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Incumbent Dustin Manwaring battling political newcomer Mary Shea for Idaho House Seat 29A

Mary Shea (left) and Dustin Manwaring
POCATELLO — Incumbent Dustin Manwaring will be challenged by fellow attorney Mary Shea as he pursues his third term in the Idaho House Seat 29A.
Republican Manwaring filled Seat 29 of the Idaho House of Representatives from 2016 to 2018, then again from 2020 through 2022. Shea, the Democrat candidate, is a civil rights and family law attorney and former instructor at Idaho State University.
You can find more information about Manwaring and his campaign on his website — here.
You can find more information about Shea and her campaign on her website — here.
The 2022 general election will be Nov. 8. sent both candidates the same eight questions. Candidates were required to keep each answer to 250 words or fewer. Both candidates’ answers are listed below.
Tell us about yourself — include information about your family, career, education, volunteer work and any prior experience in public office.
MANWARING: I was raised in Blackfoot and graduated from Blackfoot High School. I earned a Bachelor of Science from the University of Utah and a Juris Doctor from Drake University School of Law.
I practice law in Pocatello, assisting clients primarily in business and estate planning. I am the Vice President of Lillian Vallely School, Inc., a private 501(c)(3) serving Native American children.
I have been married to my wife, Whitney, for five years and we have two children. We are active in our church and community.
I previously served in the Idaho House of Representatives from 2016-2018 and was reelected in 2020. I currently serve on the House Revenue and Taxation, Resources and Conservation, and Transportation and Defense committees.
SHEA: I am a mother of three young adults (18, 20, and 22). I am a “second mom” to my nephew following the death of my sister six years ago.
I’m a civil rights and family law attorney with more than 30 years’ experience, and I am published in Idaho in those practice areas. I taught and led the Paralegal Studies Program at Idaho State University from 2010-2017 on a full time basis, while also juggling a law practice. I am now a full-time partner at Merrill and Merrill.
As one of a handful of Child Welfare Law Specialists in Idaho, I donate professional time to the Bannock County juvenile court system. I have served in the Friends of the Marshall Public Library, as President of the Portneuf Health Care Foundation, and I was a member of Zonta.
I am a three-time CASA attorney of the year.
Lately, I have been focused on service within the Bar. I have led the local Bar and the local Family Law Section in the executive committees. I led Idaho Legal Aid Services as Board President through the recession for five years, 2008-2013, when those services were in high demand and resources were scarce.
I am still a Board member of ILAS, I am a former member of the Access to Justice Committee, and I am a current member of the Idaho Supreme Court Pro Bono Commission, working to find ways to connect low-income clients to legal professionals in Idaho.
What are your proudest accomplishments in your personal life or career?
MANWARING: Being able to obtain a post-secondary education and return to Idaho to launch my career and start my own business. This year marks the 12th anniversary of my law practice, and it brings great satisfaction thinking about all the relationships built and people that I’ve been able to serve during my two terms as a citizen legislator.
This year, I am proud to have sponsored and successfully carried important legislation relating to cybersecurity, public records, designations of authority at the Idaho state tax commission, promoting domestication and expansion of the Idaho semiconductor industry, and protecting rights in digital assets like cryptocurrency.
SHEA: My proudest accomplishment in life will always be raising my three kids to be good and kind men, and supporting my nephew following the sudden loss of his mother, my sister. My nephew is now a double major graduate of ISU and he is applying to law school, and I am very proud of how he has navigated a painful chapter of his life with grace and determination. He is also a good and kind young man.
I am proud of my record of service to the community, particularly focusing my time and talent on underserved populations in Idaho. Career-wise, I always feel fulfilled when my clients get a good outcome, like today, when I was able to preserve parental rights for one of my young clients.
Why are you a member of the Republican / Democrat / Independent / Other party? Briefly explain your political platform.
MANWARING: The Republican Party is the party of Lincoln and Reagan. I believe our party stands for liberty, equality, and family values. I believe the strength of our nation lies with our faith in God, the individual, and the family, and that each person’s dignity, freedom, ability, and responsibility must be honored.
I believe the United States is unlike any other country on earth, the United States Constitution is the greatest and most inspired document to govern a nation and is the best guarantor of freedom in history. I believe in equal rights, equal justice, and equal opportunity for all. I believe human life begins at conception and is protected by unalienable rights endowed by our Creator.
I approach decisions by using independent observation and research, contribute ideas through critical thinking, and act by leading through relationships and effort built on trust.
