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Newcomer Keith Newberry challenges Sen. Kevin Cook in District 32

East Idaho Elects

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IDAHO FALLS — Incumbent candidate Kevin Cook is being challenged by Keith Newberry for the Idaho State Senate position to represent District 32.

To learn more about the candidate’s platform, EastIdahoNews.com asked the candidates to answer the same eight questions. Their answers were required to be 250 words or less.

More information on Cook can be found on his Facebook page or website.

More information on Newberry can be found on his Facebook page or website.

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

Cook: I have been married to my beautiful wife Cheri for 33 years. We have four children and three grandchildren. I graduated from a public high school and obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from Weber State University in Computer Science. I have owned and operated a software consultant business for several years. I am currently employed by the Idaho National Laboratory as a Software Engineer.

I believe that we all are duty-bound to give back to our community. I have coached my kid’s soccer, basketball and softball teams for many years. I volunteer at a school on a regular basis reading with eighth-graders. I have found this to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

From this experience, I have developed a passion for education. I have become actively involved in trying to improve our education system during my first term as an Idaho State Senator for District 30 during the 2020-2021 term.

Newberry: I am running for State Senate District 32. I grew up in Southern Ohio, and when I graduated high school, I joined the U.S. Navy in the Nuclear Power Program. This brought me to Idaho, and when I was a student here at the Naval Reactors Facility, I met my wife Barb.

When I was honorably discharged from the Navy, we moved back to Idaho Falls with our three children. We now have 10 grandchildren. I finished a Bachelor of Science Degree with Excelsior College. I am a believer in Jesus Christ.

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

Newberry: Helping my wife raise three children that have good values, and finishing a bachelor’s degree from Excelsior College.

Cook: Personal life: Marrying my best friend and having her still be my best friend 33 years later. Together, we raised four wonderful children.

Career: Being owner/operator of a successful business.

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

Cook:

  • A. I believe in a small government. Only after parents, boards, local governments fail to fix the problem, should we ever look to the state or federal government.
  • B. I believe in a fiscal conservative government. Taxes are required to build roads, electrical grid systems, schools, wastewater facilities and other infrastructure necessary to maintain our community. I expect the government to be wise with our tax dollars.
  • C. I believe in public education. According to the Idaho State Constitution, the state is required to provide an equal and fair opportunity for all children to receive a great education. I would like each high school student to have an education account that they could use for college credits or technical training.
  • D. I believe in the Second Amendment. All citizens in Idaho and in the United States has the right to carry and own a firearm.
  • E. I believe life is sacred. An unborn child has rights. I do not believe in abortion.

Newberry: The Republican party platform closely resembles my own personal values.

What are the greatest challenges facing Idahoans?

Newberry: Corruption in the legislature and our governor has violated his constitutional authority, for example: The First Amendment, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to assemble. Governor Little shut down churches in 2020, he restricted public gatherings to 10 people or less. A couple was fined for having a yard sale, people were arrested for singing outdoors without masks and a small business was cited for operating.

Fourth Amendment: The right to be secure in your person, house, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures. The state and nation promoted contact tracing which is a form of unreasonable search. Restricting people to their homes, if they have COVID violates the Fifth Amendment, no person shall be deprived of liberty without due process of law.

The legislature corruption is apparent, the November special session. First the ethics hearing on Pricilla Giddings. Speaker Bedke, Giddings political opponent for Lt. Governor, handpicked the committee members on the “Ethics Committee.” Speaker Bedke hired the same law firm that donated to his campaign. Speaker Bedke funneled most of the bills (9) concerning mandates to the Health and Welfare Committee. The chair of this committee was absent from the chambers during these decisions but present at the capitol. This committee did not convene to hear these bills.

In the Senate, one bill made from the House to the Senate, and it never made it out of committee. The challenges facing Idahoans stems from these things. Other challenges include high-income tax, grocery tax, issues on property tax allocation.

Cook: I believe the greatest challenge that Idaho faces today is “growth.” Cities are struggling to keep up with the required infrastructure to support the growth, such as roads, sewer and water lines, electricity, schools and first responders. This is having an adverse effect on property taxes.

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

Cook: My personal values guide everything I do. I weigh the merits of each bill based on my personal values, my understanding of the constitution and the input I receive from my constituents. Regardless of their political view, I am here to represent all constituents of District 32.

Newberry: I believe one of the founding principles to our nation is individual liberty and freedom of speech. This principle has been violated both by our governor and the leadership in our house and senate.

I will represent my constituents by using my time in the Senate to ensure that they remain a free people. The people that have differing political views will still get to express them freely in public as well as across social media platforms. Hopefully, we can at least agree on that.

What role do lobbying entities play in the decision-making of Idaho legislators?

Newberry: I think lobbying entities are playing a big role in Idaho. We have the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry (IACI), playing a large political role with campaign finance as well as lobbying our legislators. IACI has on its board, representatives of companies that also have ties with the World Economic Forum and the United Nations.

IACI and member companies have donated to Speaker Bedke as well as Senator Chuck Windor (Senate Pro Tem). I think this lobbying has an impact on the decisions that these legislators make. In addition, I think this impacts individual representatives and senators.

Cook: I look to lobbyist as fount of knowledge for both pro and con. They have great information and perspective on issues. However, the decision on how to vote is mine with my constituents as my primary concern.

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

Cook: There is never a perfect bill, but it seems to come closer if you involve or at least listen to the other side. I believe it is important to talk early and often with those who oppose new legislation. Compromise is good if you do not compromise on your values.

Newberry: Part of a senator’s job is to try to convince people to consider his position. It may seem contrary to what I wrote in the two previous questions, however, I think there are good people trying to do a good job in our legislature.

First, we need to define/establish the principles. Once that is complete, then compromise can occur, as long as it does not violate principles. The basic principles are established and guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution and the Idaho State Constitution.

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

Newberry: First, we need to do a review for waste, fraud and abuse. Next, determine what is unnecessary/necessary. Idaho’s state budget currently is made up with almost 50% of the state’s budget coming from federal dollars/subsidies. This makes Idaho a welfare state of the federal government.

These federal dollars come with strings attached, which means Idahoans are not free. We should also review where these dollars go and what strings the federal government is pulling.

Cook: I do not believe anyone is looking at where the state can spend more money. Property Tax is crippling our seniors, the price of groceries continues to climb, gasoline prices are causing families to rethink summer vacations and the American dream of owning your own home is becoming unreachable.

Inflation has hit Idaho’s pocketbooks, and many are struggling to stay afloat. I do not believe this is the time to discuss where the state should be spending more money. Quite the contrary. I believe Idaho citizens need relief now. Many states are considering cutting their gasoline tax in half and other kinds of short-time tax relief.

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