East Idaho Elects: Two candidates competing to be District 35 Seat B representative in primary racePublished at | Updated at
IDAHO FALLS – For District 35 Seat B, Republican incumbent Chad Christensen of Ammon is being challenged by Republican Josh Wheeler, also of Ammon, in the upcoming primary election.
EastIdahoNews.com sent them both the same eight questions. Their answers below were required to be 250 words or less.
To learn more about Christensen’s campaign, visit his Facebook page. You can also visit Josh Wheeler’s campaign page here.
District 35 includes all of Teton, Caribou and Bear Lake counties, and a portion of Bonneville and Bannock County.
The primary will be held on May 17. The general election is on Nov. 8.
Tell us about yourself — include information about your family, career, education, volunteer work and any prior experience in public office.
Christensen: Born in Idaho Falls, graduated Ricks College in Rexburg with an associate degree in criminal justice. Graduated Idaho State University in Pocatello with a bachelor’s degree in political science. I served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in San Diego, California and served 12 years in law enforcement (eight years for the state of Idaho as a parole officer and a welfare fraud investigator); U.S. Army veteran; member of the Military Police Regimental Association, American Legion, John Birch Society, Idaho Farm Bureau, Idaho Second Amendment Alliance, and the NRA (received A+ score for pro-gun voting); endorsed by Gun Owners of America; Idaho Freedom Foundation average score — 99%; American Conservative Union Foundation average legislative score — 99%; hockey and baseball coach; high school and American Legion baseball umpire; avid outdoorsman; two sons.
I am finishing my second term as a representative in the Idaho House.
Wheeler: I was born and raised in Ammon. I graduated from Hillcrest High School, where I met and dated my wife, Laramie Linning. After high school, I served in Brazil for two years as a missionary and then married my high school sweetheart.
We left our hometowns to study first in Provo. I completed a degree in construction management. After graduation, we relocated to Phoenix, where my wife attended medical school and I went to work for Layton Construction. After we returned to southeast Idaho, I added to my education with an MBA from Idaho State University. I also took on more and more roles at Wheeler Electric – my family’s business. Laramie eventually started her own clinic back in Ammon.
We’ve raised six fine children here in southeast Idaho. We’ve been coaches, performers, board game enthusiasts, and skiers. In 2018, our 10-year-old son, Han, suffered a debilitating brain injury from an undiagnosed tumor. After six months in a broken body, we lost him. Through that entire trial, the people of this community rallied around us. It’s impossible to describe the lifeline our family, friends, church, neighbors and even the entire area were and continue to be for my family.
After Han was gone, I felt a deep drive to give back to the community. That is why I ran for Ammon City council in 2019. Recently, I felt once again that need give back and run for State Representative at this time. That’s part of what makes our community great.
What are your proudest accomplishments in your personal life or career?
Wheeler: My company will be celebrating 60 years in business this June. I’m proud of the part I’ve played for more than 20 years in that.
One of my proudest personal accomplishments was supporting my wife of 24 years through her medical schooling and residency, while also bringing our first four children into the world. That took some serious commitment to one another, creative problem solving, and a lot of late nights for both of us. I’m not going to lie, my kids make me proud. We have one currently pursuing her doctorate in violin performance, another on track to be a nurse after serving a mission in Peru/Tucson, and a third who just finished her EMT courses and is on her way to a mission in Spain. Our fourth child is a competitive gymnast whom we love to watch and will likely be the best driver in the family. Our fifth child changed a lot of lives in the short time he was here. And the youngest is a hard-working, inquisitive, drummer, coder, gamer boy who loves his mother dearly.
Personally, I’m proud of the books I’ve read & written, the board game convention I founded, and the travels I’ve made with my wife and kids thus far in life. Also, there was the one time I destroyed my little brother’s hidden rebel base on turn 3 of our Star Wars: Rebellion board game.
Christensen: My proudest accomplishments are raising two fine sons. My oldest son, Ryan, is an exceptionally hard-working young man. He purchased a home at 21-years-old. I know he will go far in his professional career. He is a loving son who loves God and his family. My younger son, Cooper, is also a hard worker. He is on the honor roll and has a very bright future. He also loves his Heavenly Father and His son Jesus Christ. My sons are very well-mannered and polite. Most parents say they have good kids, but I can confidently say this.
I am proud of my service in the U.S. Army. I have received the Army Achievement medal. I am proud of my service in law enforcement, most particularly protecting the public from dangerous criminals when I ran the fugitive warrant team.
I am proud of beating a 30-year incumbent in order to be in the legislative seat that I currently hold. This man was not representing his constituents. He was representing legislative leadership and special interest. It is one of the biggest underdog stories in Idaho politics.
This year Representative Heather Scott and I brought a bill forward to end the Governor’s emergency declaration. It overwhelmingly passed the House. The next day the Governor announced that he was ending the declaration. I consider that a victory.
Why are you a member of the Republican party? Briefly explain your political platform.
Christensen: I am a Republican because I align with the party’s platform. However, most Republicans of today do not adhere to the platform. I do, and I take it seriously. Real Republicans believe in liberty, economic prosperity, preserving American values and traditions, and restoring the American dream for every citizen of this great nation. As a party, we support policies that seek to achieve those goals.
Real Republicans defended the U.S. Constitution, principles of limited government and the free market, tax relief and less spending, standing against the redistribution of wealth, ensuring government transparency and the protection of individual rights, etc. These are true conservative Republican principles.
