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2024 primary to watch: Simpson takes on challengers in 2nd Congressional District GOP election

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2024 primary to watch: Simpson takes on challengers in 2nd Congressional District GOP election

May 17, 2024 | 6:25 am ET
By Clark Corbin
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2024 primary to watch: Simpson takes on challengers in 2nd Congressional District GOP election
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Republicans, from left, Mike Simpson, Sean Higgins and Scott Cleveland are running to represent Idaho in Congress. (Courtesy of the candidates)

A pair of Republican challengers is hoping to unseat Idaho’s senior congressman in the upcoming May 21 primary election in Idaho’s 2nd Congressional District. 

Scott Cleveland, R-Eagle, and Sean Higgins, R-Boise, are running against incumbent GOP U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, who has served in Congress since 1999.

Need more 2024 Idaho primary election information?

Check out IdahoVotes.gov for information on polling places, voter registration, early voting locations, candidate filings, campaign finance records and more.

Idaho’s 2nd congressional district splits Ada County and includes most of Boise, as well as the entire counties of Lemhi, Custer, Elmore, Camas, Blaine, Lincoln, Gooding, Jerome, Minidoka, Twin Falls, Cassia, Butte, Clark, Fremont, Jefferson, Madison, Teton, Bonneville, Bingham, Power, Bannock, Caribou, Oneida, Franklin and Bear Lake. 

Voters can visit the newly redesigned Vote Idaho website that is run by the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office to double check which congressional district they live in. 

The winner of the May 21 Republican primary election for Idaho’s 2nd Congressional District will advance to the Nov. 5 general election to run against Democrat David Roth and the winner of the May 21 Idaho Constitution Party primary between candidates Idaho Law – Carta Sierra and Pro-Life, a person formerly known as Marvin Richardson. 

The Idaho Capital Sun asked each of the candidates in the contested Republican congressional  primary the same five questions. Continue reading to find their answers.

What are the top three issues that inspired you to run for office?

Scott Cleveland: 

“a. Idaho freedoms are under threat. Washington D.C. is undermining those freedoms with open borders, dangerous and unnecessary military action and the betrayal of the American principle of Federalism by a power-hungry Washington elite.

  1. Idaho resources are under threat. We must protect our water and energy at the federal level. I strongly support protecting the lower four Snake River dams that Mike Simpson wants to breach. I strongly support the Idaho National Laboratory and safe nuclear energy for Idaho, but oppose costly, inefficient wind farms such as the Lava Ridge project.
  2. Idaho prosperity is under threat – Washington D.C. spending is obscene. Mike Simpson voted “yes” to funding student loan bailouts, the Ukraine war and the Green New Deal. He will not protect your hard-earned dollars. I will.”


Sean Higgins: 

Term Limits, US Border, US Budget.”

Mike Simpson: 

I’m running for re-election because there is still much to do in Washington, and Idahoans deserve an effective Representative who has a proven track record of fighting for our conservative values. My top priority is to secure our southern border. This issue is critical to our national security and safety of our communities. The Biden administration is failing the American people, and states and communities across the nation are picking up the slack.

Another priority of mine is restoring American energy independence. The volatility around the world has shown why we can’t keep relying on foreign oil, and I’ll continue to use my position to fight against the Biden administration’s war on fossil fuels.  

With the crisis at our southern border, it’s difficult to have any conversations in Congress about desperately needed reforms to our legal immigration processes. Agriculture is the backbone of Idaho’s economy, and I’ve spent my entire career in Congress fighting for our farmers, ranchers, and producers. Overwhelmingly, the biggest issue facing agriculture is a labor shortage. That’s why I’ve twice proposed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. Our country urgently needs to reform its legal immigration system, and if re-elected, this bill would be a top priority.”

Idaho relies on water and agriculture for its economy and faces longer and more severe wildfire seasons. Do you believe climate change poses a threat to Idaho? What policies do you support to address the state’s vulnerability to climate change?