My platform includes protecting family values and religious liberty, preserving our environment and Idaho lands and water resources, and promoting business opportunity and next generation technologies while protecting personal privacy and individual property rights.
SHEA: I decided to run as a Democrat this year because I believe that in Idaho we need to pull our government back to where I think most of our voters are — to the middle. If we only allow the fight to be between the right and the far right, the people won’t ever be fully or accurately represented. Idahoans generally are far less extreme than the vocal minority would have it seem.
I am also running as a Democrat because I am concerned that the party in power has too often allowed ideology to get in the way of serving the best interests of the people of this great state. It has led to multiple violations of our civil rights. The Idaho legislature has been hyper focused on what I call “nontroversies” — culture wars and divisive issues that do not even happen in Idaho.
I worked for a GOP administration in Virginia in the 1990’s. They would never have passed legislation just to make a point, knowing that it would be invalidated by federal courts and they would have to pay not only their own legal costs but also the legal costs of the other side. Literally millions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted in Idaho this way. I think only a Democrat right now can stop this trend, because I cannot be pressured by the Idaho Freedom Foundation. I do not need their money, and I hope to prove on November 8, I do not need their votes to win an election.
What are the greatest challenges facing Idahoans?
MANWARING: While Idaho is blessed with so much to praise, we also have our challenges. As we continue to grow at a fast pace, we are challenged with investing enough resources in education, infrastructure, expanding broadband access, and preserving our natural resources and agriculture opportunities for future generations. We can get through these challenges and others with careful planning and prudent, conservative decision making. We must not compromise or use a pandemic as an excuse for failure to educate our children or to establish and maintain a general, uniform, and thorough system of public, free common schools as the Idaho Constitution requires.
SHEA: The greatest challenges statewide and in my community include an unaffordable cost of living created by a storm of events: the rapid rise of housing values and increasing property taxes; inflation; higher interest rates and gas prices; and wages that have not kept up.
When I first moved to Idaho, although wages were depressed, housing costs were also depressed, so the cost of living remained affordable. That is no longer true. We have a looming housing crisis in Pocatello, as we are second only to Boise in terms of low inventory and high rents.
I am also very concerned about youth mental health — Idaho has a teen suicide rate that is double the national average. We have lost three kids in Pocatello just since August.
I am concerned about the vilification of our public schools and educators, and threats to defund public education. Idaho already offers a lot of school choice through charter schools and a virtually unregulated homeschool program. Homeschoolers already get curriculum and technology support through the State of Idaho. Until we are certain we are meeting our constitutional mandate to fund public education, we should not experiment with public funds.
Finally, I am concerned that our abortion trigger laws do not reflect what most people in Idaho want, they are not fair nor morally just, and they will lead to a lot of harm and much higher maternal and infant mortality.
How will you best represent the views of your constituents – even those with differing political views?
MANWARING: I approach policy decisions by three core principles. I ask whether the policy or approach protects Idaho families, promotes small business, and whether government must be involved to solve the problem. I also try to understand the financial and other impacts including to our Idaho water and other natural resources.
My constituents are diverse in my legislative district. I seek to represent all perspectives using the best available facts and research and make decisions that are in the best interests of Pocatello and Idaho.
SHEA: I am lucky to have been mentored by some excellent politicians in Idaho — Mark Nye and James Ruchti. I have also received some great advice from Diane Bilyeu and Donna Boe.
James Ruchti, Nate Roberts and I have been knocking on doors in Pocatello since the primary season in 2022. We have attended as many community events as we have been able to, including Farmer’s Markets on Saturdays. We have met with educators at the Pocatello Education Association picnic and at other events. We have visited with students and faculty at ISU. We have talked to the medical community. We have talked to librarians.
We are not just talking to Democrats; we are talking to everyone, because we truly want to understand what folks are concerned about. We want to understand how we can help them, and how anticipated legislation might impact them. The best skillset I have as a lawyer is knowing how to listen before I respond. I cannot solve problems unless I really understand them. Too often lately in Idaho, the legislative branch has acted without talking to the stakeholders to really understand how the wording of their bills might lead to unintended consequences. Our government needs to moralize and judge us less, and listen to us more.
What role do lobbying entities play in the decision-making of Idaho legislators?
MANWARING: The number of lobbyists in Idaho is small and for the most part they understand the only currency they have is trust. Lobbyists are often good at helping gather and provide information on diverse subjects and the best ones can speak straightforwardly about all sides of an issue.
