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Incumbent running against newcomer for District 35 Senate seat

Doug Toomer (left) and Mark Harris (right). | Alex Lemoing, EastIdahoNews.com
IDAHO FALLS — Incumbent Mark Harris is being challenged in the upcoming primary election for the District 35 State Senator seat.
Running against Harris is Doug Toomer.
To learn more about Harris, click here.
To learn more about Toomer, click here.
EastIdahoNews.com sent the same eight questions to each county candidate. Their responses, listed below, were required to be 250 words or less. EastIdahoNews.com is publishing the answers in their entirety, and without any grammatical or style editing.
The primary election is May 21.
Tell us about yourself — include information about your family, career, education, volunteer work and any prior experience in public office.
Harris: My wife and I, along with our four boys, live on a cattle ranch south of Soda Springs in Bear Lake County. My brothers and I are partners in the ranch along with a farm in Malta. We raise beef cattle and alfalfa. I had the opportunity to serve a two year mission for my church in Argentina. I attended Utah State University where I graduated with a B.A. in Political Science. I have served on various state and local boards. I currently have the honor to serve in the Idaho State Senate and am serving as the Majority Caucus Chair.
Toomer: I was born and raised on a farm in Rigby and am a 5th generation Idahoan. I have been married to my wonderful tolerant wife, Cindy, for over 44 years and have 2 amazing children, Jason and Kellie, and one special daughter-in-law, Alison.
I had a successful 40-year career at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) primarily as a project/program manager. I’m an expert in spent nuclear fuel and special nuclear material management, and am an expert on the 1995 Idaho Settlement Agreement as it relates to spent nuclear fuel. I helped negotiate the 2011 agreement between Idaho and the Department of Energy that enables research quantities of commercial spent nuclear fuel to be brought into and retained at INL.
As a result of the 2011 agreement, I became manager of Industry Programs, responsible for reaching out to the commercial nuclear industry to bring their research work, which had previously been done overseas, to INL. One company I brought in is TerraPower (owned by Bill Gates) and I was the sole ‘Relationship’ manager between them and INL. Unfortunately, I caught TerraPower attempting to patent a nuclear fuel design that INL researchers had developed and I called ‘timeout’ on TerraPower’s activities, which angered TerraPower/Bill Gates and INL Executive management. As a result, my responsibilities with TerraPower were terminated and I was forced to retire. I have lawsuits ongoing against TerraPower and INL.
I founded the organization Stand Up For Idaho (www.standupforidaho.org) in 2021 and I unsuccessfully ran for State Senate in 2022.
Why are you seeking political office? Briefly explain your political platform.
Harris: I am running for re-election to the Idaho State Senate. I love the State of Idaho and all the opportunities it provides. I am running to help keep Idaho the great place it is to have a family and raise kids. We live in a highly productive area of the state. We lead the nation in many agricultural products such as barley, potatoes and other crops. We also live in an area that produces the world’s highest quality of phosphate and have the good fortune of being home to Idaho National Laboratory. I want to do all I can to protect these industries, the jobs they produce, and most importantly the families they support.
Toomer: Throughout most of my life I never really paid much attention to ‘politics’. I watched the news from various media sources and assumed what I heard was accurate and the ‘whole story’. I focused on making a living and taking care of my family. Like many, I was oblivious to what was really happening.
January 6, 2021 made me pay attention. I’m a firm believer in transparency of our elections. On January 6th, Mike Simpson voted ‘NO’ on delaying certification of the electoral college for a couple of weeks to look into accusations of election irregularities. I thought to myself, “if there is nothing to hide, what would it hurt to look into the accusations”? The obvious answer to me was, there IS something to hide.
I felt I needed to do something so I started digging. It soon became apparent things were not as I was led to believe. There was so much misinformation, disinformation, half-truths, out-right lies, etc. being disseminated it was hard to determine what really was the truth and what really was happening.
Long story short, I ended up starting the organization Stand Up For Idaho. Since starting Stand Up For Idaho, I have found out that our great state is not what I thought it was, and I feel called by my Creator to do everything I can to fix it.
I’m a Republican and I support its platform. I believe in God, Family, Country, and our Constitutions. I believe America and Idaho are exceptional.
What are the greatest challenges facing people and communities in your district? What is your plan to meet those challenges?
Harris: Idaho is in great shape financially. We are fiscally responsible and have a balanced budget every year. As a result of our prosperity and good governance we are one of the fastest growing states in the country. However, with this growth comes challenges. One of our biggest issues is keeping up with the growth in our schools and our infrastructure, which includes roads, bridges, and broadband access. We have begun to take steps to deal with this growth during the past legislative session in increased investments in both education and transportation funding. However, more needs to be done.
Toomer: The greatest challenges/threats are what is happening at the federal level. Corruption, reckless spending, inflation, taxes, open borders/illegal immigration, gangs, fentanyl, etc., etc. Idaho isn’t immune from any of this and our rural communities are most vulnerable.
Idaho itself is spending more and more each year, from $9.5Billion in 2020 to $13.9Billion in 2024, a 47% increase!! And 40% of Idaho’s funding is from the federal government! We are almost a welfare state ourselves!
Our public education system is in dire straits. We can’t even meet our proficiency targets in English and Math, which are in the 60% range. That 60% “target” means we are okay with 4 out of 10 kids that can’t read or do math. We don’t even have a ‘Science’ proficiency target. It’s no wonder people are wanting alternatives to public schools!
