Incumbent Julianne Young and Travis Oler face off in race for Legislative District 31 Seat B
BLACKFOOT – Democratic candidate Travis Oler is challenging incumbent Republican candidate Julianne Young in the race for Legislative District 31 Seat B.
The seat covers all of Bingham County.
Young defeated fellow Republican challenger Donavan Harrington with 52% of the 6,696 votes in the May Primary.
EastIdahoNews.com sent the same nine questions to each candidate. Their unedited 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.
Oler: I am a 49-year-old US Army veteran, family farm manager, and businessman, and I was raised on a potato farm in Shelley.
I graduated from Shelley High School in 1989, where I served six weeks of my senior year as a page in the Idaho Senate. I am a proud husband, father, and grandfather.
After my honorable discharge from the US Army in 2004, I was hired as a freight train conductor for Union Pacific. After that, I began a 12-year career in franchising and Internet marketing, helping hundreds of business owners start and grow their small businesses.
I currently split my time between managing the family farm in Shelley, and running my Internet marketing business, First Page Platinum.
I have volunteered for years as an adult leader with the Boy Scouts of America. My favorite requirement instructs the scouts to “discuss … the constitutional rights and obligations of a U.S. citizen.” It was always a highlight of my year to meet with 11-year-old scouts and talk to them about their rights to peaceable enjoyment of their lives, free speech, a jury trial, etc. Over and over again, I would emphasize to the scouts in my care that freedom is not free, that if they enjoyed a right it was because someone else had sacrificed for that right or someone else had fulfilled their constitutional obligations to provide that right.
Young: I am a wife and mom who is not afraid to stand up for the things that matter most. I have a deep appreciation for America and a commitment to proactively making a difference. I grew up in Moreland, graduated from Snake River High School, and have a BA in education from Idaho State University. Throughout my life, prior to serving as a state representative, I have spent many hours serving in my family, my church, and my community, including work with the Boy Scouts of America, volunteer teaching, authoring guest editorials and organizing community events.
I ran for public office because of my commitment to preserving freedom and building a better world for our children and families. Freedom must be proactively advanced both at home AND abroad. I have a deep appreciation for those, like my Grandfather Hill, who risk their lives to defend that freedom. I also know that if America is to continue to be great, we must maintain and defend the principles that make it great — right here and now, in Idaho and across the nation.
What are your proudest accomplishments in your personal life or career?
Young: My marriage and my 10 children are by far my proudest accomplishment. Our family celebrated the marriage of my oldest son this summer and, with nearly half of our children over 18, life has new adventures around every corner! My family is the ‘why’ for everything worthwhile in life!
During my legislative career, my proudest moments have come after successfully finding solutions to difficult issues and building broad support for those solutions. I approach problems from a principled perspective, listen carefully to the concerns of others, and proactively work to address those concerns. Over the last two years, I personally carried five significant pieces of legislation. Each passed easily with strong support in both the House and Senate.
My work on House Bill 6 during Idaho’s recent special legislative session is a classic example of this. Idaho schools, businesses, and the public had important concerns related to COVID-19 liability. Addressing these concerns was the primary focus of the special session this summer. When competing interests were at a standstill and it seemed there was no way forward, it was incredibly rewarding for me to personally negotiate and craft a solution which passed both the House and Senate with strong support, opening the door for Idaho schools and businesses to reopen without fear of frivolous lawsuits related to COVID.
Oler: Pride is a sin, so I would like to say what I’m happiest about, not proudest about. My wife and family are what bring me the most happiness. It is for them that I want to make the world a better place.
I served our country in the U.S. Army from 2000-2004, spending almost the entire time in Germany at a U.S. Army Health Clinic near Frankfurt. I had gone on a mission to Germany for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, so the U.S. Army Health Clinic assigned me to be a patient liaison. If a U.S. soldier or family member ended up in a German hospital, then I would translate and coordinate follow-up care.
In my 10+ years in franchising, I trained and supported hundreds of business owners as they started and grew their businesses. I was often the first person business owners would call if they had a problem in their business that they didn’t know how to solve. I am currently a family farm manager and business owner, and in the legislature I will be very focused on helping family farms and small businesses to be successful and on helping Idaho’s economy grow so that there will be good jobs for our children. I don’t want our children and grandchildren to be forced to move out of state to find a good-paying job.
Why are you a member of the Republican/Democrat/Independent/Other party? Briefly explain your political platform.
