not.”

Norman’s criticisms about Congressman Mike Simpson are not as pointed. “I have appreciated him and have felt is Idaho’s most effective legislator. He has done good things for the Idaho National Laboratory and the Second District.”

Her complaint is that Simpson plays to Trump, the party’s far right and special interests — such as the National Rifle Association.

Simpson may be taking on Democrats in general during this campaign, but maybe not Norman. She’s a 50-year-old first-grade teacher who says it’s time to have “real people” serving in Congress.

“Why do you have to sit on one side of the aisle? Why isn’t it possible to be friends with someone who has a whole different perspective. Why couldn’t I be friends with someone with a whole different perspective. Should I be friends with Marjorie Taylor Greene? Absolutely,” Norman said.

Kudos to both Peterson and Norman for giving voters a choice in this election. It takes a lot of grit for people to put their names out there and take on the GOP establishment.

In Norman’s case, her experience with first graders might come in handy if she’s elected to Congress. She at least has some expertise in conflict resolution and creating peaceful outcomes.

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Chuck Malloy, a longtime Idaho journalist and Silver Valley native, is a columnist with Idaho Politics Weekly. He may be reached at ctmalloy@outlook.com.

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