Lobbyists have a job to do for their clients and generally just want to know where a legislator stands on the subject. Sometimes the pressure is a lot, but it is best to keep in perspective that it is not personal, and lobbying is a business like anything else. This helps me make sure I am not ever unduly influenced and making decisions based on what is best for my constituents.
SHEA: As a first-time candidate and someone who has not served in the legislature, all I know is what people I trust have shared with me. Lobbyists are present in Idaho just as they are everywhere else, and they are certainly influential, but I do not think they have an outsized influence on what actually happens in Boise.
As an example, the $6 million dollar federal grant for early education programs had heavy and nearly universal lobby support in Idaho in 2021, but it was defeated nonetheless by the Idaho Freedom Foundation forces. I am concerned that the IFF has more influence on Idaho politics than it should, and I think their tax exempt status is suspect. They behave more like a lobby or a PAC than a “think tank.”
I am concerned about the pressure tactics they promote on members of the GOP who do not vote they way they want them to vote. Generally, I think lobbies can be very helpful in educating legislators about the pros and cons of particular bills, but legislators need to be smart consumers and remember to crosscheck the information they receive with all the other stakeholders, as well as with their constituents.
How can you encourage compromise, debate and a bipartisan approach to introducing new legislation in Idaho?
MANWARING: I have worked for two terms as the only elected Republican in my district by focusing on doing what is right and not what is politically convenient. I seek compromise if the result is for the greater good and do not believe this means you must give up your beliefs, values, or opinions.
This year and last year I sponsored bipartisan legislation with my democratic seat mate. When we chose our floor seats, we choose to sit next to each other. We visit often and discuss how policy will impact our district and even though we do not always agree, most of the time we are aligned on the issues to best represent a vote for Pocatello.
I believe all new legislation should have early bipartisan support and even in a state where Republicans have a supermajority in the legislature, there is a better chance of ultimate success if legislation is vetted and supported by members of both parties and more people are involved and participating in the process of drafting and understanding each other’s motives early on.
SHEA: As a trial lawyer, I know how to debate even tough issues fairly, within the bounds of ethics and the rules, and without making things personal. It is a skill set I have practiced regularly for over thirty years.
I believe there are good people and good ideas all over the place, regardless of party affiliation or identity. I know how to find the common ground.
As someone who has served in multiple leadership roles in various organizations that involved lawyers and other important stakeholders, I know how to make everyone feel heard and how to elicit collaboration and creative problem-solving before decisions are made.
I know the value of relationships, and I work hard to keep them positive, productive, and professional, even when circumstances are hard. I know that my party will not have enough votes to do anything without cooperation with the GOP. I plan to build relationships so that we can find real solutions to the real problems, in the best interests of all of our constituents.
What parts of Idaho government could benefit from additional state funding? What part of Idaho government could be improved with financial cutbacks?
MANWARING: While we have invested hundreds of millions of dollars into education over the last several years including $410 million more ongoing funds designated this year for education, there is still more we can do to provide excellent education and increased student achievement and a prepared workforce.
Every dollar invested in early childhood development, including reading, math, and science, will return great dividends for Idaho. Every child should have broadband access, tailored mentoring from cradle to career, and inherit a state that is cleaner, safer, and filled with more opportunity to live in and raise the next generation of Idaho families.
We should invest more in physical and mental health, and substance abuse programs. Sustainable management and support for the advancement and development of energy resources, like nuclear and hydro, will help us meet the growing needs of Idaho.
We must also continue to work on criminal justice reform and reducing the costs of imprisonment, along with reducing regulations and barriers so that health care and childcare is accessible and affordable.
SHEA: Idaho needs to prioritize mental health, particularly for our youth. I want to get on that team to make sure money is spent wisely.
Idaho needs to work directly with local governments to prioritize smart growth and to stabilize cost of living concerns by looking at things like reducing property tax burdens. We might do this by paying off bonds and levies, and by paying more of the state’s fair share of funding for law enforcement and the judicial branch.
I would love to see Idaho start listening to legal advice about the likelihoods of losing expensive court battles. We have wasted literally millions of taxpayer dollars this way over the years. A couple of years ago, Idaho passed a bill to prevent adults from changing their gender on their birth certificates, even though a federal court told Idaho in 2018 they could not do that. Idaho needs to be much more responsible with the people’s money. I also think we have low tax burdens in Idaho for the wealthy and for corporations, and we do not need to give them anymore tax breaks anytime soon. If anyone needs more of a break, it is the low income households in Idaho.
The post Incumbent Dustin Manwaring battling political newcomer Mary Shea for Idaho House Seat 29A appeared first on East Idaho News.

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