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2024 primaries to watch: GOP challengers seek to unseat Idaho budget committee co-chair


2024 primaries to watch: GOP challengers seek to unseat Idaho budget committee co-chair

May 17, 2024 | 6:20 am ET
By Clark Corbin
2024 primaries to watch: GOP challengers seek to unseat Idaho budget committee co-chair
All 105 seats in the Idaho Legislature are up for election in 2024. In this file photo, the Idaho House of Representatives in session at the State Capitol in Boise on Jan. 23, 2024. (Otto Kitsinger for the Idaho Capital Sun)

Two well-known Republican challengers are hoping to unseat an experienced GOP legislator and state budget writer in Tuesday’s Republican primary election for Seat B in the Idaho House of Representatives.

The GOP primary features incumbent Ammon Mayor Sean Coletti, incumbent Rep. Wendy Horman, and Republican National Committee member Bryan Smith, all R-Idaho Falls. Because of the name recognition of each candidate and the fact that two Republicans are challenging an established Republican incumbent, this may prove to be one of Idaho’s 2024 primary elections to watch

Coletti is an attorney and veteran of the U.S. Army National Guard who has served as the mayor of Ammon since 2018. Coletti previously served on the Ammon City Council since 2010.

Horman is a small business owner who has served six terms in the Idaho Legislature and holds the position of co-chair of the Idaho Legislature’s Joint-Finance Appropriations Committee, or JFAC. JFAC is a powerful legislative committee that sets each element of the state budget. Before she was elected to the Idaho Legislature, Horman was a member of Bonneville Joint School District 93 school board. 

Smith is an attorney from Idaho Falls who previously ran two unsuccessful campaigns for the U.S. Congress. Smith lost to incumbent U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, in 2014 and 2022. In August, Smith was appointed to represent Idaho on the Republican National Committee.

Legislative District 32 is located entirely within Bonneville County in eastern Idaho. The district includes the cities of Ammon, Iona and a portion of the city of Idaho Falls, as well as portions of western Bonneville County. 

The winner of Tuesday’s Republican primary election will advance to the Nov. 5 general election to run against Democrat Patricia Dustin Stanger.

The Idaho Capital Sun sent the same four questions to each of the candidates in the race. Horman responded, Coletti said he did not have time to complete the questionnaire and Smith did not respond to multiple requests to complete the questionnaire. Continue reading to find Horman’s answers to the Sun’s questionnaire. 

Idaho’s abortion law is one of the strictest in the nation, and many doctors and hospital administrators have said it has made recruitment and retention of OB-GYNs and maternal-fetal medicine specialists even more difficult, especially in rural areas. Do you support any legislation, such as health exceptions, that would amend or clarify Idaho’s abortion law?

Horman: “Idaho’s law is clear: abortion is illegal except in the case of rape, incest or if the life of a mother is in danger. A physician may use all tools necessary in ‘good faith medical judgment’  to save the life of a mother. IC 18-622(4) reads ‘Medical treatment provided to a pregnant woman by a health care professional as defined in this chapter that results in the accidental death of, or unintentional injury to, the unborn child shall not be a violation of this section.’ 

To my knowledge, no physician has been sued in Idaho for performing an abortion to save the life of a mother. Bonneville County voters are overwhelmingly pro-life and I will evaluate any future legislation defining life of the mother on their behalf. 

Idaho has been at or near the bottom of physicians per capita for many years, long before the Defense of Life Act became law. There are many nuances to the issue of physician recruitment, including for OB-GYNs. I personally am aware that some physicians want to move to Idaho to avoid performing abortions. Other issues impacting maternal care in Idaho include the high cost of malpractice insurance, the declining birthrate and low Medicaid reimbursement rates.”

Idaho Legislature's Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee co-chairwoman Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls
The Idaho Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee co-chairwoman Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls, listens to proceedings at the Idaho State Capitol building on Jan. 11, 2023. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

Do you support public dollars being used for private education, including through tax credits or education savings accounts available to parents, or any other means? Why or why or not?

Horman: “Yes. Idaho already uses public dollars for private education, starting with the Launch program which can be used at public, private and religious institutions. The Advanced Opportunity program (which funds high school students seeking college credits and technical credentials), the Opportunity Scholarship (for college-bound students) and the Empowering Parents Microgrants (for K-12 students) all support students who attend public, private and religious schools. 

These existing programs are fully Constitutional in Idaho. Research is clear that increasing educational choice improves outcomes for all children, including those in public schools. Keeping in mind that NONE of the school choice bills I have sponsored with Sen. Den Hartog proposed taking money away from public schools, the 2024 BSU Public Policy Survey asked respondents this question: ‘Would you favor or oppose a plan to allow Idaho parents to take that $8,000 out of the public school system and use it to enroll their child in a private or religious school?’ 49% of survey respondents said they favor such a plan. 65% of Republicans, 46% of Independents and 35% of Democrats. School choice and parents’ rights to choose the best education option for their child regardless of their income and ZIP code is not a fringe issue. It is at the center of the electorate and crosses ideological lines.” 

Transgender people and LGBTQ+ advocates in Idaho have testified that policies, such as redefining sex and gender, criminalizing doctors for providing gender-affirming care to youth, among others, are harmful to the transgender community and undermine their existence. Do you agree? Why or why not?

Horman: “I voted to support H71 which protects children struggling with an identity crisis from making decisions that could permanently damage their body and soul. I do not believe it undermines these children’s existence; I believe it protects them. We don’t let children buy alcohol or vote or drive or even use a tanning bed until they are old enough to understand the potential consequences do so responsibly. The best way to protect youth in identity crisis is not to help them secretly hide their struggles from their parents or to surgically remove or add body parts. H71 was called The Vulnerable Child Protective Act for a reason. That’s exactly what it does: protect children from choices they don’t yet have the maturity to make for reasons that may very well be transitory, situational or influenced by social media.” 

According to the 2024 Boise State University Idaho public policy survey, Idahoans continue to be concerned about a range of issues surrounding growth, housing and economic security. As a legislator, what specific steps would you take to address those concerns?

Horman: “Limiting the size of government by keeping taxes low and reining in government spending. I have supported $3.7 billion in tax cuts and rebates in the last four years. Gov. Little and the legislature have worked collaboratively to pay off debt, invest one-time funds in infrastructure such as roads, bridges, water projects and broadband. We have been recognized for our fiscal decisions with a AAA credit rating. 

Sen. Scott Grow and I led an effort during the 2024 legislative session for a more transparent and accountable budgeting process. For the first time ever, we separated base (fixed) spending from growth (new) spending. We have now put in place a building block that moves Idaho from basic compliance with budget laws toward accountability for efficient and effective use of taxpayer dollars, in the direction of performance-based budgeting. We will be connecting spending to the promised outcomes for the first time. This is great news for taxpayers, their pocketbooks and economic security.”