IDAHO FALLS — Incumbent Kevin Cook is being challenged by Keith Newberry for the Idaho State Senate position to represent District 32.
To learn more about the candidate’s platform, EastIdahoNews.com asked candidates to answer the same eight questions. Their answers had to be 250 words or less.
More information about Cook can be found on his Facebook page or website.
More information about Newberry can be found on its Facebook page or website.
Tell us about yourself – include information about your family, career, education, volunteer work and any previous experience in public service.
To cook: I have been married to my beautiful wife Cheri for 33 years. We have four children and three grandchildren. I graduated from a public high school and earned a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from Weber State University. I owned and operated a software consulting business for several years. I am currently employed by the Idaho National Laboratory as a software engineer.
I believe we all have a duty to give back to our community. I coached my children’s soccer, basketball and softball teams for many years. I volunteer at a school on a regular basis reading with eighth graders. I found it to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
From this experience, I developed a passion for education. I became actively involved in trying to improve our education system during my first term as Idaho State Senator for District 30 in the 2020-2021 term.
Newberry: I’m running for District 32 of the State Senate. I grew up in southern Ohio and when I graduated from high school I joined the US Navy in the nuclear power program. It took me to Idaho, and when I was a student here at the Naval Reactors Facility, I met my wife Barb.
When I was honorably discharged from the Navy, we returned to Idaho Falls with our three children. We now have 10 grandchildren. I completed a Bachelor of Science with Excelsior College. I am a believer in Jesus Christ.
What accomplishments are you most proud of in your personal life or career?
Newberry: I helped my wife raise three children who have good values and completed a bachelor’s degree from Excelsior College.
To cook: Personal Life: Marrying my best friend and still having her my best friend 33 years later. Together we raised four wonderful children.
Career: Owning/operating a successful business.
Why are you a member of the Republican/Democratic/Independent/Other party? Briefly explain your political platform.
- A. I believe in small government. Only after parents, boards, and local governments have failed to resolve the issue should we turn to the state or federal government.
- B I believe in a fiscally conservative government. Taxes are needed to build roads, power grids, schools, sewage treatment facilities and other infrastructure needed to sustain our community. I expect the government to be wise with our tax dollars.
- VS I believe in public education. According to the Idaho State Constitution, the state is obligated to provide an equal and fair opportunity for all children to receive an excellent education. I wish every high school student had an education account that they could use for college credit or technical training.
- D. I believe in the second amendment. All citizens of Idaho and the United States have the right to carry and possess a firearm.
- E. I believe that life is sacred. An unborn child has rights. I don’t believe in abortion.
Newberry: The Republican Party platform closely resembles my own personal values.
What are the biggest challenges facing the people of Idaho?
Newberry: Corruption within the legislature and our governor has violated his constitutional authority, for example: the first amendment, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly. Governor Little closed churches in 2020, he limited public gatherings to 10 people or fewer. A couple have been fined for hosting a garage sale, people have been arrested for singing outside without a mask and a small business has been cited for operating.
Fourth Amendment: The right to be safe in person, home, papers and effects from unreasonable search and seizure. The state and the nation have encouraged contact tracing, which is an unreasonable form of tracing. Restricting people to their homes, if they have COVID violates the Fifth Amendment, no one will be deprived of their liberty without due process.
Legislative corruption is apparent, the November special session. First the ethics hearing on Pricilla Giddings. Chairman Bedke, Giddings’ political opponent to the Lt. Governor, handpicked the committee members of the “ethics committee.” President Bedke hired the same law firm that donated to his campaign. Speaker Bedke forwarded most of the bills (9) regarding terms of reference to the Committee on Health and Welfare. The chairman of this committee was absent from the chambers during these decisions but present in the Capitol. This committee did not meet to hear these bills.
In the Senate, a bill went from the House to the Senate, and it never made it out of committee. The challenges facing the people of Idaho stem from these things. Other challenges include high income tax, grocery tax, property tax allocation issues.
To cook: I believe the biggest challenge facing Idaho today is “growth.” Cities are struggling to maintain the infrastructure needed to support growth, such as roads, sewers and water lines, electricity, schools and first responders. This has a negative effect on property taxes.
How will you best represent the views of your constituents, even those with different political views?
To cook: My personal values guide everything I do. I weigh the merits of each bill based on my personal values, my understanding of the constitution, and the feedback I receive from my constituents. Regardless of their political opinion, I am here to represent all voters in District 32.
Newberry: I believe that one of the founding principles of our nation is individual freedom and freedom of expression. This principle has been violated by both our Governor and the leaders of our House and Senate.
I will represent my constituents by using my time in the Senate to ensure that they remain a free people. People who have different political views will still be able to express them freely in public as well as on social media platforms. I hope we can at least agree on that.
What role do lobbying entities play in the decision-making of Idaho legislators?
Newberry: I think lobbying entities play an important role in Idaho. We have the Association of Commerce and Industry of Idaho (IACI), which plays an important political role in campaign finance and lobbying our legislators. IACI has business representatives on its board who also have ties to the World Economic Forum and the United Nations.
IACI and member companies made a donation to President Bedke as well as Senator Chuck Windor (Senate Pro Tem). I think that lobbying has an impact on the decisions these legislators make. Also, I think it has an impact on individual representatives and senators.
To cook: I consider the lobbyist as a source of knowledge both for and against. They have great information and perspective on the issues. However, the decision on how to vote is mine, my constituents being my primary concern.
How can you encourage compromise, debate, and a bipartisan approach to introducing new legislation in Idaho?
To cook: There is never a perfect bill, but it seems to come closer if you involve or at least listen to the other side. I believe it is important to speak early and often with those who oppose new legislation. Compromise is good if you don’t compromise on your values.
Newberry: Part of a senator’s job is to try to convince people to consider their position. This may sound contrary to what I wrote in the previous two questions, however, I think there are good people trying to do a good job in our legislature.
First, we need to define/establish the principles. Once this is completed, a compromise can occur, as long as it does not violate the principles. The basic principles are established and guaranteed in the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Idaho.
What parts of the Idaho government could benefit from additional state funding? What part of Idaho’s government could be improved with funding cuts?
Newberry: First, we need to look at waste, fraud and abuse. Next, determine what is unnecessary/necessary. Idaho’s state budget currently consists of nearly 50% of the state budget from federal dollars/grants. This makes Idaho a federal government welfare state.
These federal dollars come with strings attached, meaning Idahoans are not free. We should also look at where that money is going and what strings the federal government is pulling.
To cook: I don’t believe anyone is looking at where the state can spend more money. Property taxes are crippling our seniors, grocery prices continue to rise, gas prices are causing families to rethink summer vacations, and the American dream of owning your own home is becoming unattainable.
Inflation has hit Idaho’s wallets, and many are struggling to stay afloat. I don’t think this is the time to discuss where the state should be spending more money. Quite the contrary. I believe the citizens of Idaho need relief now. Many states are considering halving their gas tax and other types of short-term tax relief.