Fentanyl, gangs, etc. are affecting East Idaho. Bonneville County Sheriff Sam Hulse came to a Stand Up For Idaho Town Hall and was very candid about what is happening, right here in East Idaho, and it is very concerning.
To meet the challenges, we need to first focus on stopping the acceleration of our spending, ‘take the foot of the gas pedal’. Then assess where budget cuts can be made without causing a horrendous crash and begin making those cuts.
We must truly look at our public education system to determine why it is not performing and start making the necessary corrective actions.
Fentanyl, gangs, etc. need addressed also but I’m over my word limit.
How will you best represent the views of your constituents – even those with differing political views? How will you communicate directly with constituents?
Harris: I will represent my constituents by listening to their concerns and ideas. We all live together in this great state, and we need to get along in order to be the most productive and efficient with our resources possible. I feel that in order to be able to listen I need to do my best to inform them through newsletters, newspaper articles, social media, and answering their questions.
Toomer: I believe in our constitutions. The acid test for me on any issue is ‘Does it infringe on the U.S. Constitution or the Constitution of the State of Idaho, and who does it really benefit?’ The US Constitution starts with “We the People”, not We the Elite, We the Government, nor We Big Business. I am for individuals and small business rather that government and big corporations. With that as my rule, I will willingly speak daily with constituents from varying political backgrounds and I am eager to look at issues and concerns. I will always try to make the decisions that are best for the people of Idaho.
What parts of the state budget could use more funding? Where are places in the budget that cuts could be made?
Harris: Transportation is an area within our state that could use more funding. Due to the increase stress and traffic on our roads and bridges we are seeing many places with a lot of wear and tear. Many of our bridges are close to 60-70 years old and need to be replaced. Places in our budget where cuts could possibly be made is Medicaid. We have seen a great increase in the Medicaid budget within the last few years, more that what was anticipated. However, great care needs to be taken that we don’t inadvertently limit those that need this resource.
Toomer: We really need to be looking at what needs to be done to ensure EVERY part of Idaho government is NECESSARY and EFFICIENT. I don’t believe this evaluation is truly currently happening. Therefore, to say that this part of government needs more funding and that part of government needs to be cutback, is irresponsible.
Some of the greatest challenges facing Idahoans are government overreach and growth, in all areas – local, state, and federal. One result of this is taxes and the burdens on Idahoans are way too high. Without question we need to provide for ‘essential’ government functions but I believe many government agencies have become bureaucratic, self-serving, and feel the need to ‘grow’. This ‘growth’ not only costs more, thereby creating the need to increase taxes, but also creates more government regulation and control. Government regulation and control is generally not to the benefit of the taxpayer. We need to stop ‘non-essential’ government growth and reevaluate how to fund ‘essential’ government functions. By reducing the amount of ‘nonessential’ government functions we will be able to reduce the overall tax burden on Idahoans.
Are you currently working on any legislation or have ideas for bills that you feel are vital to the future of Idaho? Please provide details.
Harris: I am continuously working on EMS, emergency services, legislation. This is a vital service to our communities. As they are not currently considered an essential service in the state of Idaho. They play a very important role in our communities and their service has a direct impact on our lives and our loved ones.
Toomer: I do have some ideas for legislation that address government spending and growth, how to help the public education system, and other issues. However, they are not ready for prime time and this isn’t really the forum to present them.
Have you seen any mistakes made by the Idaho Legislature in recent years? How would you work to correct these errors?
Harris: Yes, we do make mistakes and sometimes bills are not written correctly. They pass due to political pressure. The intent of the bill may be good, but then we find there are unintended consequences. When we find out about these issues, we do our best to fix them. This may be simple corrections within the bills themselves or trailer bills may need to be passed.
Toomer: Yes, I have seen ‘mistakes’. However, to quote President Franklin D. Roosevelt “In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way”. So, the question is, were they really mistakes or were they planned that way? I believe there is a lot of existing legislation that is flawed or not really in the best interest of Idahoans (the people). Flawed legislation or legislation that is not in the best interest of Idahoans (the people) needs to be repealed.
What is the most important issue facing Idahoans? What is a legislator’s role in meeting or addressing that issue?
Harris: The most important issue that we are facing is the unprecedented growth that we are facing. This growth is affecting our infrastructure, our schools, and placing a stress on our natural resources, such as water. The role of the legislature is to address these problems and make sure that there is adequate funding to for these challenges. I feel we have taken important steps to do just this, by beginning to address school facility funding, funding to keep Idaho kids in Idaho higher education, transportation funding, and keeping taxes low to not stifle individual and business growth.
Toomer: The most important issue is that Idaho is changing. Idaho is seen as a bastion for freedom and liberty, a representation of what our nation’s founders envisioned and fought for. A state whose people believe in hard work and individual responsibility. People that believe in God, Family, Country, and the Constitution. People from all across the country (notably California, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington) are moving to Idaho because of this. However, forces are working hard to change Idaho into something else. Many of the people that have moved here are surprised to find out that Idaho really isn’t what they thought it was. They see Idaho going through the stages that destroyed the state they moved away from, and they are very concerned for Idaho’s future.
A legislator’s role is to uphold our Constitutions and defend Idaho and her citizens.
The post Incumbent running against newcomer for District 35 Senate seat appeared first on East Idaho News.
Source: eastidahonews.com

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