Oler: I am a Democrat because the United States has a two-party system. Independents don’t win in Idaho. If I were a Republican, I would need to bow down to the Idaho Freedom Foundation, but as a Democrat I am free to oppose the Idaho Freedom Foundation’s radical libertarian policies all I want.
I will oppose all sales tax increases. My opponent for state representative, Julianne Young, has said repeatedly that she wants to increase the sales tax in order to reduce the property tax. Raising the sales tax to 11% like in House Bill 359 would wreck Idaho’s economy and destroy adequate funding of local school districts and governments.
I will fight to reduce all homeowners’ future property taxes — all homeowners who live in Idaho! I will fight for the farmers’ Right to Repair bill, to get it fixed and passed. Julianne Young voted to kill the farmers’ Right to Repair in committee, which is why the Bingham County Farm Bureau Board has refused to endorse Julianne even though the Boise office of Idaho Farm Bureau gave her a “100%” score that is only based on bills that get a vote on the floor of the House.
I will sponsor legislation that makes it illegal to harass and intimidate police officers and other first responders. Julianne Young has refused to condemn her campaign worker Parrish Miller, who said that the United States government should be eradicated and who claimed that it is morally justifiable to kill police.
Young: The Idaho Republican platform gives voice to many of my most cherished and closely held personal values. It contains statements of ‘belief’ that inspire and inform my actions.
The Idaho Republican platform begins:
“WE ARE REPUBLICANS BECAUSE: We believe the strength of our nation lies with our faith and reliance on God our Creator, the individual, and the traditional family; and that each person’s dignity, freedom, ability and responsibility must be honored. We believe the United States Constitution is the greatest and most inspired document to govern a nation, and the republican form of government it gives us, (U.S. Const. Art. IV §4), is the best guarantor of freedom in history. We believe in equal rights, equal justice and equal opportunity for all, regardless of race, creed, sex, age or disability. . .”
The Republican platform continues on to affirm the sanctity of life, the value of free markets and personal responsibility, the importance of fiscal responsibility, and the responsibilities of government and individuals in securing peace and freedom.
Over the last two years, I have proactively worked to protect our second amendment rights, religious freedom, life for the preborn, and the family. I have voted to cut red tape, supported real tax relief (not the tax shift my opponent advocates for), opposed increasing regulation on Idaho businesses, and effectively advocated for agricultural interests, receiving the ‘Friend of Agriculture’ award because of my 100% Farm Bureau vote rating.
What are the greatest challenges facing Idahoans?
Young: As I look forward to the coming session, I see significant challenges and great opportunities! I believe the greatest challenge facing Idahoans is a crisis of confidence: confidence in the future, confidence in the goodness of their fellowmen, and confidence in our representative system of government and its ability to help us navigate the challenges we face.
We see a crisis of confidence in the statistics showing increasing mental health challenges, in increased conflict and tension between individuals and groups with opposing viewpoints, and in increasing skepticism regarding the integrity and actions of government officials. While we face economic struggles, health concerns, and many other challenges, it is a crisis of confidence which is of greatest concern to me because a crisis of confidence compromises our resilience.
In spite of this concern, I am optimistic. As Americans and as Idahoans, we have a great heritage of integrity, compassion, honorable service, and grit! We have close-knit communities that pull together when confronted with challenges, and we have successfully faced many challenges in the past! Ironically, the same challenges that cause us anxiety are, in reality, opportunities to build confidence. As we move forward facing challenges together, whatever they may be, in a way that builds trust, we also strengthen confidence — confidence in the future, in one another, and in our inspired system of American self-government.
Oler: Economically, the greatest challenges facing Idahoans are for our economy to continue to grow and for our businesses to remain profitable while creating good-paying jobs. My other answers describe what we should do to meet these economic challenges.
Politically, Idaho’s greatest challenge is to fight back against the corrupting influence of the Idaho Freedom Foundation and its allies. The allies of the Idaho Freedom Foundation has poured tens of thousands of dollars in donations and support into individual Republican primaries to defeat Republican candidates who disagree with the Idaho Freedom Foundation’s radical libertarian agenda that the Idaho Freedom Foundation tries to disguise as conservatism.
Julianne Young has received thousands of dollars in donations from board members of the Idaho Freedom Foundation and from the Idaho Freedom Foundation and its allies. She has received tens of thousands of dollars in donations and marketing support, also called “electioneering communications” under Idaho state law. Julianne and her allies outspent her primary opponent, Donavan Harrington, by almost double. Julianne did receive thousands of dollars in donations from Bingham County members of the global conspiracy group the Freedom First Society, but Julianne only won her primary against Donavan Harrington by less than 300 votes. If Julianne Young and her allies outspent an opponent by almost double and only won by less than 300 votes, I think it is safe to say that Julianne Young would have lost without the massive advantage in spending that came from outside of Bingham County.
