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Incumbent Republican Barbara Ehardt faces Democrat Miranda Marquit in Legislative District 33 Seat A

East Idaho Elects

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IDAHO FALLS — Two local women are running to become the next Idaho Falls-area representative in the Idaho House.

Incumbent Rep. Barbara Ehardt, the Republican nominee, is being challenged by Democrat Miranda Marquit for District 33’s House Seat A.

To learn more about the candidate’s platform, sent the same eight questions to each candidate. Their unedited responses, listed below, were required to be 250 words or less.

Visit Barbara Ehardt’s Facebook page here.

Visit Miranda Marquit’s Facebook page here.

Tell us about yourself — include information about your family, career, education, volunteer work and any prior experience in public office.

Ehardt: I’m a fifth generation Idahoan who was born and raised right here in Idaho Falls. This is home to me. Most people know that I played Division I basketball at Idaho State after playing at North Idaho College. I then coached Division I basketball for 15 years at four fantastic institutions — UC Santa Barbara, BYU, Washington State and as the head coach at Cal State Fullerton. I also taught classes at two of these schools.

I run a small business centered on basketball — Coach E’s Camps & Clinics. This includes running & coaching a high level travel boys basketball program. I am also employed at Apple Athletic Club as one of the managers/directors over Youth Programming.

Not everyone understands the power of a coach. I coach and mentor our kids because more than anyone else (besides their parents), coaches change and impact the lives of our youth! This in turn will change our future. I have mentored over 30 kids in their senior projects through the years. I believe in our kids. I believe in what they will do for our future.

I also served on the Idaho Falls City Council from 2014 – 2018. I have served as our Bonneville County Republican Women’s President and I have volunteered on countless campaigns, including Bill Simon when he ran for Governor of California and Governor Otter when he ran for re-election in 2010. I have volunteered throughout my life in many areas of this community but primarily with our youth.

Marquit: I graduated from Skyline High School and went on to receive my bachelor’s degree in communications with a minor in political science. I also hold a master’s degree in journalism and an MBA. For 15 years, I’ve been a financial writer and nationally-recognized money expert. I consult with Fortune 500 companies, as well as write for outlets like Forbes and U.S. News & World Report.

My family has deep roots in Idaho Falls, with my paternal grandparents moving here in the 1970s. My dad works for the INL and my mom and sister are both teachers in the area. I have one son, who will vote for the first time in this election, and he attends Compass Academy.

Community involvement is important to me, and I have volunteered with the Community Food Basket. I’ve also served as Chair of the Citizens Review Committee for the legal department, and currently serve on the health CUSP subcommittee. I was also appointed to the D91 facilities steering committee. In addition, I also admire the local faith community, participating in various activities, including liturgy.

I served as chair of the Bonneville County Democratic Central Committee (BCDCC) from May 2016 until October 2019. I’ve also served as a precinct chair. Currently, I’m the State Committeewoman on the BCDCC.

What are your proudest accomplishments in your personal life or career?

Marquit: I’m especially proud of my son, and the fact that he is almost 18, and a kind, self-sufficient young man.

However, I’m also pleased with the recognition I’ve received at the national and international level for my writing and podcasting. But nothing feels as good as when I receive emails from people saying that my financial articles have helped them make a difference in their lives.

Being involved in the community, and seeing the difference that the small actions we can all take — from volunteering with local charities to helping our kids grow into thoughtful adults — has been among the most rewarding things I’ve been fortunate to experience.

Ehardt: Like you, I have differing “proud” moments. As an athlete, I enjoyed success as a player on our North Idaho basketball team as we qualified for the National Junior College Athletic Championships in Senatobia, Mississippi. As a collegiate coach, going to the NCAA tournament was incredibly exciting and rewarding.

Whether working with our young women while coaching collegiately or with the young men, I’ve been able to coach these past eleven years, I have been blessed to watch them as they grow and become successful adults. They have made impacts on those by whom they are surrounded. They are a blessing to their communities. Having my former players seek me out and thank me for the difference that I have made in their lives will always be the most gratifying expression of love that I have been blessed to experience.

Coaches change lives. And as one former player recalled, “Coach E, we sure had a lot of ‘teaching moments.'” These are the moments where I connect the lessons of the sport by teaching and correlating them to real life.

I am honored to have received the trust of my community to serve in any capacity but certainly as your Representative. The confidence and expectation that community members have placed in me to help them and to champion their concerns is indeed humbling.

I am also proud that while serving on the Idaho Falls City Council, I never voted once to increase our city budget. This would raise your property taxes.

Why are you a member of the Republican/Democrat/Independent/Other party?
Briefly explain your political platform.

Ehardt: I am a Republican because our party absolutely:

  • Believes in and acknowledges God as the Creator of this world and the Father of us as His children;
  • Believes in the family unit as the base unit and most important unit of government;
  • Believes in the Constitution of the United States of America;
  • Believes in the sanctity of life;
  • Believes that our rights come from our Heavenly Father and not from man — when our rights come from the Lord, they are inalienable and do not change. When they come from man, they are negotiable and change depending on the circumstances;
  • Believes in the 1st amendment — the right to freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom to peacefully assemble, freedom of the press, freedom of expression, freedom to redress their government, and more;
  • Believes in limited government;
  • Believes in the rule of law and not anarchy;

I am a Republican for these and so many other reasons. But mostly as a Republican, we believe in the ingenuity and genius of man. Government should allow for the creative genius of man to flow.

