District 26 State Senate candidates believe abortion rights will have an impact on race

The District 26 State Senate seat is going to have some new representation after this election, in part due to Democratic State Senator Michelle Stennett not ru
Published: Nov. 3, 2022 at 3:35 AM MDT
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BLAINE COUNTY, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) —The District 26 State Senate seat is going to have some new representation after this election, in part due to Democratic State Senator Michelle Stennett not running for re-election. Now for this time in more than ten years, a Republican has a good chance of winning the seat.

Democratic candidate Ron Taylor said he is hoping to continue Stennett’s legacy in District 26, in fact, she is his campaign’s treasurer. He has more than 30 years invested in Wood River Valley, with most of it as a firefighter-paramedic. This is his first time running for public office.

“The way Idaho’s Republican leadership is being very extreme, it was time for me to get off the couch, and try to make a change instead of yelling at the television,” Taylor said. “My opponent has habitually voted for taking away voter’s rights. She has voted for taking away the rights of women, and I am the candidate that I believe can move forward and represent all of the people.”

Additionally, he said he hopes people vote for him, even if it means crossing the party line to do it. However, he will be facing a formidable Republican opponent in Rep. Laurie Lickley. Due to redistricting, she is switching from District 25 to 26. With District 26 now encompassing Jerome County, she feels she has the skill set to meet the needs of Republican and Democratic voters in the district.

“I won’t take an extreme position on either side. I will make sure that I’m listening. That I’m understanding,” said Lickley. “What is it that our community in Blaine County needs? What do Shoshone and Lincoln County need, how do you balance that with my home county of Jerome.”

In this election race, Taylor feels abortion rights are something that will be important to voters in his district. He said every door he has knocked on, it doesn’t matter which county it has been in, abortion is the number one topic people have brought up to him. He was recently endorsed by Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates — Idaho.

“Right now we have an incredibly restrictive abortion ban. My opponent Laurie Lickley voted for that ban,” Taylor said. “It’s something that has Idahoans divided. Idahoans would like to keep their freedom. Freedom is a matter of choice, and that choice has been taken away from women.”

Additionally, he is afraid next legislative session Republicans will introduce even more restrictive bills in relation to abortion access.

“I honestly don’t know how extreme or what face is going to be put on the legislation, but will be there to stop what crosses the line on extremism,” Taylor said.

Lickley, who Idaho Chooses Life endorses, was a sponsor of the 2020 bill that criminalizes nearly all abortions. The bill is now law, with the overturning of Roe v. Wade. She feels it’s important to protect the life of the unborn, but she is not supporting mothers and doctors being criminalized under the abortion laws. Additionally, she feels contraceptives should be readily available to women.

“I actually spoke on the [idaho] house floor in support of a six-month supply, requiring insurance companies to provide a six-month supply of contraception. I was only one of 22 house members to do that,” Lickley said.

She agrees the current abortion laws on the books are not perfect and would be interested in exploring options with other lawmakers and stakeholders to improve the laws. She said she is in support of an exception that takes into consideration the health of the mother. Additionally, she would most likely not be in favor of more extreme abortion laws being introduced next session.

“My hope is that type of legislation is fully vetted, and maybe never sees the light of day,” Lickley said.

However, Taylor questions the Republican lawmakers voting record on such issues.

“She votes the party line. She apparently doesn’t have the backbone to stand up for what she feels is right,” Taylor said. “She (Lickley) said she voted for the abortion bill because there were a few parts of it that were really good but the rest of it wasn’t. She voted for the parts of it that were good. That is bad policy making.”

During this year’s election, Idaho voters will have two ballot questions to consider. One is a Constitution Amendment asking voters if the Idaho Legislature should be able to call itself back into session. Currently, the Legislature may meet in a special session only upon the call of the Governor. The proposed amendment would allow the Legislature to convene itself in special session if 60% of the members in each house submit a petition to the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Lickley said she would not vote in support of the amendment because she feels the threshold should be higher.

“I would like to see two-thirds, a supermajority, two-thirds of the house and two-thirds of the senate agree and have it very well defined before the legislature calls itself back into session,” said Lickley. “I do think there should be a mechanism at some point. Is this the right one? Im not sure it is. But there should be some mechanism for the legislature to call itself back into session.”

Taylor said the Constitonial Amendment is personally for him a way for Idaho to do away with its citizen legislature and would give too much power to the majority in the House and Senate to call a special session whenever they want.

“I think this joint resolution, in my opinion, is a big no. It would do nothing but hurt Idaho, and open our government up to career politicians,” Taylor said.

The other one is an Advisory Question asking voters if they approve or disapprove of the State of Idaho using the record budget surplus to refund $500 million back to taxpayers, cut ongoing income taxes by more than $150 million, and increasing education and student funding by a record $410 million. Lickley was a co-sponsor of House Bill 1.

“I think anytime we can provide tax relief to our hardworking Idahoans and deliver record investments in education, infrastructure, and mental health I certainly support it,” Lickley said.

Taylor said he did like the special session, but he also has problems with it. He is very regretful that Reclaim Idaho is no longer on the ballot. He thinks Reclaim Idaho’s Quality Education Act Initiative forced the Governors hand to call a special session.

“I think that special session should have addressed more permanent tax relief for people, and left Reclaim Idaho on the ballot so our schools are properly funded going forward,” Taylor said.

If elected Taylor said he would like to focus on in part improving the quality of living in his district, protecting public lands, and quality of education across the board. Right now he feels good about his chances.

“I’m not going to call on it. I’m not going to put odds on it but we are going to win,” Taylor said.

Lickley said she would like to in part focus on the needs of rural communities, water issues, population growth, and infrastructure needs if elected. She feels equally good about her chances of winning the race.

“I see myself getting 55 percent of the vote. It’s going to be close,” Likely said.