How is your party’s ideology better suited to dealing with these unique challenges than those of your competitor?
Oler: I am running to represent Bingham County in the Idaho State House. I do not follow any party’s ideology or platform or swear an “oath of affinity” or obedience to any party platform. The best interests of Bingham County and the Constitutions of Idaho and the United States are the foundations of my ideology.
I will oppose socialism and support capitalism. I worked in the franchise industry for over 10 years, and during that time, helped hundreds of small business owners start and grow their businesses. I was also raised on the family farm, where I saw firsthand how owning a business created incentives for hard work and thrift. I am a firm believer in the capitalist system, and I am currently a family farm manager and business owner.
I will support adequate funding for education so that Bingham County can have good schools. Only nine out of 105 legislators, including Julianne Young, voted against the 2019 House Bill 153, which raised starting teacher minimum salary to $40k/year. We can’t have good schools in Bingham County if we don’t pay teachers a livable wage!
I will protect gun rights and the rights of the unborn. The state of Idaho has done a thorough job protecting gun rights and the rights of the unborn, and I will not seek to undo any of those rights. Don’t let false accusations fool you on this.
Young: While individuals of different party affiliations may work together during a legislative session, an election cycle is no time to ignore party affiliation. My Democratic opponent has attempted to downplay his connection to the Democratic party. Yet, he is the Democratic Party Chair! Party platforms establish priorities, and priorities ultimately direct the policies and actions a legislator supports.
Republican and Democratic platforms are direct opposites. The Republican platform is a statement of affirmative beliefs centered on the values of faith, family, individual freedom, and personal responsibility. The Democrat platform reads like a long list of demands which the Democrat expects government (other people) to provide. Over 30 planks of the State Democratic platform begin with “I demand” or “I require”.
Ironically, while many demands may be met ‘for free’ through a system of increasing taxation or through inflating our currency, all of these ‘free things’ ultimately come at the expense of ‘freedom’. A government big and powerful enough to give us everything we want is big and powerful enough to take it all away!
The idea evident in the Democratic platform, that society (other people) owe a person something, gives rise to conflict, mistrust, and discouragement. In contrast, the values of faith and family at the core of the Republican platform are the bedrock of communities during times of struggle and the personal responsibility honored throughout the Republican platform is the lifeblood of confidence. The core values articulated in the Republican platform provide the roadmap for successfully navigating difficult times.
How will you best represent the views of your constituents – even those with differing political views?
Young: It is impossible for one person to represent the views of every member of a politically diverse constituency. That is why we have elections where voters consider candidates’ political views and positions and then, by a simple majority vote, choose one candidate to represent them all. Once elected, a representative should be expected to advocate for the platform they ran on.
While one representative cannot possibly advocate for every individual’s unique views, they can serve and provide assistance to all residents in the district. During the past two years, I have appreciated the opportunity to help people from every walk of life, regardless of their political affiliation or beliefs. I have addressed concerns about water rights, loved ones in prison, the way state programs are functioning (or not), the impacts of new or existing state laws, and accessing unemployment benefits, just to name a few. It has been a pleasure to serve you!
Oler: I grew up on a potato farm in Bingham County, and I’ve lived for decades in Bingham County, so I think I understand the people of Bingham County pretty well. Although I won’t agree with everyone on every single issue, I think it’s important to hear from people who have a different viewpoint than I do. By so doing, it could be possible for us to come up with solutions together that are better than what we would have thought up individually.
The main point for me is that I want to develop win/win solutions that will help grow Idaho’s economy and provide good-paying jobs for our children and grandchildren. I will represent anyone well who shares that same goal.
How can you encourage compromise, debate and a bipartisan approach to introducing new legislation in Idaho?
Oler: Right now my opponent, Julianne Young, often votes contrary to Bingham County’s other legislators, Senator Steve Bair and Representative Neil Anderson. Julianne Young has essentially canceled out their votes repeatedly on important bills.
For example, Julianne Young voted for House Bill 409, the local government budget freeze, but both Bair and Anderson voted against it. Julianne Young voted against HB 515, the Idaho Patient Act, which ended high attorney fees on medical debt collection, but both Bair and Anderson voted for it.
