Monday night's legislative candidate forum at North Idaho College revealed few surprises. What you thought you knew about the candidates was probably confirmed after nearly three hours of talk.
What stood out to a number of attendees, however, is how clearly two Republican camps are divided.
We won't accuse either side of following scripts, exactly, but it sure seemed like the two groups had agreed on strategies prior to the forum that paint the camps in distinctly different, easy-to-follow colors. And that could make voting in the May 20 primary much simpler for citizens who struggle to keep track of all the horses in the race.
Here's how we perceived the delineation. Please note that this is simply one opinion. Please also note, candidates, that if the following misrepresents your stance on the issues, you might do well to review and revise your message and its delivery.
GOP CAMP A
The overwhelming sentiment of Camp A is "Against." These candidates consistently expressed views on issues from a very distinct anti-federal perspective. Yet they also tended to talk more about what some citizens would consider predominantly federal, rather than state, issues.
To this group, standing against the Idaho Health Exchange and Idaho Core Standards - the state's incarnations of Obamacare and Common Core, respectively - is tantamount. Leading Idaho toward a repeal of the Affordable Care Act is a high priority, if not the highest priority. There were no clear concessions in this camp for retaining Idaho Core Standards in any form. Strong expressions of expanding the Second Amendment, eliminating any taxpayer-subsidized support of Planned Parenthood, and providing greater choice in public education, including more options for charter and home schools, were prevalent themes.
Candidates in GOP Camp A, in our view, are: District 2, Sen. Steve Vick, State Rep. Vito Barbieri (Position A) and challenger Eric Redman (Position B); District 3, Sen. Bob Nonini, Rep. Ron Mendive (Position A), and two candidates for Position B - Jeff Ward and Don Cheatham; District 3, Position A challenger Toby Schindelbeck, Rep. Kathleen Sims (Position B), and senate challenger Mary Souza.
GOP CAMP F
The F is for "For." Each of the candidates in this group expressed various forms of horror toward Obamacare, but they all agreed that the Idaho Health Exchange is a better choice than the default, which is the federal option. They also consistently agreed that Common Core - Idaho Core Standards - is imperfect, but that it contains more accountability and local influence than the Camp A candidates would concede.
This group steadfastly listed jobs and economic development as a high, if not the highest, priority for them as legislators. While abortion was opposed and Second Amendment rights supported, this group tended not to be as focused on those issues as they were on jobs, education and helping the state deal as well as it can with the many tentacles of Obamacare, which several noted was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Candidates in GOP Camp F, in our view, are: District 2, challenger Fritz Wiedenhoff for Position A and Rep. Ed Morse for Position B; District 3, senate challenger Patrick Whalen, challenger Terry Werner for Position A and Greg Gfeller for Position B; and District 4, Rep. Luke Malek (Position A), challenger Elmer "Rick" Currie for Position B, and Sen. John Goedde.
We commend the NIC College Republicans for organizing Monday's forum, and we eagerly await a less formal but perhaps more revealing Coeur d'Alene Chamber of Commerce forum at 5:30 p.m. May 1 at NIC's Schuler Auditorium. The Press will also publish in-depth profiles on candidates and other election news well before the May 20 primary.