Marquit: I’m a member of the Democratic party in Idaho because I believe that it’s important to have strong representation for a variety of viewpoints. When any one party gains too much influence, it’s too easy for them to ignore the people and stop representing them.

In general, I don’t like the two-party system, and, like George Washington, am deeply skeptical of parties gaining too much power. That said, however, I believe that the Idaho Democratic Party currently focuses more accurately on the issues and values that matter to a wider swath of Idahoans, including an emphasis on prioritizing education and addressing challenges that impact Idahoans, such as property taxes, infrastructure and access to public lands.

What are the greatest challenges facing Idahoans?

Marquit: Right now, affordable housing is a major issue for many of the Idahoans in D33 that I speak with. Indeed, many of our senior citizens are concerned about rising property taxes and how it impacts them on their fixed incomes. Last legislative session, a bipartisan effort to address property tax relief was ignored in favor of bad policy for problems that don’t exist.

To me, that indicates that one of our biggest challenges right now is the fact that many of our so-called representatives are more interested in grandstanding and catering to special interests than actually working on solutions to some of our challenges.

Another major issue is the fact we continue to underfund education. One thing that concerns me is the fact that online sales tax goes into a separate fund than offline sales tax. What is this money being used for? There are potentially millions of dollars in there, and it’s not being invested in our children, our communities or our future. That’s a huge challenge.

Ehardt: Current challenges for Idahoans are to rebound completely from the effects of the COVID virus on our community and state. Though we have weathered this better than most states — by evidence of the fact that our economy ranks 1st in many areas and we are No. 1 in financial solvency as a state — we still have more to do.

Many businesses were so devastated by the financial impact that it will take years to recover from the forced shutdown. We need to do all that we can to get our state and our people up and running.

As we review our challenges, we need to understand that we should never again do anything that would undermine our 1st amendment rights, especially our right to religion. Our churches should be open!

How is your party’s ideology better suited to dealing with these unique challenges than those of your competitor?

Ehardt: The Republican platform already seeks a more limited role of government that also includes more limited spending. This was never more evident than that which the governor did before the pandemic hit. He had already instructed all agencies to reduce their budgets by 2% — except education (which was later reduced and restored).

Republicans believe in limited spending while allowing the people to make decisions for themselves. Democrats believe in taxing the people on everything and then using that money to make decisions for people.

Idaho is experiencing unprecedented growth. People want to come here for two primary reasons: 1) the opportunity to experience economic success in the least regulated state in the nation; 2) people want to come here and raise their families in a state that embraces traditional family values and embraces the founding of this great country. They don’t want to be told that somehow they are evil and that our heritage is evil.

We believe that we are Americans first and foremost and that the founding of this country was inspired by God. We don’t want to apologize for our religious liberties, free speech or rights to peacefully assemble. As true Americans, we want peace — not just outside our borders, but here in our own country. We want the lawlessness to end and we want to be able to raise our families with the peace and freedom that many have sacrificed so that we could have.

Marquit: Once again, I think reverting to party ideology is a red herring. Instead, we should be talking about policies and our representatives. I have a focus on looking at the issues that are important in D33.

For example, nearly 65% of D33 voted yes on Proposition 2. That’s an issue that people of all political stripes supported. However, the current occupant of D33, Seat A fought against it. I believe that’s actually letting ideology, wherever that ideology comes from, whether it’s a party or a special interest group like the Idaho Freedom Foundation, get in the way of representing your constituents.

Many of the residents of D33 that I speak with are of the opinion that investing in education, at the elementary, secondary and postsecondary levels is a wise use of our resources. I happen to agree. I wouldn’t, for example, vote against a basic appropriations bill for higher education three times. I’m not here to promote fear-mongering by “othering” people just because they belong to a specific political party. I’m here to look at track records and whether representatives adequately, well, represent the district.

For me, it’s less about party ideology and more about what’s benefiting a larger number of Idahoans, particularly those here in D33. What it comes down to is that I believe I’m more in sync with the values we hold in D33 than the person who currently sits in Seat A.

How will you best represent the views of your constituents – even those with differing political views?

Marquit: There’s no way to completely agree with anyone, but I believe that most of us want to do what’s best for our community. The fact that I have Republicans on my campaign committee, I think, speaks well to my ability to consider varying viewpoints.

In general, I believe in listening to constituents and considering their points. One of the best ways to do this, I believe, is to hold regular town hall meetings. I am happy to hold regular town hall meetings, even if we need to do that in a socially-distant manner. In fact, I’ve already been listening to D33 residents. I’ve already held two joint economic town halls with economist Aaron Swisher to answer questions about financial and economic policy.

