Barbara Ehardt and Jeff Thompson are self-titled conservatives from opposing factions of the same political party.
Both are Republicans, but their views and priorities differ in numerous ways.
Thompson, a former Idaho lawmaker challenging Ehardt for the Legislature’s House Seat 33A in the May 17 primary, recently blasted Ehardt’s concerns over critical race theory in Idaho’s public schools.
CRT, which has emerged as a political wedge issue in recent years, is “not in” Idaho’s schools, he told EdNews.
Ehardt, who did not respond to questions for this story, has become a fixture among the party’s hardline conservatives by decrying CRT and other controversial issues in the wake of her 2017 appointment to the House of Representatives.
She’s an Idaho Falls native and former City Council member who dominated headlines in 2020 for co-sponsoring a transgender athletics ban, legislation that eventually diffused in varying degrees to at least 30 other states, the Idaho Capital Sun reported in 2021.
She’s also a longtime basketball coach and House Education Committee member whose Facebook page puts her concerns about transgender issues on full display. Seven out of seven of her posts in March addressed the topic in some form. A March 18 post touted a “quick trip” to Atlanta to protest a swimming event featuring the first openly transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division I national championship, Lia Thomas.
“Wrong locker room, bro,” a photo in the post reads.
Transgender issues and CRT remain focal points for Ehardt — and feed into Thompson’s criticism that she’s grown disconnected from local issues that matter.
Thompson, who served in the Idaho House of Representatives from 2009 to 2018, fashions himself as a “Reagan Republican” born in Harlingen, Texas. A Texas drawl still creeps into his speech.
A scroll through Thompson’s campaign website reveals an emphasis on more moderate GOP talking points. Issues he’s “passionate” about: “revitalizing” the economy; encouraging support for the Idaho National Laboratory, where he once worked as a consultant; and “strengthening” education.
“Idaho students and our teachers come first,” he said.
Thompson worked for Fortune 500 corporations, including the Marriott Corporation and Aramark, as a regional manager before taking office in 2009.
EdNews sent a questionnaire to both candidates. Ehardt did not respond. EdNews will update this story if she does.
Click here for a 2019 profile on Ehardt.
Thompson’s questionnaire responses
How do you distinguish yourself from your opponent, including on education issues?
Education will determine the future of our children.
I believe in education as I have not only a high school diploma, but a bachelor’s degree in business finance, master’s degree in human resources training and development and an MBA.
My experience, as I have had the opportunity to serve in the House of Representatives on the Education, Taxation, Health & Welfare Committees as well as serving as Vice Chair of the Business Committee and Chair of the Environment, Energy and Technology Committee. I cannot overstate my service on JFAC, the Joint Finance Appropriations Committee where I was responsible for crafting the public schools, higher education, community colleges and the remainder of the education budgets.
My experience over twenty years in the business world most recently responsible for business in the Northwest from Wyoming to Alaska.
Additionally, my wife is a twenty-nine-year public education servant, and she keeps me informed on all pressing issues.
I have and will continue to respect, work with and support our teachers and educators.
Where does your opponent get it wrong when it comes to educating Idaho’s students? Are there any notable areas in which you agree?
My opponent focuses on issues that are not in our schools such as CRT, instead of focusing on issues that impact all schools today. Idaho Students and our Teachers come first. We need to focus on retaining and recruiting the best teachers from our public universities. We must encourage and help our teachers in ordered for our public school system to continue to be a success. I believe we both want the best for our students, but we have different approaches
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing education in Idaho today, and why? How will you address it if elected?
The biggest challenge facing education in Idaho today is our students Mental Health. Several years ago, over twenty students took their life in Eastern Idaho. Dr. Chuck Shackett, Superintendent of Bonneville School District, at the time, was aware of a program called Hope Squad, in Utah that was helping students significantly, therefore he implemented the program, and it has worked saving teens lives. This program is implemented in all the public schools in Utah and paid for at the state level through the appropriation process. I will lead the state of Idaho in financing this program throughout our public schools and create through legislative leadership a task force that will focus on saving our students lives.
Why are you the right person for this position?
It is all about people, therefore I am approachable, and I want to represent the majority, not special interest groups and work with all stakeholders to create the best possible solutions for the people of Idaho.