Rep. Julie VanOrden touted her legislative experience during Tuesday’s Republican forum in Blackfoot.
Her challenger, Julianne Young, said her inexperience is an asset.
“I acknowledge that Rep. VanOrden has more legislative experience,” Young said of her opponent, a third-term incumbent. “But government is not intended to be a profession.”
The two are battling in the May 15 primary for House Seat 31B in the Idaho Legislature.
Young said her strong analytical skills honed since childhood and a deep understanding of the Constitution would guide her in office — rather than time spent at the Statehouse.
The value of legislative experience wasn’t the only area of disagreement Tuesday. They also clashed in their picks for Idaho’s next governor, K-12 funding and sex education.
VanOrden’s recent push to update Idaho’s 1970s-era sex education law fueled debate between the candidates before Tuesday’s forum. VanOrden, R-Pingree, sponsored House Bill 579 this session, which would have required public sex ed to be “medically accurate,” encouraged school-home partnerships and allowed guardians to exempt their children from taking part.
The bill died this session. VanOrden defended it Tuesday.
“Issues that affected students in 1970 have changed,” said VanOrden, who chairs the House Education Committee. “We wanted to address the concerns that our children face now.”
Young, who filed for candidacy in part because of the bill, said it is important for students to be “self-disciplined” and that VanOrden’s proposed changes removed language casting conception as a miracle.
“We need to center on the family and focus on the community,” Young said.
The candidates also addressed local funding gaps between school districts. Average daily student attendance remains the yardstick used to carve up state K-12 funding. Still, taxes levied on local businesses and housing account for a growing amount of money school districts use to increase teacher salaries, build infrastructure and supplement other budgets.
VanOrden touted major state K-12 spending hikes passed during her time in office, which have brought more dollars into rural districts.
Young said it’s not the state’s responsibility to close local funding gaps.
“Allowing local schools and local people to finance their schools is what makes kids succeed,” Young said. “We do not need more bureaucracy.”
The candidates also differed in their backing of current state gubernatorial candidates. Without reservation, Young said U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador’s “genuine” regard for the Constitution earned her vote.
VanOrden expressed support for all candidates, but said Lt. Gov. Brad Little’s agricultural background stands out as a plus.
(Click here for an in-depth look at what these gubernatorial candidates recently had to say about taxes, teacher pay, pre-K and each other.)
Young and VanOrden took questions from a panel of local journalists Tuesday:
- Devin Bodkin, East Idaho reporter at Idaho Education News.
- Catie Clark, reporter at the Blackfoot Morning News.
- Ian Fennell, managing editor at the Idaho State Journal.
Candidates also took questions from the audience. Other topics included health care, agriculture and water conservation.