Outgoing Rep. Doug Ricks facing Jacob Householder in Republican primary
REXBURG — Outgoing Rep. Doug Ricks, R-Rexburg, is leaving the Idaho House of Representatives and hoping to be elected to the Idaho Senate. He is being challenged by Jacob Householder of Rexburg for the District 34 seat previously held longtime Sen. Brent Hill, who is retiring from office.
Both Ricks and Householder are competing in the May 19 Republican primary. To learn more about the candidate’s platform, EastIdahoNews.com sent the same seven questions to each Legislative candidate. Their responses, listed below, were required to be 250 words or less.
Tell us about yourself — include information about your family, career, education, volunteer work and any prior experience in public office.
Ricks: I am currently a 1st term State Representative for District 34, Seat A. I have served as a precinct leader for the last eight years and was a former Madison County Republican Chairman for two and a half years. I grew up on a potato farm here in Madison County and have resided here all my life. I graduated from Madison High School and served an LDS mission to Melbourne, Australia, Polish-speaking. I graduated from Ricks College and met my sweetheart, Melissa, there while attending, and later graduated from BYU-Idaho. We are blessed with five wonderful children and four grandchildren.
At age 25, I left the farm and opened the first PC computer store in Rexburg in 1987. I loved the idea of being an entrepreneur and helping businesses and people. I dealt with the pressures of hiring employees, managing a payroll, and paying taxes. I taught myself most everything I needed to know about computers to better serve my customers. In 2000, I sold the store on Main Street and took a job at BYU-Idaho managing all the PCs in the computer labs.
Today, I provide technology assistance for students with disabilities. The technology helps the blind, the deaf, and people with other disabilities access materials they need for school. After teaching a few university classes myself, I have also gained a new understanding and respect for teachers. As a side job, I flip houses and do most of the work myself. Currently, I am on house number eight.
Householder: Born in Utah and raised in Arizona with six younger siblings, I am now a proud Idahoan by choice. I came to Rexburg in 2014 to study Financial Economics at BYU-Idaho and now operate my own online business. I work as a website designer and consult businesses on their use of social media and several marketing and project management software programs. I have consulted approximately 200 businesses over the past three years.
I am a lifelong student of the US Constitution, a public speaker, researcher, and advocate of free-market economics and conservative politics. As Director of International Outreach for the Columbus Center for Constitutional Studies, Director of the Restoration Generation (a student education project), and in several other capacities, I have spent the past decade studying and teaching principles of successful government in the community through classes, seminars, workshops, and conferences.
In 2018, I helped found the Spark Freedom project for student education at the Madison Liberty Institute. I was recently accepted into the State Policy Network’s highly competitive Development Apprenticeship Program and spent three months working in Midland, Michigan at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, one of the largest free-market state-based think tanks in the United States. Upon returning to Idaho, I resumed my work at the Madison Liberty Institute and the Columbus Center.
I intend to pursue a master’s degree at Liberty University and a double doctorate at George Mason University. I love Rexburg and have spent the past six years making Idaho my new home.
What are your proudest accomplishments in your personal life or career?
Ricks: Being married to Melissa for 36 years and having a family is my greatest accomplishment. We married on leap year day and so that makes 9 anniversaries.
I earned an associate’s degree in Farm Crops Management and one in General Agriculture from Ricks College and also a bachelor’s from BYU-Idaho. I have 35 years’ experience in a variety of small businesses, including farming, consulting, retail, training, teaching and real estate. My broad experience helps me better represent folks in this area.
Being elected as an Idaho Legislator is my greatest career achievement so far. It is an honor to serve the good people of the district, and I am very humbled to have your support. It took two tries to defeat the 4-year incumbent Ron Nate, and I am proud of my family and the support of so many in helping me accomplish this.
I bring a calm, but firm, effective leadership style which has allowed me to pass more bills this year than nearly any other legislator except those in leadership. All for the benefit of our district.
Householder: I am very proud of the decision I made a decade ago to not follow the status quo. I decided to create my goals and dreams and then pursue the path that made the most sense for me to achieve those dreams. I have been publicly ridiculed for some of these unordinary decisions, but my very unique path has made me who I am today.
Although I’m young, I have many thousands of hours of valuable work experience. I’m very proud of what I’ve done with my career over the past five years, but I’m even more proud of the education I have gained both inside and outside of school, especially over the past decade. I’m proud of my decision to withdraw from public school during my senior year of high school to begin being mentored and tutored on the principles of constitutional government. That was the first life-changing decision I ever made. I have since learned how to confidently and quickly make many more life-changing decisions, which has been more valuable than I could have imagined.
