Rep. Bryan Zollinger challenged by Marco Erickson for House seat
IDAHO FALLS — Incumbent Rep. Bryan Zollinger, R-Idaho Falls, is being challenged by political newcomer Marco Erickson of Idaho Falls for his seat in the Idaho House of Representatives District 33 Seat B.
Both 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.
Zollinger:I’m a fifth-generation Idahoan born and raised in Eastern Idaho. I graduated from Sugar-Salem High School. I earned my bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Utah and my Juris Doctorate from Florida Coastal School of Law. My wife, Shara, and I have been married for 18 years and have five children. I am an attorney with the local firm, Smith, Driscoll & Associates. My practice involves working with diverse clients over a broad spectrum of businesses.
My parents, teachers, and mentors instilled in me a strong sense of gratitude for my community, our state, and the people that make it great. It is because of those people that have helped me become the person I am today that I have a great desire to serve and give back to our community. I have coached and mentored thousands of our community youth through Boy Scouts, YMCA, and community youth sports and various other community and religious groups. I continue to serve and mentor youth, coach youth sports, and serve on the board of directors for a non-profit scholarship organization.
Over the past four years of service as your state representative for District 33, I have enjoyed the many relationships I have formed with friends and neighbors throughout our community. Before serving as a state representative, I served on the Idaho Falls School District Board of Trustees for one four-year term and also served four years as a precinct committee person on the Bonneville County Republican Central Committee.
Erickson: I am a Republican candidate for the Idaho House. I am a local mental health professional whose specialty is working with “at risk” youth in the areas of suicide prevention, drug and alcohol addiction, etc.
I have experience managing a large bureau within a public health division working with mental health, substance abuse, school districts, Medicaid, suicide prevention, and other human service-based projects. This taught me the inner workings of state and local governments.
My entire life has been devoted to public service, starting in elementary school. Last year I was involved in over 40 community service projects with local teenagers.
I serve on the Board of Directors for Community Suicide Prevention and Region 7 Juvenile Justice Council.
I am a small business owner, resident of Idaho Falls’ Westside and hold an M.S. in Psychology from Walden University.
My wife Emily and I have five children, 4 boys and one daughter ages 5-17.
In my spare time, I love to perform music and write songs.
What are your proudest accomplishments in your personal life or career?
Zollinger: My proudest accomplishments in my personal life and/or career would easily be my family. Everything I do in my personal and career life is because of them and the memories we continue to make. All of the other accomplishments that I have are a result of my striving to make this community and state better for my family, friends, and neighbors. For those reasons, I am also proud of the fact that I graduated from college and law school while either myself, Shara, or both of us were working full-time and raising our young family at the same time.
I am also proud of the service opportunities that I have been able to be a part of. I am proud of my service and leadership roles with youth sports and in my church, and being able to watch the thousands of youth I have mentored mature into excellent adults. I am also thankful that my friends and neighbors have trusted me enough to elect me to the school board and the state legislature. In those roles, I have earned several awards for my service, including being named the 2019 Idaho State Republican Legislator of the Year. I’m proud of these awards only because they evidence the fact that I have honored the trust that this community continues to place in me.
Erickson: My greatest accomplishment is my wife and I raising 5 wonderful children. I have 3 teenage boys right now who are making me proud every day, they have great hearts for serving others and my two younger ones are following.
I feel being a first-generation college-educated individual is a great accomplishment.
I broke the cycle of generations of family addiction and chose at a young age to stay away from drugs and alcohol which was a choice that led to many of my successes.
In my career, I have luckily not lost a client to suicide and I have been able to play a part in diverting many suicides.
I also enjoy writing and performing music. I have been blessed to be invited to try out for the VOICE television show and have been backstage at the Academy of the Country Music Awards.
Briefly explain your political platform, and/or legislative goals if you are elected to office.
Zollinger: During my service on the Idaho Falls District 91 school board, I learned that our educators are limited in their decision making due to federal and, to some smaller extent, state regulations. I believe that our teachers are the best and they deserve the autonomy and the ability to structure education, in conjunction with parents, to best suit the needs of the individual child. I also believe that K-12 education and our teachers need to be properly funded and have continued to fight for these objectives.
As an attorney who consults with individuals desiring to start a business or even continue to operate a business, I have seen the devastation that bureaucratic red tape can have on individuals, families and businesses. Idaho ranks in the middle of the pack when it comes to a favorable business tax climate. I have fought and will continue to fight to reduce unnecessary government regulation and to reduce taxes on individuals and families.
I am also strongly pro-life and an unmovable supporter of our second amendment rights and have been recognized by Idaho Chooses Life, the NRA, and the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance for the pro-life and pro-gun bills I have sponsored and co-sponsored.
If I am re-elected, my goals will include improving education by removing government regulation and increasing funding as needed. Improve our business and living climates by continuing to reduce regulation and taxation. I will also continue to protect private property rights, the right to life, and our 2nd Amendment rights.
Erickson: I will focus in the Legislature on three areas.
Sustainable Local Economy:
Our economy is taking a hit with the coronavirus pandemic. We need to refocus on the economic fundamentals.
I am passionate about boosting the INL, local agriculture and our small businesses.
I will work to strengthen the connection between Idaho’s education system and workforce development to increase the number of our citizens with good jobs.
Overall, I want to ensure that our local economy remains strong so more families can be successful and not rely on government programs for assistance.