Scott Cleveland:

“Natural causes of climate change include volcanic eruptions, fluctuations in solar radiation, tectonic shifts, minor changes in Earth’s orbit and other events. These events impact planetary warming and cooling patterns. Such patterns will continue to fluctuate as they

always have – very slowly. One way to prepare Idaho to be climate-resilient in the future is for Idaho to be resilient in the present. We need to use and responsibly maintain the natural resources with which we are blessed – our hydroelectric power and water stores, our farmland, our forests and our extractive resources. The National Forest Service has stated that 90% of wildfires are caused by humans, either through carelessness (campfires, power equipment use,

unpruned trees near powerlines, etc.) or arson. The impact of such human-caused wildfires can be greatly lessened by responsible forest management and stewardship which means we need to bring back logging and grazing to our woodlands.”

Sean Higgins: 

Climate change does not pose a threat to Idaho or the world. Let’s take a moment to go down memory lane. In 2006, former vice-president Al Gore projected that unless drastic measures were implemented, the planet would hit an irreversible ‘point of no return’ by 2016. Rajendra Pachauri, head of the UN Climate Panel, one-upped Gore in 2007, insisting 2012 was the year of irreversibility. ‘If there is no action before 2012, that’s too late. What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment.’ Then, Gretta Thunberg tweeted in 2018 that said, ‘A top climate scientist is warning that climate change will wipe out all of humanity unless we stop using fossil fuels over the next five years.’ Which has now been deleted. Climate change is a false narrative pushed by the liberal agenda.”

Mike Simpson: 

“As a lifelong Idahoan, I am deeply concerned about protecting our environment to ensure that we continue to have clean air and water, as well as guaranteeing long-term sustainability of ecosystems, habitats, and species.

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I strongly believe that we need to be realistic about where our energy will come from in the short and medium term, and to make sure our energy policies reflect those realities. We know that fossil and nuclear sources provide 85% of our current energy consumption and need carefully crafted proposals to increase our energy independence and reduce emissions in an effective and reasonable way. Instead, many of the proposals put forth by the Biden administration have promised large tax increases, higher energy costs, and major job losses, all without any real improvements in climate conditions.

Instead of creating a host of government mandates and forcing consumers to foot the bill for this legislation, I support using technology, incentives, and innovation to move our economy to sustainable, independent energy sources. I believe that to do so we must look at all the options, including renewable energy, nuclear energy, and domestic oil production.”

Which abortion-related policies do you support or oppose? Should abortion policy be a federal or state issue?

Scott Cleveland: 

“Abortion is now, and should be, a state issue. The Idaho state legislature and Idaho courts directly addressed the issue during the 2024 legislative session and can be expected to continue their deliberations during the upcoming session next year. As a candidate, I oppose abortion because I believe that life begins at conception.”

Sean Higgins: 

I fully support the pro-life policies the State of Idaho has passed. I am a conservative Republican and support a small federal government, and I believe states should have more power. So, abortion should be a state issue. If liberals don’t like the policies that conservative Idaho has passed, they should move back to their liberal states and enjoy high taxes, high crime, and homelessness. Don’t move to Idaho and try to change our great state.”

Mike Simpson: 

I have always used my seat in Congress to make sure the rights of the unborn are protected. I am proud of my 100% rating with National Right to Life and of my A+ rating from Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America. I oppose abortion except in instances of rape, incest, or if the life of the mother is in danger. I believe that the U.S. Supreme Court correctly ruled in the Dobbs decision that the power to enact pro-life legislation and regulate abortion be returned to the people and their elected officials.”

Should the United States continue to offer financial aid to Ukraine and Israel? Why or why not?

Scott Cleveland:

“a. The United States has already provided more than $75 billion for Ukraine’s security, far more than any other country. Russia cannot afford to lose a war to Ukraine and, in fact, is not losing. Ukraine has had few military successes. U.S. aid to Ukraine serves only to prolong a deadly conflict that has already cost both sides hundreds of thousands of casualties. An immediate diplomatic solution is in the American Interest. We should end this conflict with 1) the threat of heavy economic sanctions for Russia and 2) the assurance that Ukraine will not become a NATO country if Russia agrees to a cease-fire.

