Rep. Ehardt facing Jeff Thompson for Seat 33A - East Idaho News
East Idaho Elects

Rep. Ehardt facing Jeff Thompson for Seat 33A

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IDAHO FALLS — Republican incumbent Barbara Ehardt is being challenged by Jeff Thompson in the upcoming primary election to represent District 33, Seat A.

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

More information on Ehardt can be found on her Facebook page.

More information on Thompson can be found on his Facebook page.

District 33 covers Idaho Falls and a section of Bonneville County.

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 in Idaho Falls. This means that I’ll stand up for our Christian-based, flag-waving, Constitution-loving, law-abiding, pro-family, gun-toting, hard-working, neighbor-helping, never-give-up attitude – which has defined Idahoans for over a hundred years.

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 Club Apple 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. The kids I coach become my kids. Many call me their second mom. Kids need someone to believe in them. I believe in them and I believe in what they will do for our future.

I also served on the Idaho Falls City Council from 2014 to 2018.

Thompson: I was born in Harlingen, Texas, and grew up on a farm in Kentucky. My Dad was from Kentucky and when he joined the Airforce he was stationed in Harlingen. My Mom and Dad met at the local Dairy Queen and fell in love. Once married, they moved to Kentucky, and when Mother was expecting me, she went back to Texas seeking the comfort of her mother.

I grew up on a farm where we raised registered black angus cattle and had a freezer full of grain feed beef. We also raised hogs and processed them, therefore, curing our own hams, bacon, making our own sausage and rending lard.

I worked for the Marriott Corporation and ARAMARK in the Foodservice Contract business as well as Fine Host Corporation that brought me to Idaho. I met Chanin Bargelski in Idaho Falls and we soon married. She and our puppy Izzy made my life complete.

Throughout my life, education has been a top priority. Not only do I have a high school diploma, but a bachelor’s degree in Business Finance and an MBA from Liberty University, also a master’s degree in Human Resource Training and Development from ISU.

It was my pleasure and honor to serve in the Idaho House of Representatives from 2008-18. During this time, I was able to serve as the Chairman of Environment, Energy and Technology, Vice-Chair of Business as well as serving on JFAC, Tax, Education and Health & Welfare Committees.

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


  • A. The number one thing in my life is not an accomplishment it is a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. I say this because there was nothing I could do to accomplish this. It was all by His grace and love.
  • B. I am blessed with an amazing and wonderful wife, Chanin Thompson. She taught English and History to seventh and eighth graders at Eagle Rock Junior High for 16 years. One evening during dinner she expressed, “It is my hearts desire to be a school counselor.” She started the next semester at ISU and has followed her dream of being a high school counselor at Bonneville High School for the last 14 years. She got out of her comfort zone and blossomed like a butterfly. Our love for education has enabled us both to continue to learn new things
    and challenge ourselves.
  • C. Career wise when I became a regional manager for Fine Host and ARAMARK Corporations and was responsible for the Northwest part of the country from Wyoming to Alaska.
  • D. Being able to serve the people of Idaho Falls and Bonneville County in the Legislature from 2008-18.
  • E. Investing in people’s lives and being able to make a difference.

Ehardt: Like you, I have differing “proud” moments. I’m most proud and honored to have received the trust of my community to serve these last two terms as your Representative. The confidence, expectation and trust that have been placed in me are indeed humbling.

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, MS. I was proud to represent Idaho State as a Division I athlete, earning a scholarship and serving as team captain. This was never something that my eight-year-old self could have imagined that she’d have the chance to accomplish because back then, girls didn’t play sports. That is literally what I was told. Fortunately for me, on June 23, 1972, Title IX was passed and it changed my life.

As a collegiate coach, setting goals, seeing lives change and 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 13 years, I’ve been blessed to watch them as they grow and become successful adults. They’ve gone on to make impacts in their communities and be a blessing to those by whom they are surrounded. I’m proud to have had a part in their growth and success. It’s gratifying to have those whose lives you touched return and express their love and appreciation for all that you’ve done for them.

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;
  • Believes in the ingenuity and genius of man. Government should allow for the creative genius of man to flow freely;
  • I am a Republican for these and so many other reasons. The Republican Party really is the party of freedom and prosperity.

Thompson: I am a member of the Republican Party because I believe in freedom for all Idahoans and less government. I believe we should respect each other and our rights to pursue the dreams that the Lord puts in our hearts.

I believe in less government, protecting the unborn, fiscal responsibility, public education, the right to bear arms and am pro-business. As a representative, I believe it is important to represent the majority and the issues that affect them.

What are the greatest challenges facing Idahoans?


  • A. Growth – Idaho Falls is in the middle of an amazing population growth. The 10 years from 2010-20 Idaho Falls increased in population by 9,165 people for a 16.5 % growth rate making Idaho Falls the fourth largest city in Idaho. While this is positive, it is imperative that we work together to meet the needs of our growing population.
  • B. Housing and cost of living are major issues that need to be addressed. The Idaho National Lab, schools and other industries cannot recruit as they have in the past. I would like to see Idaho become self-sufficient, such as Micron making chips for automobiles, so we do not have to depend on foreign governments.
  • C. Public Education – Our educators are not only the fabric of our community, but they are also our friends, neighbors, and family members. They chose a profession that demands they pour their life into the children of our community, sometimes putting their own health at risk. They deserve our support, not our criticism. Not long
    ago I had the opportunity to give a presentation to third and fourth graders about the legislative process. When the presentation was over a student approached me crying. The student hugged me, and I said, “Why are you crying?” The student replied, “I have been told I cannot follow my dream career because of financial restraints, but you inspired me to follow my dream career anyway.” Education is about inspiring people to follow their dreams.

