The race for the GOP nomination in District 4 includes two Coeur d’Alene attorneys, one who says he made a promise to run against the other.
Heading into the May 17 primary, political newcomer Arthur Macomber is challenging Rep. Lucas Malek.
Malek has served four years in the House. Macomber has never sought office before, but says he has the “real-life experience” his district needs.
“I decided to run because I’m keeping a promise to the incumbent that if I didn’t like what he is doing, I would run against him,” Macomber said.
Macomber has lived in Idaho off and on since 1995. He has worked with Micron as a sales representative and senior project manager. He left the Idaho tech giant to make a mid-career change.
“I had a position in the company that allowed me to see the future, and I decided to leave the tech industry because I didn’t have an electrical engineering degree and went to law school,” Macomber said.
After earning his law degree in 2003 and completing legal internships and clerkships, Macomber moved back to Idaho, where he is now managing attorney of Macomber Law in Coeur d’Alene.
Macomber has not made education issues a central theme in his campaign, instead focusing on economic development and work force needs. He believes the state can solve many of its health care, budget and education issues by fostering a thriving economy. To do that, he supports lowering the corporate income tax for businesses and individuals, reducing federal regulations and eliminating “needless” local regulations, particularly land-use rules “so that people can own and use their own property.”
“I would like to see Idaho take steps to improve the general economy in various ways so we can have more economic growth,” Macomber said.
Malek said his fascination with policy and his experience as a former prosecutor inspired his original run. He is seeking reelection to continue the progress he has made and to work for a brighter future.
“If we want to keep enjoying what we have, we have to be an active part of maintaining it,” Malek said. “I want my community, my kids and my grandkids to have every opportunity they have anywhere else and still be able to enjoy what we have in the state of Idaho.”
Malek believes in supporting teachers, who he describes as “the backbone of our education system.” The state needs to make sure teachers “have the tools in the classroom that they need.”
As for political philosophy, Malek believes in personal responsibility and social justice.
“Government shouldn’t be a crutch,” Malek said. “Playing responsible, well-defined roles in society allows individuals to thrive.”
As for his top accomplishments in office, Malek cited his work during the session and on an interim committee to support school districts secure broadband Internet after the Idaho Education Network fallout. He has also worked with North Idaho College and University of Idaho to support the first four-year computer science program offered to his constituents.
Republican Primary: District 4, House Seat A
Challenger Arthur Macomber (www.artmacomber.com).
Incumbent Rep. Lucas Malek www.lukemalek.com)
How long have you lived in your legislative district?
Macomber: Originally moved to Idaho in 1995. Moved to Coeur d’Alene in 2006.
Malek: Moved to Idaho with his parents when he was 9.
Macomber: Law degree, University of California, Hastings.
Malek: Law degree, University of Idaho.
Macomber: Political newcomer, never sought an elected or party office.
Malek: Served two, two-year terms in the House. First elected 2012.
Professional awards or accomplishments:
Macomber: President, University of California, Hastings Federalist Society, 2001-02. Vice President, United Citizens for Responsible Growth, Coeur d’Alene, 2008-09.
Malek: Professional Firefighters of Idaho Legislator of the Year Award, 2015. Idaho Prosecuting Attorneys Association Law and Order Award, 2015.
Who can vote: Registered voters within Legislative District 4, which includes portions of Coeur d’Alene and Kootenai County. Click this map for district boundaries.
Primary Election date: May 17.
Education connection: Malek sits on the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, which writes the public school budgets.
Candidates questionnaire responses
Do you support the 2016-17 public school budget passed by the Legislature this year? Why or why not?
Macomber: “I think the public school budget is currently in the neighborhood of 50 percent of Idaho’s overall budget. I’m not sure I really can say if this is the amount of money that is needed or not. I would shy away from that. But the Idaho Constitution says the state is required to fund a system free, thorough, common schools. In order to prepare citizens intellectually to contribute to a Republic and to be free, the citizens need be educated. That’s why you need to spend money to get there.”
Malek: “I thought that was a tremendous budget that fully funded our needs for the career ladder for years. I am very optimistic about the career ladder and making sure that for the teachers we have, we keep them here and retain them and attract them. I think that was critical and it was well-vetted and I think there was very broad buy-in from everyone across the board who worked hard in setting the budget. We have a ways to go, but it is very encouraging.”
Explain why you support or oppose implementing all of Gov. Butch Otter’s Task Force for Improving Education recommendations over the next three years.
Macomber: “I would want see what they are in more detail. My general approach is that the state should set standards. The problem is when you have a two-year Legislature and everybody gets wiped out, you start again at ground zero. Then the new Legislature can overturn what the previous Legislature did. If we want to have a five- or 10-year plan for longevity in Idaho, well good luck. There is a huge lack of continuity in the legislative process that is built in.”
Malek: “I am going to defer to the stakeholders on that. Five years is a long time to stick to the same plan when policy needs to change in order to be effective. Generally, I am supportive. I think the task force recommendations we have are great, but I don’t think the work is done. We need to change as we develop and implement policy and I look to the stakeholders to give us guidance on this. I’m not in the Legislature to dictate how stakeholders implement our policy. They need to be an active part of this.”
State leaders are promoting a goal of having 60 percent of the Idaho’s young adults hold a postsecondary degree or certificate by the year 2020. Do you support or oppose this goal, and why?
Macomber: “I think the governor is shooting too low. First of all, we have got to get 90 percent-plus of our students to have a high school diploma. In terms of college, I would encourage students to earn a four-year bachelor’s degree, whether it’s a specialty degree or not. The idea of getting a certificate and having a good life is bogus, and I speak to that as a (former) carpenter. There is no way survive a 40-to 50-year period with just a welding certificate.”
Malek: “Generally I am supportive of it with a caveat. I know what the needs of our economy are and I know having a skilled work force is one aspect. But I’m also not going to say everyone needs a bachelor’s degree. I’m not going to say policy should drive what an individual does with their own skills and interest. If their skills and interest can meet economic needs without having a four-year degree, then I think the 60 percent becomes a little bit arbitrary. That said, I think there is probably pretty good data behind the 60 percent number.”
Idaho students math scores on several tests, including the SAT, SBAC and NAEP, have raised concerns among educators and state leaders. What would you do to increase student achievement in math?
Macomber: “To have a basic understanding of math at the high school level you should be progressing from algebra to geometry to trig to calculus. If you don’t have at least pre-calculus at 12th grade, and physics alongside it by 12th grade, then you probably are not prepared. From a young age the human brain is developing with such incredible growth, you want to challenge it with those levels of difficulty and force people to get that (rigor) in high school as their brains develop.”
Malek: “I want this state to offer the best opportunities for our youth, whether it is somebody in my district or my kids and grandkids. I want to make sure we are at the top of that list, not in the concerning places on that list.”