Tired of seeing partisan bickering accomplish few things worthwhile in Boise or Washington, D.C., Democrat Muffy Davis decided to enter politics earlier this year.
She announced she was running for the Idaho Legislature, challenging Rep. Steve Miller, R-Fairfield, for one of the two House of Representatives seats in Legislative District 26. The district represents Blaine, Lincoln, Camas and Gooding counties in the Legislature.
Rep. Sally Toone, D-Gooding, and Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, hold the district’s other two seats.
Davis is an accomplished athlete—she has competed in three Paralympic Games in the last 20 years, and has won medals in seven events in cycling and alpine skiing—but until this year, she had not tried her hand in politics.
This is her first run for elected office, and she got motivated to campaign after getting involved with Indivisible Blaine County following the 2016 presidential election.
Davis, 45, grew up in Sun Valley, went to Hemingway Elementary School, the Community School and graduated from Wood River High School. She graduated from Stanford University. She is raising a 9-year-old daughter with her husband, Jeff.
Davis recalled a time in state politics when a Democrat was in the governor’s office—former Gov. Cecil Andrus—but was willing to compromise with the leaders of the Republican-held Legislature.
“We’ve gotten so partisan that nobody is able to reach across the aisle,” Davis said in an interview in late August. “I grew up under Cecil Andrus. I remember a vision of what Idaho was about. I don’t feel we have a vision anymore.”
Her platform focuses on three issues: health care, education and public lands.
She was swayed to run for the Legislature after following the efforts to put Medicaid expansion on ballots statewide this fall. The measure did qualify for the general election; it’s called Proposition 2.
However, Davis said she was disheartened to learn that even if voters pass the ballot measure, the Legislature or the next governor could ignore it or decline to fund it.
She said she hopes that lawmakers’ recalcitrance to deal with the Medicaid gap population will lead some voters to oppose them in November.
“That was the final straw for me,” Davis said. “If they don’t like what their legislators are doing, then fire them. I want people to vote. That’s our power. That’s your voice.”
Davis will be the latest Democrat from Blaine County to try to oust Miller, who was first elected in 2012. He has fended off challenges from Democrats John Remington in 2012, Dick Fosbury in 2014 and Kathleen Eder in 2016. Miller won the last race by 264 votes.
“It’s so close,” Davis said. “If we have great turnout, we’ve got this. I just feel like Steve hasn’t been listening to a lot of his constituents on some of his decisions and some of his votes.”
Davis said on healthcare and on education, she wants to assemble experts who can provide her feedback on the best policy solutions.
She said Idaho can’t afford to continue its status quo of losing its brightest children to out-of-state jobs, while employers within the state struggle to recruit qualified employees. She said the state is losing too many teachers to school districts with bordering states, and believes they deserve higher pay.
She criticized the Republican majorities in the House and the Senate pushing a bill that amounted to a $105 million tax cut in the 2018 session. The bill passed the Legislature and was signed by Gov. Butch Otter.
“We can’t afford to give $100 million back,” Davis said. “Teachers need to be valued. We’re hemorrhaging our kids out to other states. We need our youth.”
Davis said she opposed a bill Miller introduced in the 2018 session, which would set criteria for a transfer of federal lands to state ownership. The bill stated that federal land that would be subject to transfer had to be managed by the state for public access and multiple use. The state could not subsequently sell those lands.
Miller contended that the bill would have led to better management of national forest land for timber harvesting that would reduce fuel buildup, and BLM land for livestock grazing.
The Idaho Conservation League criticized the bill, saying the Legislature could later repeal the clause prohibiting sale of the lands.
“I opposed him on that,” Davis said. “No more land grabs.”
To address the effects of global climate change fueled by unrestrained emissions of carbon dioxide into Earth’s atmosphere, Davis said she favors a goal of moving Idaho to 100 percent clean energy by 2050. She did not express support for assessing a tax or charge on carbon emissions within Idaho, similar to legislative pushes in Washington state and Oregon.
“I would like to see our Legislature make it easier for solar,” Davis said. “Make it easier for the individual people to work to clean energy. We need to open our eyes and we need to be realistic. We need to address it. How are we going to get to full clean energy?”
She urges residents throughout Idaho to get engaged with the elections this fall, learn about the candidates and, most importantly, to vote.
“I’ve never really been a political person,” Davis said. “I have a younger child and I felt responsible to her to do what I could. I hope that we have amazing voter turnout. Democracy doesn’t work if everyone doesn’t engage. Learn about the different candidates and express your choice.”