A strong and vibrant education system is key to both our economy and allowing our citizens to improve their station in life. We need local flexibility and considerable ingenuity to allow our students to compete in the global economy.
We need more of our local students graduating with career and technical education skills. I support the Legislature’s current path to increase teacher salaries to retain our best.
I know the importance of aggressively tackling the problems of at-risk youth. My unique background in this area will help me improve Idaho’s policies.
Here is what I would do: We need to refocus our energy on what works, not just continue to throw money at the problem.
Impactful early intervention with these kids can put them on the path to succeed in life, reduce crime in our communities, minimize the number of youth suicides and reduce the taxpayer burden from future dependency on social services.
What are the greatest challenges facing your district?
Zollinger: Some of the greatest challenges that my district faces are finding employment that pays enough to keep pace with rising taxes and the rising cost of living. We’ve seen recent examples of individuals living on fixed incomes and businesses being squeezed by taxes when annexed into the city. Rising property taxes are an issue that I am continually getting calls and complaints about.
Another issue I often hear about is the rising cost of higher education and the ability of families to help their children pay for higher education or needed job training. Much of the increased cost of higher education appears to be coming from administrative bloat. We can no longer wait to deal with this issue if we are to ensure that higher education and job training are accessible and affordable to all of our communities.
Another issue I often hear about are the unnecessary regulations placed on businesses and individuals trying to start a business or a career. While I think Idaho has made great strides in the past couple years on this front, there are still many changes that need to be made.
Erickson: Right now is the coronavirus pandemic and dealing with the economic aftereffects.
Long term, we have tremendous opportunities at the INL — the small modular reactor, the advanced test reactor, and the rapidly growing cybersecurity program. I will be an advocate for the INL.
One of the significant challenges we are dealing with is the consequences of rapid growth. We need to look closely at our property tax system and we need to tackle the increasing burdens on our infrastructure. We need to be more innovative to increase the availability of affordable housing.
How will you best represent the views of your constituents – even those with differing political views?
Zollinger: I will best represent the views of my constituents by listening and trying to understand. I believe the only way to truly represent our community is to constantly and directly communicate with the citizens themselves. I have made hundreds of friends during my four years of service when constituents reached out to me to explain their problems or suggestions to address problems they have witnessed. I’m proud to say that all of the bills that I have sponsored have come directly from conversations that I have had with my constituents.
I believe in listening to and caring about all my constituents, not just those with whom I mostly agree. I honestly strive to not only be kind to all people, regardless of their political views, but to truly get to know and love all people. I have co-sponsored multiple bipartisan bills every year I have served as a state representative and am always looking for issues that we can agree on so that we can work together. While I will never compromise my limited government beliefs, I believe there are small government solutions to almost every issue. I believe if we truly listen and communicate, we can find solutions to the problems while still remaining true to conservative, limited government principles.
Erickson: I am someone who knows how to bring those of different viewpoints together. I may not agree with everything someone suggests but I am willing to listen. I have been trained professionally to listen to people and resolve conflict.
What is your philosophy on dealing with special interest groups and/or lobbyists?
Zollinger: I have never voted for any bill due to pressure from a special interest group or lobbyist group. I pride myself on always voting based upon the principles of liberty and limited, constitutional government. I do think there is a place in politics for special interest groups, and even lobbyists, as these groups often represent individuals like school teachers, construction workers, medical professionals, agricultural workers, and numerous other professions.
My philosophy in dealing with special interests and lobbyists is to garner information about bills and issues. Usually, special interest groups and their lobbyists are very familiar with the industry or issue that they represent. Often, these special interest groups and lobbyists bring their clients or association members to meet with us and walk us through the problem the proposed legislation is designed to correct. I believe it is important to hear what these industry leaders, associations, and others have to say, then take those ideas back to my constituents, ask my constituents their thoughts on the issue, and make the best decision I can based upon this information.
Because of my record of never bending to lobbyists or special interests, I often find that lobbyists or special interest groups will come to me to ask how or if a bill or an idea could be modified to comply with the conservative, limited government principles that I stand for.
Erickson: This is one of my primary differences with my opponent. This last legislative session he voted against the Idaho Patient Act, which was driven by his and his law firm’s behavior in collecting medical debts. I will not vote on matters that directly impact my livelihood.
In general, I commit to putting the interests of the people of Idaho Falls first before any other group or interest.
What are your views regarding the role of the media in covering Idaho’s political landscape?
Zollinger: I believe strongly in the First Amendment’s Freedom of the Press. My views regarding the role of the media in covering Idaho’s political landscape are that the media has a very important and powerful role. In today’s world of fake news and false information, it is important that news media convey the facts and news in a non-biased way. I find that in eastern Idaho, most of our media does a much better job of doing this than I see when I’m in Boise and definitely a better job of doing this than the major national news outlets.
I believe it is very important for the media to gather information and views on both sides of an issue before rushing to print. I believe that the media needs to present the arguments of both sides and be clear that there are differing opinions and interpretations. Moreover, to avoid spreading “fake” news, I strongly believe the media should always stick to the facts and never present opinion as fact. I believe as a statesman and a state representative, it is important that I have an open and transparent relationship with the media and have always strived to be available at any time on any issue.
Erickson: They play an essential role in informing the public of the activities of government and of governmental officials. I will protect their constitutional right to do so.