Pocatello area voters will decide the fate of two incumbent legislators on Nov. 3.
The differences between the candidates in those races are stark to say the least, with each offering a unique platform and viewpoint on what Idaho needs most.
In Legislative District 29, which encompasses most of Pocatello, incumbent Democrat Rep. Chris Abernathy is being challenged by the man he beat in 2018, Republican Dustin Manwaring.
In Legislative District 28, which includes parts of Pocatello as well as the surrounding area, incumbent Republican Rep. Randy Armstrong is fending off a challenge from Democrat Mike Saville, who has run for multiple legislative posts in the past but never won.
Armstrong is a strong constitutionalist who says that his constituents can count on him to vote in a conservative manner.
He’s critical of Gov. Brad Little’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Armstrong says he would have rather seen the governor provide recommendations to Idahoans on how they should respond to the virus rather than arbitrarily locking down the state. Armstrong says Little’s poor leadership during the pandemic resulted in inconsistencies and injustices, including a local pet groomer being forced to shut down while other pet groomers remained open and churches being closed while liquor stores remained open.
Armstrong said he would have much rather seen the governor allow the state’s businesses and residents make their own choices on responding to the pandemic rather than have Little telling them what they could and could not do.
Armstrong said that he’s been a big part of major legislation during the past couple of years including the bill vetoed by Little to make drastic changes to the state’s initiative process.
Armstrong is proud of the fact he supported those changes.
Saville, on the other hand, offers a definite liberal alternative to Armstrong’s conservative stance.
Saville isn’t accepting any campaign contributions from lobbyists and says if elected he will work hard to improve Idaho’s beleaguered public education system.
Despite receiving more funding from the state in recent years, Saville says Idaho’s K-12 schools still lag behind other states and he said Idaho’s go-on rate — the percentage of students who go on to college — is embarrassingly low.
He’s correct in saying Idaho’s public schools need help, though fixing that problem has proven difficult even in recent years with both sides of the political aisle looking for solutions.
There are similar big differences between Abernathy and Manwaring in District 29.
That being said, Abernathy deserves praise in our opinion for being the most improved legislator during our candidate interviews compared to the last legislative election two years ago.
Back then, Abernathy’s knowledge of state issues was very limited and he was not an impressive candidate.
The Abernathy that’s running in 2020 is much more articulate and knowledgeable. With two legislative sessions under his belt, he understands how the Legislature works and can make a case for what it needs to do to better the state.
He said he’d like to see Idaho increase its minimum wage because wages in the state are far too low. He also wants to do something to help Idaho’s childcare industry, which has been decimated by COVID-19 with many daycares closing their doors.
In contrast to other lawmakers, he supports Gov. Little’s handling of COVID-19. Abernathy says that much about the virus is unknown, but he’s glad that Little’s listening to the scientists regarding the virus and not far right politicians.
Abernathy said the strong far right presence at the Legislature’s special session over the summer was unsettling, and he’s surprised that so many of his fellow lawmakers are not wearing masks.
If re-elected, Abernathy said lowering the state’s high property taxes will be a big priority. Pretty much everyone would agree with him that such property tax relief is needed, but making it happen has proven to be difficult.
Manwaring says he would be a better lawmaker for District 29 than Abernathy because he has better relationships with legislators and state officials and would have a better attendance record than Abernathy.
We agree that Abernathy has had a steep learning curve, and Manwaring is even now the much more polished candidate.
We’re impressed with Manwaring’s knowledge of the issues impacting Idaho, considering he only spent one two-year term in the Legislature before being ousted by Abernathy during the 2018 mid-term election.
Manwaring’s priorities if elected would be improving the state’s infrastructure, prison reform and addressing the state’s mental health and suicide woes, which have worsened as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Manwaring has the bandwidth to help solve the state’s problems and sees the job of legislator as being a gatekeeper, making sure good policy decisions are made.
He said Idaho lawmakers need to be extremely vigilant because oftentimes legislation might be good for one group of people but bad for another and lawmakers must always be on the lookout for the unintended consequences of legislation that could prove harmful.
Manwaring talks with the poise and maturity of a veteran lawmaker, and we firmly believe he’d be a positive addition to the Idaho Legislature if elected.
Fortunately in both of the Pocatello area’s legislative races, there are no bad candidates.
Electing any of these individuals to the Legislature would not have a negative impact. The differences are in the policies these candidates would push and that’s what Pocatello area voters will have to base their votes on.
Armstrong, Saville, Abernathy and Manwaring each have their own individual platforms and positions and with all of them it’s a case of what you see is what you get.
As voters, we’ll all have to decide what we believe Southeast Idaho and the rest of the state need most and cast our ballots accordingly.