Idaho House Minority Leader Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, wants to get some things accomplished at the Legislature this winter, but first she has to win her first contested election in 10 years.
Gooding cattle rancher Jeff Faulkner, a Republican, is challenging Jaquet for her District 25 House of Representatives seat. Voters will choose in the general election Nov. 4.
Jaquet, 65, has been spending her winters in Boise since 1994, when she was first elected, and she is running for her eighth term. She's been opposed only twice before, in her first campaign in 1994 when she beat Wendell Republican John Koning and in 1998 when she faced write-in candidate Helen Paoli, a Republican from Gooding.
She has been minority leader since 1998.
Asked why he chose to run against the longtime incumbent, Faulkner, 42, said the alternative would have been running against his neighbor, Rep. Donna Pence, D-Gooding.
"My wife has taught school with Donna," he said. "We go to church together. Wendy's obviously going to be tougher to beat. On the other hand, if you can beat the House minority leader, that will help with change and help get something done."
Faulkner said he believes Jaquet has good ideas and is amiable.
"The problem is, it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that the Idaho Legislature is made up of two-thirds Republicans," he said. "Whether you like Wendy's ideas or not, it's hard for her to get things done."
Faulkner was born and raised in Gooding, and is no stranger to Idaho politics. He's served on the board of the Idaho Cattle Association since 2001, and served as the organization's president from November 2006 through November 2007.
That experience, he said, has helped him prepare for the Legislature. And while he has spent some time this fall riding in parades and attending town hall meetings throughout the district, "we're just about to start full-bore."
Jaquet said she has been wearing out her shoes going door to door throughout the district over the summer and early fall, and she, too, has entered parades and attended meetings.
"It's really enjoyable because you get to hear what all the issues are," she said. "It's a really good barometer to see if you're on track politically. And that's the part I like. I really like the people I represent."
Before her political career, Jaquet was executive director of the joint chamber of commerce for Sun Valley and Ketchum. She resigned from that post in 1997. She serves on the House Revenue and Taxation Committee and the Energy, Environment and Technology Committee, but said she has served on nearly all of the committees in the House during her tenure.
Though she said she's focused on her campaign, Jaquet stressed that she is looking toward the upcoming legislative session.
She wants to introduce legislation establishing the possibility for high-occupancy vehicle lanes. She wants to cosponsor a bill with Sen. Clint Stennett, D-Ketchum, that would ban cock fighting. She wants to cosponsor a bill with Pence that would reduce damage inflicted to highways by heavy vehicles in the spring. And she wants to help introduce legislation that would make it possible for judges to sentence kids convicted of statutory rape in ways that would not add their names to the state's list of sex offenders.
"I actually think it's good to have an opponent," Jaquet said. "I think it makes you reflect on what you've done and what you're going to do. I think it makes you more accountable to the voters that way."
She said she's proud of many of her recent accomplishments, including work to bolster education through math and reading initiatives, energy issues and facilitating—bringing people together. Among the issues she said the Legislature will try to agree on this winter are the state's audit over the summer of the Idaho State Tax Commission and the way it processes multinational corporations.
"I expect that will be a big issue in the coming Legislature," she said. "People want to know there's a process that's more transparent."
Faulkner said his platform consists of three primary planks: budget and fiscal discipline, education and agriculture-related issues. He also called for local control, smaller government and fewer taxes.
He also said the Legislature seems to be becoming more urban than it was in the past, and that is something in need of an adjustment.
"As much as ag represents Idaho's economy, we need to keep people from the country and that base in the Legislature," he said. "Ag needs to be represented. It is a big and vital part of Idaho's economy."
But Jaquet said she is no agricultural slouch. She's been the recipient five times of the Food Producers of Idaho's Agriculture All-Star award, which is given to lawmakers who cast votes in favor of agriculture-friendly laws.
Both candidates also acknowledged that tight financial times are ahead, but both pointed out that Idaho isn't backed into a corner as much as some states.
"I think it means no new programs," Jaquet said. "Some services and programs may see some cuts, but the state has more than $370 million in reserve."
Faulkner put it this way: "We're definitely going to have to have fiscal discipline, but because of the way some things have gone, Idaho's not looking that bad."
Also up for re-election in District 25 are Stennett and Pence. Both are running unopposed. District 25 includes Blaine, Gooding, Camas and Lincoln counties.