I also frequently hold Zoom meetings and Facebook Live videos where I listen to people and take their questions. One of the reasons I focus on property tax and education so heavily is because I have had socially-distanced interactions with people of all political stripes at my pop-ups, at the local Dems headquarters and even through door knocking. Plus, my volunteer work in the community and my association with various faith congregations in town allow me to get a feel for the concerns of D33 residents. I would continue these efforts to be involved in the community and have conversations.

Ehardt: I best represent them because they understand my principles and that the person I portrayed myself as when I first ran is the same person I am today. I will meet with anyone who will be respectful and I will try to find a WIN/WIN situation to solve problems.

I do value people, and as Stephen Covey taught in his 7 Habits for Highly Effective People, we should “seek first to understand, then be understood.” When one attempts to do this, the conversation often changes because you realize that what you thought or expected them to say isn’t what they may have meant. Listen first. Value people.

How can you encourage compromise, debate and a bipartisan approach to introducing new legislation in Idaho?

Ehardt: I have demonstrated my ability to lead and build a team consensus on four of five pieces of legislation that passed with almost unanimous bi-partisan support. And my Fairness in Women’s Sports bill had a couple of female democrat colleagues appreciating what this bill would do — right up until the ACLU got involved and it became politicized.

My bi-partisan legislation includes:

  • HCR 36 IDAHO NATIONAL Laboratory — Recognizes nuclear power as a significant emissions-free energy resource and the significant emissions-free energy resource and the significant contributions of the Idaho National Laboratory – sponsored by Rep Ehardt.
  • HCR 9 Idaho’s Hydro Power — Recognizes that Idaho has a tremendous resource in its many rivers, lakes and dams. These greatly contribute to the power produced in Idaho. The Idaho legislature recognizes that our hydropower is clean, reliable and renewable and is key to our energy portfolio moving forward. — sponsored by Rep Ehardt.
  • H66 Minimum Marriage Age — Prohibits marriage for those under 16 years of age and restricts the age difference of individuals under age 18 years of age and not less than 16 years of age to three years.
  • 139 Foreign Defamation / Rachel’s Law — Protects authors, speakers and journalists in Idaho from being drugged into foreign courts over frivolous libel charges in jurisdictions that do not respect, value and protect freedom of speech and of the press.

Marquit: I think one of the most promising realities of my situation is that I have people of different political persuasions — including Republicans — working on my campaign. As chair of the Bonneville County Democrats, I frequently attended Republican Women meetings at the invitation of their leadership. Building those relationships is important.

Nonpartisan efforts like the College of Eastern Idaho and the passage of Proposition 2, both of which I worked with people of all political persuasions on, show that it’s possible to accomplish a lot when we focus on actually representing the people of Idaho.

Looking through some of our challenges, I already see bipartisan efforts that I think are worth pursuing. Sen. Dave Lent worked with Sen. Grant Burgoyne on property tax legislation that looked promising, the passage of the Idaho Patient Act was bipartisan and there are plenty of other pieces of legislation that we could work on with people of good faith, no matter the letter behind their name.

I have a track record of working in groups and committees that contain members with a mix of political leanings, and it’s something I think I can continue while in the legislature.

What parts of Idaho government could benefit from additional state funding? What part of Idaho government could be improved with financial cutbacks?

Marquit: We could use more funding for education. It’s concerning that in the last 25 years, prison funding has increased by 207% while education funding has only increased 94%.

While there are definitely areas, like constantly having to defend frivolous lawsuits over unconstitutional legislation, where we could cut back, and measures we could take to reduce what we’re spending on prisons with the help of reforming mandatory sentencing laws, we should be focusing on where we should be investing for the future.

In a year when we have a $400 million surplus, and a special slush fund where online sales tax is funneled, it’s ludicrous to act as if we can’t fund the things that matter most to us. In a state where sales tax exemptions amount to up to $2 billion (or more) per year, we should be reviewing who is getting this special treatment at the expense of our communities.

Ehardt: Higher education budgets need to be held accountable for their spending. Our community colleges such as College of Eastern Idaho are doing incredibly well with that which they have been given that we need to direct more funds their way and encourage more students to attend our community colleges first. This is where students can develop the skill sets necessary to move onto our four-year universities and be successful.

Consider Boise State spending between 2005-2018:

  • 287% – the expense line increase for institutional support;
  • 108% – tuition increase;
  • 41% – staff headcount grew; 52% – increase in executive and administrative ranks;
  • 29% – inflation increase;
  • 44% – Boise State’s graduation rate was; 64% – national graduation rate;
  • 16% – full-time enrollment increase;

I did vote against all of the higher education budgets because I’m tired of wasting money on programs that have been documented to be a dismal failure.

My leadership brought 28 Republican legislators together to sign a letter asking the new Boise State President to cease the excessive spending on programs that only serve to separate and segregate our students. These programs also drive tuition up, thus making a college degree difficult to attain for many of our Idaho students. My effort, however, led to the unprecedented tuition freeze announced by our four universities presidents.

Worth noting:
I also attended North Idaho College and received a phenomenal education as well as a great all-around experience. Governor Little’s budget also called for less spending on our higher education budget.