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Primaries Mark Big Changes for Idaho

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First up this month is the report on the fundraising done for the local DAV on Memorial Day. Eighteen volunteers gave two hour shifts at three of our local food marts. The fine people at Safeway, Super 1 and Yoke’s let us set up at their stores. Over the course of 6 hours $2,229.95 (an increase of approximately $300 over last year) was raised. Every penny raised stays right here within the North Idaho/western Montana/eastern Washington area. Most of that money goes towards keeping the DAV Van on the road, transporting area vets to and from appointments at the VA Hospital in Spokane. 

I’ll happily give a tip of my cap to all those ‘Can Shakers’ that came forward this year. This year they were George Eskridge, Donna Brundage, Vera Gadman, Ross Jackman, Joe DeForest, Jan Baugh, Bob Wynhausen, Jessica Chilcott, Laura Bry, Will Knipe, Larry Peterson, Maggie Mjelde, Wayne Henderson, Martin Chilcott, J. P. Carver, Andrew Sorg and Rick Lynskey. Without the help of these folks it would be very difficult for our area veterans to get many of the services they need.

The annual Bonner/Boundary County ‘Stand Down’ will be held on Saturday, June 14 at the Bonner County Fairgrounds. If you are a veteran in need—or know of one who might be in need—please contact Michael Harmelin at 263-8724. In last month’s piece I erred and gave Bob Rutherford’s number. Michael should have been listed as the contact person.

On Tuesday, May 20, Idaho held its primary election. To say the least, the results were ‘interesting.’ By late evening it became obvious there would be numerous changes in the Idaho legislature come January 2015 regardless of the results of the general election in November. Local longtime incumbent Representative George Eskridge of Dover (Legislative District 1) was defeated by challenger Sage Dixon of Ponderay; Stephan Snedden was defeated by Heather Scott in vying for the seat vacated by Eric Anderson. In Legislative District 7—that highly gerrymandered district that runs from southeastern Bonner County south through the entirety of Idaho County—the ‘Tea Party’ leaning incumbent handily defeated her (perceived) more moderate challenger. It appears that all the winning GOP candidates were supported by the most conservative members of their base, thus shifting the Idaho GOP even further to the right. I feel that this shift is highly detrimental for ALL Idahoans.

The percentage of voters turning out was just under 32%. This low turnout supports my long held contention that the outcome of many races are determined more in the primaries rather than at the general election in the fall. If we are to be a participatory democracy all eligible voters must participate. If the voters don’t show up at the polls we end up with candidates that are favored by the most radical and intransigent extremes of the political spectrum.

It is also well past time for every voter to vote in their own best interest rather than simply checking the name next to the ‘R’, ‘C’ or ‘D’ candidate. I found this to be especially true amongst our veterans’ community. I have looked at the current GOP candidates from top of the ticket to the bottom and cannot find one that has demonstrated any active commitment to veterans. If the majority of Bonner County veterans had voted in their own best interest they could have changed the entire political landscape for Idaho and, in many cases, nationally. If the approximately 5,000 veterans in Bonner County and the 1,200 in Boundary had voted in concert with their interests I don’t believe that long-time Representative George Eskridge would have lost his race. His GOP opponent surely hasn’t demonstrated himself to be a supporter of veterans’ concerns and interests. 

Near the top of Idaho’s ballot are the names of Representative Raul Labrador and Senator James Risch. Neither of these people have ever demonstrated that they hold veterans in high esteem. Both of them have consistently voted against bills that would improve the lot of veterans and their families. Most recently Senator Risch and Senator Crapo were two of the people who helped kill S1982, The Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014. The argument used to kill this bill was that it couldn’t be paid for. Representative Labrador has followed a similar track in the House. Most recently he voted against the Defense Reauthorization Act twice on the same day (May 22, 2014).  It has always seemed strange to me that the GOP has always been willing to pay for a war but shows great reluctance in paying for the aftermath of those wars. I have always felt that the GOP doesn’t really support the troops or veterans as they claim. I believe that they support the defense contractors. Could it be that the GOP thinks there is little profit involved after the wars end? 

I’ll close this month with what I believe is the most egregious example of the lack of respect towards veterans I can remember. A veteran’s legally married partner was denied burial in the Idaho Veterans Cemetery last month. The reason that Governor Otter refused that veteran this honor was that both the veteran and her partner were female. Idaho refused to recognize their marriage from another state. I find it reprehensible that political ideology trumps the relationships between committed and loving people who served and sacrificed for this nation. In my view this is disrespectful to the veteran and I say if you disrespect one of us, you disrespect us all.

Until next month take care and the next time you see a veteran, thank them for their service.

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Author info

Gil  Beyer Gil Beyer A 21 year Navy veteran, lived in Bonner County for over 30 years, Past Commander of the Priest River DAV Chapter and admitted news junkie.

Tagged as:

Idaho Legislature, George Eskridge, Veterans News, Memorial Day Fundraiser, Stand Down, S1982, Idaho GOP, Heather Scott, Stephen Snedden, Eric Anderson

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