Ehardt: Idaho has to decide what kind of state she is going to be. Our surrounding neighbors, particularly Washington and Oregon, abandoned Constitutional principles. They have chosen woke ideology and government control over American principles and individual liberties. But even those here in Idaho who want to support our Constitution don’t understand it.

Too often, we insert our understanding of things based on what we hear from others. But as I have found out, it takes time and effort to study and understand our Constitution. All principles and laws are literally tied to the Bible. We swear to uphold this sacred document, but how shall we uphold that which we don’t understand. I am committed to continuing to study this document so that when it comes time for me to vote, I will vote according to the precepts of our Founding documents.

People are fleeing their states to come to Idaho. They want the American dream to be preserved. They want American Exceptionalism. They want a Government that values our Constitution and our first amendment rights that include our freedom of speech and freedom of religion. They want the family to be protected and mothers to be valued. Idaho must decide if she is going to step up and protect these rights. I certainly will.

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

Ehardt: Since this is a Republican primary, the constituents about whom I should be most concerned currently are Republicans. Having said that, I best represent District 33 by adhering to the principles and precepts that I espouse when running. The person that I portray myself as is the same person that I continue to be.

I will meet with anyone who will be respectful. I will try to find a WIN / WIN solution, if possible. I do value people and as Stephen Covey taught, try to ‘seek first to understand, then to be understood.’ When one attempts to do this, the conversation often changes because you realize that what you thought or expected one to say isn’t what may have been meant. Listen first. Value people. And when you can’t agree, still value people. This is why I have a great working relationship with my legislative colleagues at the Capitol. I do value them.

Thompson: Through communication. It is imperative that we talk to people with differing views in order to grow. When we are out of our comfort zone, we have the best personal growth.

As an example, while serving on JFAC (Joint Finance Appropriation Committee) I was responsible for crafting the public-school budget in the House of Representatives, and both parties usually have competing motions for the Public School Budget. Through respect and communication, I was able to work together with the members of the
Democrat Party and we crafted one budget for the benefit of our public schools and children.

I desire that my constituents see me in Walmart or other public places and feel they can approach me.

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

Thompson: I have always believed that lobbying plays the educational role on issues before the legislature. It is true that lobbyists are hired to represent clients, but it is also true that elected officials are responsible for looking at both sides of the issue, before making an educated vote.

Ehardt: Lobbying is a part of the legislative process and can play an important role of helping to educate on issues. Lobbyist should never be the only voice, nor should they be more important than the voice of the people or the parents.

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

Ehardt: Life is always about relationships and so is the legislative process. I am one that finds a reason to touch base with all of my colleagues on things that have absolutely nothing to do with legislation. You cannot build the necessary relationship needed for conversations if you only speak with others when you need them. That’s not a real relationship. Case in point, I just received another text message from my friend, the minority leader, about the end of March Madness.

I have demonstrated my ability to lead and build a team consensus on many pieces of legislation that passed with almost unanimous bipartisan support. This year I invited Representative John McCrostie, my Democrat friend, to join with me on my Campus Free Speech legislation. It passed the House with only two dissenting votes and unfortunately, it got hung up on a technicality in the Senate in the 14th order. But I plan to bring this back next year. It was excellent legislation. John and I collaborated with everyone from FIRE to ACLU to ADF to SBOE to BSU. When I bring it back next year, I promised John that he will be there at my side, even though he isn’t running again, to help present. That’s the kind of relationship I have with him.

    Some of my bipartisan legislation includes:

  • H684 Campus Free Speech
  • H466 Minimum Marriage Age
  • HCR 9 Idaho’s Hydro Power
  • H139 Reign Defamation / Rachel’s Law
  • HCR 36 IDAHO NATIONAL Laboratory – supportive of nuclear power

Thompson: Communication is key. Communication has two parts, speaking and listening. Listening and respecting other Legislator’s point of view enables a bipartisan approach.

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

Thompson: Idaho, like much of the nation, is in a mental health crisis. Our youth are choosing self-harm, and suicide because the help they need is not available. Those who are seeking help are confronted with a long waiting list, and this causes them to lose hope.

Idaho also needs to attract more doctors in specialty areas to our state. For example, there is only one Rheumatologist in Idaho Falls, and there are thousands of patients having to seek help in other cities and sometimes other states.

We must address these two issues and find resources to help those in need by not only looking at the health and welfare budget but also implementing ideas like Hope Squad in our schools that has worked in saving our student’s lives.

The best way to further respond to this question is to get elected and dive into all the budgets individually.

Ehardt: Idaho ranks #1 as the fastest-growing state in the nation. With this growth come all of the expected problems. Managing this is key and will require a multifaceted approach. First, whether one agrees with the spending decisions or not, Idaho had a $1.9 billion dollar surplus and more than double that in Federal Government / ARPA monies that are being allocated.

Major investments are being made in our infrastructures, including broadband and water & sewer-related projects. The major investments ($300 million) in statewide water & sewer projects came through the Environment, Energy & Technology Committee, of which I am the Chairman. The Broadband monies (almost $200 million) came through the Broadband Advisory Committee, of which I am a member. I have been intimately involved in the distribution of these statewide funds and the parameters in which they will be administered.

If Idaho is to grow, it is important that this infrastructure occur. Using the money in this manner also prevents the concern of ongoing Federal Government interference in the future due to strings being attached.

Cutbacks should occur in the Department of Health and Welfare. Its growth and spending are out of control. Most suggest that this department needs restructuring.