Election 2012: Local candidates highlight issues
In the weeks leading up to the May 15 primary election, the Mountain Home News will spotlight those running for local, state and federal office. Information on each candidate is based on questionnaires submitted by the newspaper staff to each individual.
Bert Brackett -- Idaho Senate, Legislative District 23
A four-term member of the state legislature with two terms in the Idaho senate, Brackett is one of two incumbent Republican candidates vying for the District 23 seat. The move is tied to the state's legislative redistricting plan, which placed both candidates into the same legislative district. The winner of the May primary will remain unopposed in the November general election.
A rancher and small business owner in the Twin Falls area, Brackett emphasized that job creation, fostering economic growth and spurring the state's economic development are the most important issues affecting voters in this district.
"I believe greater economic growth is the product of smaller government, lower taxes and fewer regulations," he said.
A strong supporter of Idaho's business community, he believes the nation's employers and entrepreneurs should be rewarded, not punished, for investing in the economy.
"I do not believe that government is a catalyst for economic growth, nor do I believe that jobs created through additional government spending are a sustainable way to grow our economy," he said. "Instead, I believe government should get out of the way and do its best to allow a vibrant and prosperous free market to flourish."
As a business owner, he's seen firsthand how government can hinder economic growth and job creation
"(I) have consistently fought against the higher taxes and increasing regulations that are so destructive to job creation," he said.
While other states continue to struggle with the nation's sluggish economy, Brackett emphasized the state legislature's progress to overcome this downturn.
"We've balanced our budget every year, lived within our means and rejected the idea of going back to the taxpayers for more money when they themselves were suffering," he said. "I want to make sure that as our economy recovers, our state acts and spends responsibly, works to create a more business friendly tax and regulatory environment and restores its 'rainy day' funds in anticipation of future economic troubles."
Locally, he supports efforts to bring the F-35 fighter mission to Mountain Home Air Force Base and believes the state should send a strong message of support for the base and military families stationed here to policy makers in Washington, D.C.
Most important, he added that he looks to his constituents every day for guidance on what they expect out of their senate representative. "I listen first and talk second," he said.
Albert Hofer -- Elmore County Board of Commissioners, District 3
Hofer is the incumbent candidate for District 3 on the board of county commissioners. Unopposed on the Republican ticket during the May primary, he'll face Democratic challenger Michael Crawford in the November race.
Representing the third generation of family to live in this part of the state, "I have a long history here in Mountain Home and a vested interested in this county's growth," he said.
"We need to put politics aside and all of us work to move our community into a great future," he added. "I strongly believe I am the candidate that can do that."
Preparing to mark his second year on the board of county commissioners, Hofer remains concerned on Elmore County's direction.
"We need growth and jobs," he said. "We have a lot to offer here in Mountain Home. We just need to capitalize on what we have. I believe in getting things done and not leaving it for the next person."
Things in government tend to move slowly and are not always perfect, Hofer said.
"(But) with the wonderful employees that this county has, I think as a team we can accomplish a lot."
For example, the board of county commissioners brought programs like the SAFE 911 program to Elmore County. It became the first in the state to bring this system on line.
The commissioner also highlighted his role on developing a new dispatch agreement with the City of Mountain Home with work continuing on the Malcomson Snow Park project.
"I try to make sure I get involved as much as I can to see where we can improve our wonderful county," he said. "(For example) I have been out on the Sheriffs boat to witness firsthand what a wonderful job they do on Anderson Dam."
As a lifelong resident of the county, Hofer remains compassionate to the needs of the people who live here, he said.
"I address all the problems and concerns they have," he said. "If I do not have an immediate answer for them, I will find it out. Their concerns are my concerns."
Emphasizing that people are not afraid to tell him their concerns, Hofer added that he's a good listener as well as a strong negotiator.
"I believe in reading everything thoroughly and making sure I understand it and that it is good for our community," he said.
Michael Crawford -- Elmore County commissioner, District 3
Crawford represents the sole challenger for the District 3 seat on the Elmore County Board of Commissioners. He will face incumbent Republican Al Hofer during the November general election.
A practicing attorney for 16 years, including 10 years of public service in the county, Crawford highlighted his depth of experience in local politics and government that will help make a difference on the three-person board.
"I have always gotten along well with the elected officers and staff at the county and have gotten to know the inner workings of county agencies and their responsibilities," he said.
Following the retirement of long-time commissioner Arlie Shaw, Crawford added that no one on the commission will have more than two year's of regular involvement with the county's daily workings. His depth of experience in local politics and government would help the county deal with this experience gap.
"I believe that the commission needs a connection to the officers and staff they oversee, and I believe that I am the best candidate in District 3 to provide that connection," he said. "I care what happens to our county, and I have the training and experience to be able to hit the ground running."
A fiscal conservative following the tradition of former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus, he emphaized that he "will never forget whose money is being spent."
Crawford chose to run because of his personal concerns with the board, who are less than effective in their service to the county, he said.
"We deserve better than that from our public officers," he said. "I intend to work hard to address the concerns of all of the people of the county. If that includes rearranging my schedule to allow me to attend special sessions and public hearings, I have the flexibility to do that."
Looking at specific issues, Crawford emphasized that county commissioners need to remain wary of the decisions they make and the potential consequences. Commissioners in Boise County discovered that the hard way when what they thought was a routine zoning decision cost their county millions of dollars -- funds they can't currently afford to pay back.
"Most of the decisions made by commissioners are routine, but there are certain decisions that can cost much more than people anticipate," he said. "Having a professional voice on the commission will help to spot the issues that could cause trouble down the road," he said.
Courtney Ireland -- Elmore County Board of Commissioners, District 1
Ireland is one of six people in Elmore County vying for the District 1 seat on the board of county commissioners. She is one of five Republican candidates that will face off during the May primary with the winner of that race facing the sole Democratic challenger in the November general election.
A former Air Force leader with seven years of experience on the county's planning and zoning commission, Ireland's background makes her "a great mediator" between local government, the local Air Force base and other agencies across the region, she said.
During her time on the commission, she grew increasingly frustrated with the three-person board, which prompted her to run for office in hopes of making "serious improvements within the county," Ireland said.
From her perspective, there are several key issues affecting this county, including education concerns compounded by the loss of economic vitality in each community.
"Although the commissioners passed a balanced budget, I don't believe there is proper balance in the distribution of the budget," she added. "We need a larger tax base, and that means drawing businesses here that will help revitalize our communities without taking away from our rural lifestyle."
While she understands the importance of having the Air Force base in this part of the state, Ireland emphasized the need for the county to find other industries and economic outlets to keep the installation from remaining the county's sole source of survival.
Meanwhile, the county faces a number of environmental concerns, including the presence of sage grouse, slick-spot peppergrass and wolves in addition to mining in the Atlanta area.
"These are issues that will need to be constantly monitored by the commissioners in order for us to not lose our agricultural income," she said.
As a researcher, she also pledged to bring up the "hard to talk about" issues while actively investigating every issue to get to the bottom of them.
"What I will promise you is loyalty to the people of Elmore County and our land," she said.
Meanwhile, she sees a need to meet face-to-face with commissioners, representatives and citizens from other across the state. The goal is to take initiatives that work well in these parts of the state and incorporate them here to make the county more efficient.
Relying on her common sense and a strong will to make things better, she remains passionate about making Elmore County a better place to live, work and play. Ireland emphasized that she will not be bullied "into any decision I feel is not right."