COEUR d'ALENE - While visiting the Lake City on Tuesday, Idaho Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, Nels Mitchell, spoke about education, jobs, public lands, veterans and women's issues.
Mitchell, who wound up his private law practice in Boise in December to attend to the campaign full time, has served a three-year tenure at the Securities and Exchange Commission and taught part-time at the University of Idaho School of Law.
"The single biggest problem in Idaho is our lack of funding for public education. We are now last in the country on funding on a per-pupil basis," Mitchell said. "That's really the most serious problem we face here in Idaho and something that needs to be corrected."
Mitchell also spoke about the need to support veterans.
"This is an important issue because we have an entire generation that's been fighting wars in the Middle East, and we asked them to fight those wars," he said. "We need to make sure the Veteran's Administration and the programs are there to help them in the future."
He added that bipartisan efforts can succeed, referring to current legislation that would improve healthcare for veterans.
"The Veterans Administration needs more than money. It needs better management," Mitchell said. "It's great to see Sen. McCain and Sen. Sanders work together."
On initiatives for women, Mitchell said he would have supported the Violence Against Women Act that was renewed last year, and favors women's health insurance covering birth control.
For improving the employment landscape in Idaho, Mitchell said raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 is essential to keep up with inflation.
"That's all we're talking about here, so that people can have a living wage job," said Mitchell, who said the raise would go a long way to advancing Idaho's economy and that fears that it would result in job loss are misplaced.
"If you're making $15,000 a year and all of a sudden you're making 20, you're not shipping it overseas to your Swiss bank account; you're actually spending it and so the local businesses benefit from raising the minimum wage."
Public lands in Idaho are another resource that Mitchell said voters should expect their representatives to protect.
"As far as I'm concerned our public lands are not for sale," said Mitchell. "People in Idaho view those public lands as belonging to all of us, and so yes, there are opportunities for economic development using those resources, but we also want to make sure they are there for us to hunt, fish, hike, camp. That's all part of living in Idaho."
Mitchell expects his ideas to resonate with Idaho voters. "Over 55 percent of the people in this state are still Independent, not affiliated with either party, and we have an opportunity, because we have a great slate of Democratic candidates running," Mitchell said.
"I think that people are going to be looking for the type of leaders that are going to bring common-sense solutions."