An Idaho Falls attorney again hopes to unseat a key education lawmaker and state budget-writer in the May 15 Republican primary.
Randy Neal and incumbent Rep. Wendy Horman are battling for House Seat 30B in the Idaho Legislature.
The race is a rematch from two years ago, when Horman, R-Idaho Falls, defeated Neal 68 percent to 32 percent.
Despite the margin, Horman says she’s “running a full campaign” and “working as hard as ever” to again beat Neal.
Like last election, Neal questions Horman’s conservative track record. He also says Horman’s various committee roles hinder her focus on local issues.
“Her constituents are getting left behind,” Neal said. “If you want to have statewide impact, you can’t let go of your local duties.”
Neal says Horman’s preoccupation with committees has forced some local patrons to turn to Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, of neighboring legislative district 34. Nate, whom Neal called a “rock star” and the “hardest-working man in show business,” has been more responsive to some issues affecting Horman’s own patrons than Horman has, Neal said.
“Nate responds, and he’s also working on issues with statewide impact,” Neal said.
(Nate didn’t immediately respond to questions about Neal’s claims.)
A member of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, Horman is instrumental in carving up Idaho’s annual budgets. She also co-chairs a legislative interim committee with the high-stakes task of reworking the state’s arcane education funding formula.
Horman, a third-term lawmaker and former trustee in the Bonneville School District, says her various committee roles help her identify and address problems within her district.
“These appointments are for local constituents,” she said.
Horman pointed to her recent push for House Bill 631, which makes it easier for out-of-state graduate students to qualify for in-state tuition. Inspiration for the bill came from serving on the state’s Leadership in Nuclear Energy Commission, a 21-member group Gov. Butch Otter assembled to enhance “the long-term viability and mission of the Idaho National Laboratory and other nuclear industries in Idaho.”
Horman said the time she spent on the commission helped her understand the difficulties INL faces in attracting qualified local employees, so she pushed for the bill to help.
Horman describes herself as “a fiscal and social conservative,” and she disputed Neal’s claims that her votes are swayed by special interest groups and alliances with Statehouse leadership.
“House leadership doesn’t control my vote,” said Horman, adding that her votes this year did not always align with Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, and Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley.
A mother of five, Horman started as a tutor and school volunteer in the Bonneville School District. She was later elected to Bonneville’s school board and gravitated toward state politics with a move to the Idaho School Boards Association. In 2012, she successfully ran for an open legislative seat.
Neal grew up on a farm in Tuttle before moving to Twin Falls and graduating from high school. He later began stints in public service as a National Park Service ranger and as a law enforcement officer. After working his way through law school, Neal found jobs with the Department of Justice, Homeland Security and Bonneville County, before starting a private practice 12 years ago.
District 30 encompasses western Bonneville County, Ammon and the outskirts of Idaho Falls.