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Newly formed committee aims to tackle extremism in Idaho politics

Twin Falls KMVT logo Twin Falls KMVT 12/28/2021 Steve Kirch
a group of people sitting in a chair in a room: A new committee seeks to fight extremism in Idaho politics © Provided by Twin Falls KMVT A new committee seeks to fight extremism in Idaho politics

TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — The newly-formed Take Back Idaho Committee is aiming to restore reason and responsibility to the Idaho Legislature. The committee is responding to all the dysfunction they feel has haunted the Idaho Legislature over the last several sessions. The committee is made up of former Idaho officials and lawmakers, like former Idaho Attorney General Jim Jones, who said the last straw for him and others was listening to lawmakers talking about non-existent issues like critical race theory last session.

“We want to get back to those days when people did a responsible job when they got a legislative seat,” said Jones.

The committee feels extremists are taking over the narrative in the state legislature. Democratic Rep. James D. Ruchti said the mean-spirited, hostile rhetoric by some in Idaho’s political landscape is counter-productive.

“They make it so other people who are interested in being part of the process withdraw,” said Ruchti. “They don’t want to be part of the process if in order to do it you have to put with some sort of behavior.”

The committee feels some extremists fully believe what they are saying, but former Republican lawmaker Luke Malek said others use misinformation and fear as a weapon.

“It is a very easy narrative to sell...a positive vision, that is a much more difficult path for a policymaker to take,” said Malek.

Jones says the committee has a two-prong approach. One is to fully educate voters about the issues impacting the state.

“Our public school system is under attack by the Idaho Freedom Foundation. They don’t like public schools, and public schools are the heart of every community around the state,” said Jones.

The second is to support candidates in the 2022 Primary Election who are in support of good, honest governance.

“We have to give a signal to the good, responsible people in the legislature that someone is going to have their back,” Jones said.

The former Idaho Attorney General and others don’t think the committee will stop extremism entirely, they but hope it will limit the spread of it.

“That is going to be our true test is. Can we get to a point as a state and in our communities where we recognize these extremist views are bad for governing,” Ruchti said.

In a press release, the Idaho Freedom Foundation said:

In reality, Take Back Idaho is nothing more than a conglomerate of fake conservatives who want to drag Idaho back to the days where big government cronies deal and massive spending increases were not only accepted, but expected.

-Original Story-

A newly-formed committee of respected Idahoans is aiming to restore reason and responsibility to the Idaho Legislature. The Take Back Idaho Committee aims to hold lawmakers accountable and cull extremists from the law-making body in the 2022 primary election. Who better to head up the effort of corralling irresponsible legislators than a Blackfoot rancher?

Committee Chair Jennifer Ellis, a rancher and former President of the Idaho Cattle Association, said today that “the recent disruptive legislative sessions have pointed to the desperate need to replace dangerous extremists in the Legislature. Instead of putting forward positive ideas to improve the everyday lives of Idahoans, these politicians waste valuable time and taxpayer money. This vocal minority has replaced civility and common sense with conspiracy theories, fringe views, and cheap political theater.”

Committee members include former House Speaker Bruce Newcomb (R, Burley), former Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, Wil Overgaard, a respected educator and former Superintendent of the Weiser School District, former Senate President Pro Tem Bob Geddes (R, Soda Springs) and former Attorney General Jim Jones.

“The Committee includes many ‘former’ officials of one sort or another,” Ellis said. “But that just means that we share decades of experience in governing, business, education and agriculture among us. We know how representative government should work and we can recognize when a Legislature has gone off the rails. It’s high time to get rid of the disruptive members and get back to responsible, accountable law making.”

Newcomb and Geddes agreed that recent Legislatures have simply gotten out of hand. Newcomb said, “The extremists have tried to strip local control, undermined our public education system and made our great State a laughingstock in the eyes of the nation.” Geddes added, “Too many of the GOP legislators have become ardent followers of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, which thrives on creating discord and havoc. They have lost sight of the fact that they were elected to represent the people, not a dark-money think tank.”

The so-called Freedom Foundation is strongly opposed to Idaho’s public education system. The Foundation’s President, Wayne Hoffman, spelled out the group’s antipathy to public education in a February 2019 op-ed: “I don’t think the government should be in the education business. It is the most virulent form of socialism (and indoctrination thereto) in America today.”

“The IFF has done tremendous damage to Idaho’s education system,” Overgaard said. “The organization has caused its legislative followers to chronically underfund public education at all levels and has tried to discredit our school system with false charges of student indoctrination. It is no wonder that talented teachers are leaving Idaho in droves.” Overgaard added: “If the Freedom Foundation were to realize its goal of eliminating public schools in Idaho, the very heart of every community would be hollowed out. So much of everyday community life revolves around our public schools. School sport activities, for instance, bring all parts of our communities together.”

“The Idaho Freedom Foundation has irresponsibly raised questions about Idaho’s election integrity and supported legislation to make it impossible for the people to make or repeal legislation through the initiative and referendum,” Ysursa said. Jones added, “Too many GOP legislators blindly carry out the dictates of this organization which does not have the best interests of Idahoans at heart. That needs to change.”

Ellis said the Committee will support a voter outreach program to inform the public of the disruptive actions of the IFF and its legislative followers. The group was formed to oppose candidates who refuse to act responsibly, says Ellis. “On the other hand, we will support individuals dedicated to educating our children, working together to solve our chronic problems and restoring a sense of community and common purpose in Idaho.”

Copyright 2021 KMVT/KSVT. All rights reserved.

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