Some of my life’s greatest accomplishments are actually the lessons I have learned through my challenges and experiences. I’m proud of how I have spent my time and what I’ve been learning. I’m proud of my priorities, goals, and choices. I have learned that in the end, “resume accomplishments” really don’t matter. What matters more to me is what I’m learning, who I’m becoming, and who I’m helping with those lessons and strengths.
Briefly explain your political platform, and/or legislative goals if you are elected to office.
Ricks: I am conservative, prolife and pro second amendment. I believe government should only be big enough to provide essential services and must only grow, if necessary, in proportion to cover the increase in population.
I will continue to support legislation providing school safety and make sure schools are funded appropriately. I will work with local business leaders to restore a healthy economy. I will serve in the best interest of the citizens of Madison and Bonneville counties and not special interest groups in Boise. I will continue to work on prison reform.
I supported legislation to freeze property taxes and reduce the burden of grocery sales tax. I will keep fighting to reduce taxes.
I get the job done, and here are some of the bills I have sponsored:
- H076 – E-Bike bill to classify as bicycles, not motorcycles or mopeds
- H345 – Prevents predatory car booting for expired license plates
- H103 – Requires property tax cost disclosure on levy election ballots
- H518 – Puts expiration dates of bonds and levies on property tax statements
- H461 – Makes a uniform process for landlord / tenant post eviction process
- H486 – Updated UAS / drone law for privacy and emergency responders
- H384 – Wrongful conviction (Gov. Little vetoed), I will bring back next year
- H408 – Rexburg, Sugar City & Iona to receive more sales tax redistribution
- H373 – Prison reform, expands inmate work opportunities in agriculture
- H379 – Corrects a party affiliation issue for the Idaho Presidential Primary
Householder: My top three policy priorities are safeguarding the family and morality, securing Idaho rights and sovereignty, and defending 2nd Amendment rights. I also believe strongly in advancing sound economics and deregulation, restoring competitive education, and advocating for criminal justice reform.
As a general rule, I believe the best way to solve most political problems is to keep solutions local and remove the intervention of state and federal governments as much as possible. I aim to fix many issues with the Idaho state political process itself to ensure that good bills have a fighting chance and that dangerous bills die quickly. I seek to eliminate unlawful political traditions that have been used to bury critical bills and restore a balance of power between the legislative and executive branches.
Working with my friends in the House and Senate to pass HB100 from the 2019 legislative session would be an excellent start in correcting issues with the balance of power in our state government. I would also like to work with other legislators to pass and clarify rules that would hold committee chairs more accountable, ensuring that bills passed out of committees actually make it to the chamber floors. In total, I have about a dozen examples of systemic issues in the political process that I would like to work with the House and Senate to address.
What are the greatest challenges facing your district?
Ricks Right now, the biggest challenge is getting our local and state economy going again without jeopardizing public safety with the COVID-19 virus making a second wave. Businesses are hurting and need to open back up so people can return to their jobs.
I am hearing from individuals and business owners about the financial toll it is taking. Our community has been through tough times before, like when the Teton Dam collapsed. It was difficult and painful then, but we grew stronger as a community because of the experience. People rallied to help each other with whatever was needed, and I am seeing evidence of that now with this crisis.
How we react to this difficult situation will define our character and make us more prepared to deal with the next challenge.
My number one goal is to help our local economy get back going and our people back to work. And second is to work to rein in rising property taxes. Experience and leadership are needed to navigate the challenges we face.
Householder: Coronavirus issues aside, property taxes are excruciatingly high while teacher pay is simultaneously extremely low. Many farmers are struggling with increasing costs that cut into their meager profits. But I believe most of our greatest challenges come from the west side of the state.
Legislative District 34 is a very unique and special part of Idaho. We shouldn’t be treated like Boise, Coeur d’Alene, Twin Falls or Pocatello. I’ve spoken with dozens of local farmers and small business owners who have expressed frustration over all of the state mandates and laws that are passed down on them. Healthcare workers and teachers have expressed similar frustrations. A common sentiment has been that the people here believe they know their businesses, farms, and schools better than politicians do in Boise, and that we should be using our own creativity and innovation to solve our problems in a way that makes sense to us.
The citizens of Madison and Bonneville counties want to be trusted. They are tired of state-wide one-size-fits-all “solutions”. People are tired of decisions being made hundreds of miles away in Treasure Valley that directly impact their lives and businesses in the east valley. These locals often express the belief that most of the state laws, if necessary at all, can be more effectively customized for our highly rural demographic if they are made locally. As one farmer told me, “I just want our county to make its own laws, not be governed by the state of Ada.”
How will you best represent the views of your constituents – even those with differing political views?
Ricks: In my experience, I have learned to listen first and then be heard. I can get along with almost anyone, even those with differing political views. I am firm on my values of God, family, freedom, and the Constitution, but that does not stop me from listing to an issue important to a constituent and trying to understand their position.