Wheeler: My experiences on City Council reinforced to me how important playing a part in our representative republic truly is. I am a Republican because I believe in the sanctity of life. I will stand up for our 2nd Amendment right to bear arms. I will always support funding our police and National Guard. I support religious freedom and will stand up to ridiculous federal overreach in our schools, communities or private businesses. To me, family is everything. I believe we must do all we can to protect and support the family unit. I want to offer a choice that will work to properly fund education and our fine educators. I will be a choice that works for strategic deregulation and the right amount of flexibility for small businesses. I will be a choice that understands and works for the proper planning we need to support responsible growth. I will be a choice who is willing to listen to the voice of our agricultural industry and vote favorably for issues important to them. I am a Republican with conservative Idaho values. I believe in the rule of law, responsible fiscal policy, small government, and leading with integrity and decency. I am running because I want to make sure the Idaho values that worked for me will continue to work for all the families of eastern Idaho.
What are the greatest challenges facing Idahoans?
Wheeler: The greatest challenges facing Idahoans are: a) Rising costs on all goods and services, in the midst of record-breaking growth throughout the state. Skyrocketing gas prices, Biden’s failed economic policies, and inflation are making the daily lives of hard-working Idahoans more difficult. b) Ongoing strains on our water resources throughout the state, including repeated federal efforts to overreach and wrest control; c) A rash of special interest groups, funded primarily by out-of-state funds, using arbitrary grading systems to weaken our legislative process.
Christensen: Right now, the biggest challenges Idahoans face is runaway inflation and rising housing costs, taxation, mandates, violation of rights, and government officials that do not represent them.
How will you best represent the views of your constituents – even those with differing political views?
Christensen: I am elected by a majority. I have always run on the principle of protecting God-given rights and the U.S. Constitution. My constituents voted me in for this very reason. I will never do anything that contradicts that. I will always represent anyone when it doesn’t contradict this and the values that I mentioned in the political party answer.
Wheeler: I will listen. When I represent constituents with differing views, I am committed to making an effort to see that votes and decisions protect individual rights, and minimize the cost and burden imposed on all constituents.
What role do lobbying entities play in the decision-making of Idaho legislators?
Wheeler: Lobbying entities play the role of bringing relevant information to the legislative arena. Constituents’ direct input will receive the most weight in my decisions. I recognize that not every constituent has the luxury of time required to exercise their voice on every choice that must be made. Lobbying entities serve a necessary purpose of being the proxy voice for many of the industries and constituencies that make Idaho great. Beyond providing information for those decision-making processes, lobbying entities’ influence should be minimal. I do not support lobbying entities that attempt to control legislation through arbitrary grading systems.
Christensen: Lobbyists play no role in influencing my votes like they do with most legislators. Many accuse me of being an Idaho Freedom Foundation puppet. If anyone truly knows me, they will never accuse me of being a puppet. I have always been my own person, and no one has ever been able to control me. It happens that the Idaho Freedom Foundation and I have a lot in common and we see eye to eye on most things. IFF, I, and the American Conservative Union truly stand for the values in the Republican platform, in which serve the U.S. citizen.
IFF is not the monetary powerhouse that they have been accused of. They have donors that help them run day-to-day operations. They do not represent powerful corporations, big businesses, and big banking like the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry does. IACI basically runs this state, because they are constantly in the ear of the Governor and most legislative leadership.
Every rating metric that IFF uses is conservative and aligns with the Republican platform. If you speak against these metrics, I do not believe you are a true Republican. IFF’s rating metrics are found here.
I have 99% average scores with the American Conservative Union and the Idaho Freedom Foundation. Therefore, am I a puppet to the ACU? No, we just align very well.
How can you encourage compromise, debate and a bipartisan approach to introducing new legislation in Idaho?
Christensen: I don’t need to compromise with Democrats and I won’t. They don’t have any power in Idaho and we have opposite values. I won’t compromise with someone that supports agendas to kill our babies, force vaccinations, allow pornography in our schools, support sex changes for children, push socialism and the welfare state, support increasing taxes and spending, supports the growth of government, etc. Their moral compass is damaged, and I don’t compromise with people of that nature.
I consider RINO’s (Republican in Name Only) to be the ones that stand in the way of good legislation in Idaho. They are the real perpetrators of ceasing the progress of protecting the rights of Idahoans. I have always done my best to negotiate with these Republicans that I have philosophical differences with. I respectfully attempt to convince them of the proper role of government. The number one proper role of government is protecting rights.
Wheeler: By being willing to build relationships with legislators from other districts, before the debate and bipartisan approach is necessary. There are many times when the bipartisan approach must simply be to listen and respectfully disagree with the minority viewpoint, but having a strong working relationship means that important issues like the bill that provided healthcare options for our educators this session can happen in a fully bipartisan fashion.
What parts of Idaho government could benefit from additional state funding? What part of Idaho government could be improved with financial cutbacks?
Wheeler: This question seems to gloss over the fact that those additional funds would come out of the pocket of hard-working Idaho taxpayers. Fiscal responsibility means sometimes making hard choices. Having those budget constraints will often result in creative ideas and solutions, like the way I’ve seen the city of Ammon partner with local businesses to provide services in our parks. Or, in a case like this year where the state ends up with a record surplus, the thing to do is get those funds back into the hands of taxpayers through refunds and ongoing reductions, pay off debts, and make sure rainy-day funds are filled. Then, we must take a hard look at our property taxes and find a solution that gets that rate down and makes sure long-time residents can stay in their homes.
Christensen: I would cut a good portion of Health and Welfare. It has become a beast of an agency. I have witnessed this agency violate too many rights. I would not add funding to any agency. We already spend an outrageous amount. This year I have witnessed outrageous spending in the Idaho Legislature, and I opposed it every step of the way as I voted. However, I would shift the funding in the education system. Most of our education dollars go to administration costs, not teachers and students. I would get rid of the entire Idaho Department of Education. Local districts don’t need another entity governing them. I would also combine districts to lower administrative costs. I would then put all that money towards teachers and students.