Nate-Ricks debate turns testy

REXBURG — Two-term state Rep. Ron Nate and his GOP challenger Doug Ricks outlined their views on a number of issues — and each other — during Thursday’s GOP forum in Rexburg.

“He’s the most contentious person in the entire Idaho Legislature,” Ricks said of Nate.

Nate, R-Rexburg, responded with a Davy Crockett quote: “I’d rather be beaten and be a man than to be elected and be a little puppy dog.”

Doug Ricks

The two are battling in the May 15 primary for House Seat 34A in the Idaho Legislature. They also have a history.

In 2016, Nate edged Ricks by just 167 votes in one of the tightest races in the state.

Ricks, a university administrator and Madison County Republican Central Committee chairman, is this time prefacing his platform with headlines from Nate’s second term:

  • A failed attempt to challenge the timing of Gov. Butch Otter’s veto of last year’s grocery tax repeal bill.
  • Nate’s admission that he secretly recorded a telephone conversation with Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg.
  • Nate’s “Education Freedom Act” bill, which would have phased out federal K-12 funding by 2026-27.

Nate introduced the bill as a “personal bill,” rather than taking it to a legislative committee for introduction. As a rule, personal bills seldom pass, and are often symbolic in nature.

Still, Ricks underscored the $264 million Idaho now receives from the feds — money largely designated for special education and economically disadvantaged students.

The phaseout would have put the state at the bottom of nationwide per-student funding tallies, Ricks said.

Rep. Ron Nate

Nate argued that the bill would have allowed citizens to retain a larger measure of “educational freedom” by eliminating requirements tied to federal subsidies, including Common Core-aligned state tests.

Nate said the bill also reflected his past promises to support “constitutional, fiscally responsible and morally sound” legislation.

In terms of K-12 funding, Nate touted the Legislature’s continued support for Idaho’s $250 million plan to boost teacher pay. Another year of teacher raises also accompanied income tax cuts for Idahoans this session, Nate said.

“This last session was one of the smoothest sessions we’ve had in the Idaho Legislature,” said Nate, who added that “the media” and Ricks would have the public think otherwise.

The candidates also outlined their views on economic development, gun rights and tax reform Thursday.

Ricks said he believes the race will again “come down to the wire.”

Devin Bodkin

About Devin Bodkin

Reporter Devin Bodkin covers education issues in East Idaho. He is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. Devin co-hosts "Beyond the Books" online news segments in conjunction with EastIdahoNews.com. He is a 2019 Solutions Journalism Network fellow. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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