Julianne Young voted to limit the mandatory reporting of child abuse, but Bair and Anderson voted for it. Julianne Young voted against raising teacher minimum salary to $40,000 per year, but Bair and Anderson voted for it.
Julianne Young voted against HB 386, which ended the “gag rule” on pharmacists that prevented them from recommending cheaper drugs to patients, but Bair and Anderson voted for it. HB 386 also prevents pharmacy benefit managers from reversing their coverage months after the fact and sticking patients with a large bill.
With each of these important votes mentioned above, I would be voting in a bipartisan manner the same as Bair and Anderson. I will vote for what constitutes Bingham County’s best interest, and I will not vote the way the Idaho Freedom Foundation tells me to vote as Julianne Young does.
Young: Building positive relationships with others, including those with whom I sometimes disagree, is one of my strengths. I have found that those with whom I disagree on one issue may have common ground with me on another. Consequently, I have made it a priority to disagree without being disagreeable.
A good rule of thumb is to focus the debate on issues and principles, but never attack the character or accuse the motives of another person. When we do this, we have better discussions and can make decisions based on sound reason and facts, NOT prejudices or personalities.
Because I have followed these practices, I have relationships that allow me to work well with those with whom I sometimes disagree when we find that we share a common concern. A great example of this is the bi-partisan work I and other legislators have done this summer to understand and address concerns about visitation restrictions that have left the elderly and infirm isolated during times of great need.
What parts of Idaho government could benefit from additional state funding?
Young: There will always be more things that could be funded using taxpayer dollars. It is easy to spend other people’s money. However, I believe our greater challenge is not to identify where we can spend more, but to ensure that the resources already allocated are being well used. I work hard for the money which I pay in taxes, and I have received many letters from others who live on very modest means and reach deep in their pockets to pay every tax and fee. I respect taxpayer dollars as a sacred trust and feel a responsibility to see that these dollars are effectively used for the appropriate government purposes defined in our Idaho State Constitution.
Oler: I agree with Governor Little that K-12 education is the top funding priority of the state of Idaho, that education funding should be increased in order to grow the economy, and that third-grade reading proficiency is the most important goal.
Governor Little was asked, “If you could do one thing to reach your gold standard with regard to third-grade reading . . . what would you do?” Governor Little replied that there was no one thing he would do, that he recommends a “smorgasbord” of solutions such as summer reading programs, pre-K funding, more busing to kindergarten, a now-defunct Parents As Teachers program, etc.
In other words, Governor Little’s “one” solution was to JUST THROW MONEY AT THE PROBLEM. That was the wrong answer, and it will always be a doomed solution to just throw money at a problem without knowing what the best way is to solve that problem.
If I could do one thing to help Idaho’s children reach the gold standard regarding Idaho’s third grade reading proficiency standard, it would be to hire the personnel needed to accomplish one-on-one phonics-based reading instruction in kindergarten through second grade.
So my proposal is to hire extra teachers or teacher aides or reading aides in kindergarten through second grade who would pull the children out of the group classroom setting in order to sit one-on-one with them to help advance them through a structured series of phonics-based reading lessons.
What part of Idaho government could be improved with financial cutbacks?
Oler: Idaho’s legislative legal defense fund often wastes money on doomed bills that will obviously be declared unconstitutional. These legislators who sponsor these doomed bills simply want to score culture-war points with their base to help them win their primary elections. If a legislator causes $1 million in legal fees to defend a bill that the Attorney General warned was most likely unconstitutional, then that legislator’s campaign fund should reimburse the taxpayers of Idaho for these legal fees.
Young: Of course, waste, fraud, and abuse should always be eliminated. Beyond that, it is important to consider which government functions fall within our constitutional mandate and which do not.
Ultimately, whatever we spend should be spent wisely. I have a quote on my wall from my grandfather that I love: “If your outgo exceeds your income, then your upkeep becomes your downfall.”
It has been our experience, as a state, that the government has, in some instances, really been improved by financial cutbacks. When we had a significant recession in 2008, state budgets were drastically cut. While this was surely a hardship in some instances, it also proved to be a great opportunity and many state agencies found better and more efficient ways to take care of things which never would have been discovered in more prosperous circumstances.
During the last legislative session, I and other conservative Republicans worked to ensure that Idaho cut spending and saved for a rainy day, putting our state in a position for a strong recovery from the COVID shut down. I will continue to support this kind of responsible fiscal policy.