I made a lot of friends in the legislature on both sides of the aisle and was able to gain support which helped me get my legislation passed. I can disagree with someone’s viewpoint without being disagreeable. I sat next to the democrats on the house floor and had friendly jousting with them over several political issues and elected leaders. I was always respectful in our discussions, but I stayed steady in my position and they respected me for it.
Householder: I have found that there are very rarely any cases where one “side” is completely right, and the other “side” is completely wrong. Truth is usually a synthesis of all perspectives. I believe the first step to truly representing everyone is listening to everyone. I am very apprehensive of politicians who surround themselves with echo chambers of “yes men”. I plan to hold town halls often and communicate with all engaged members of my district regularly. I plan to be extremely transparent and accessible. I want everybody to know that I value their perspective, regardless of differences in our training or philosophies.
For the past two years, I have been teaching “Healing of America” lectures in the community and in other states. Many of these lectures have focused on the importance of listening in politics. I’m not as concerned about our actual policies as I am about the quality of our conversations. If we can have respectful, intelligent conversations about the issues, the best ideas will always win out in the long run. Good policy is born from good conversation. I am bothered by our current extremely divisive political climate that treats those who disagree almost as mortal enemies.
It’s simply impossible to represent 100 percent of the people 100 percent of the time. The best any representative or senator can do is communicate regularly with the people, plant themselves firmly on a foundation of good principles, and vote their conscience. This is exactly what I plan to do.
What is your philosophy on dealing with special interest groups and/or lobbyists?
Ricks: I have brought local representation back to the people of our district instead of our vote being handed over to a special interest index group. Not once have I voted on a bill based on earning a grade on an index. I carefully weigh the merits of each bill based on if it is Constitutional and if it will be in the best interest of our district before voting.
It has been easy for me to determine when to trust a lobbyist. However, even if a lobbyist has donated to my campaign, that does not mean I will vote for the legislation they support. If it is not right for the district, I won’t support it, period. Every vote I cast is based on what I believe is best for the district. The majority of my campaign donations come from local people and businesses, and I appreciate that.
Householder: I believe that lobbyists can certainly provide critical information which helps legislators make informed decisions on countless relevant issues. On the other hand, I believe that their influence should end with providing useful information. Representatives and senators should vote in a way that 1) upholds the Idaho and federal constitutions, 2) protects natural rights by preserving and perpetuating the principles of limited and moral government, and 3) represents the ethical values and ideals of their constituents. Special interest groups can be excellent educators, but in the end, they should be given no preference over a representative or senators constituents.
I believe bribery is completely unethical. Bribery violates the principle that positions of power should not be positions of profit. I am proud of several of the representatives in our Idaho legislature who have the moral fortitude to turn down campaign donations or other “perks” from special interest groups when they know there are political strings attached.
Sometimes the most powerful “lobbyists” or “special interest groups” are other politicians—such as the committee chairs, party leaders, or chamber leadership. It can be extremely difficult for legislators to navigate policy issues when other legislators play petty politics and keep score, so to speak. I believe one of the best ways to address corruption in politics is to address issues in the breakdown of the legislative process. There are many ways we can reform the incentive structure so that politicians feel accountability towards the right people and constituents.
What are your views regarding the role of the media in covering Idaho’s political landscape?
Ricks: Overall, I think the media in Idaho does a good job covering politics. Freedom of the press is based on the first Amendment Constitutional right, and the media helps inform the people what the political issues are. Some reporting can lean a little left or a little right depending on the news source or reporter, but in large I find most of the Idaho legislative news coverage to be fair and balanced. I have found most reporters are respectful and kind in their articles.
Householder: I believe the media plays an essential role in the free market of ideas. I am often asked by those who attend my seminars and classes on politics which news outlets I follow or would recommend. I always give the same advice that I received many years ago from my mentor — I tell them to follow everybody and never write off an outlet as unworthy of their attention. I explain that even if they disagree with the majority of the opinions or commentary coming from a news outlet or public thought leader, they are diminishing their influence if they limit themselves to a few outlets.
Any rational thinker would conclude that virtually every outlet is biased, the only question is the degree and direction of the bias. But this is not a legitimate reason for someone seeking influence or positions of authority to stop listening to an outlet or thought leader. Those running for office have an even greater responsibility to listen to as many shows and programs as possible, if for no other reason than to be aware of what everybody else is hearing and to be prepared for intelligent conversation.
Ignorance is much more dangerous than bias. Those who are passionate but biased are easier to convince of the truth than those who are completely unaware of the conflict of ideas in the first place. It’s easier to steer a moving car.
Ideas and opinions are refined by being challenged. The press plays an essential role in our society.