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In 19 47, the United Nations voted to partition Palestine and create the sovereign nation of Israel. The nations of the world agreed to this. Since then, Israel has become a strategic partner critical to the American Interest in the Middle East. Iran is our enemy and an enemy of our ally, Israel. Presidents Biden and Obama took actions during their presidencies that allowed Iran access to billions of dollars. This money can be used to wage war on Israel and, by proxy, the United States. We must protect our own interests in the Middle East.”

Sean Higgins: 

The United States should absolutely NOT offer financial aid to Ukraine or Israel. The US is giving money away that we do not have. Our country is almost $35 trillion dollars in debt. Americans are struggling with inflation and are in a silent depression while our government takes our money and gives it overseas. There is no accountability as to where the billions of dollars are going or how that money is really being used. If those countries want to purchase weapons from us, then I am fine with that. Our border remains unsecured while millions of illegal immigrants pour into our country. US infrastructure needs to be updated, but all of our money goes to foreign countries. 70% of Americans don’t want to send more money overseas. Is Congress listening to the American people that they represent?”

Mike Simpson: 

Foreign aid and support for our allies abroad are key elements in preserving our national security interests and keeping America strong. I’ve repeatedly voted to provide aid to Ukraine and Israel to ensure that they have the necessary resources to defend their democratic existence and will continue to support reasonable foreign aid spending. Continued aid to Ukraine helps the country fight its own battle, deters Vladimir Putin from advancing his war into NATO territory, and keeps American service members out of the conflict. Aid to Israel ensures Israel can defend its right to exist, a necessary condition to continue diplomatic efforts for a peaceful and secure Middle East.”

Should dams along the Snake River be breached in an effort to try to prevent the extinction of salmon? Why or why not?

Scott Cleveland:

“The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration stated in their 2020 report that ‘the Columbia River system, in the last decade, has seen the highest salmon returns since the first major federal dams were built in the 1930s’ and that the ‘lower Snake River dams…provide passage to both adult and juvenile salmon [via fish ladders and spillways].’ ‘[These dams have]…among the most advanced and effective fish passage systems anywhere.’ ‘Juvenile fish pass through the dams with a 70-75% survival rate.’

I believe there is no environmental justification for breaching the dams and there is certainly no economic advantage to Idaho citizens. We need reliable hydroelectric power and water catchment systems to support Idaho homes, industries and agriculture. Special interests may favor breaching the dams but Idaho citizens do not.”

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Sean Higgins: 

Dams along the Snake River should absolutely NOT be breached. Breaching the dams hurt Idaho and Idahoans. This is a terrible idea. Why is Mike Simpson in favor of breaching the dams? To best answer that question, we have to follow the money. 5% of the money he raised in 2024 came from Idahoans, while 95% of that money came from outside Idaho, such as Washington D.C. and California. As a native Idahoan, I am highly concerned about the outside influence being inflicted on Idaho. Another thought I have is genuinely wondering if, instead of giving Ukraine billions of dollars, Idaho received one billion dollars. We could look at what options are available to help the salmon and NOT breach the dams. What if we put Americans first and used taxpayer money to help Americans?

Mike Simpson: 

“For over thirty years, the Northwest has been caught in an unsustainable cycle of conflict over salmon and energy. As salmon species listed under the Endangered Species Act decline in number, interest groups sue the federal government to protect them. The federal government then changes how the lower Snake River dams must operate, which makes them more expensive to run, reduces the benefits they can provide, and requires farmers in Eastern Idaho to send hundreds of thousands of acre-feet of water they could otherwise use to irrigate their crops down the Snake River to help salmon through the system of dams. Despite these changes, salmon numbers continue to go down, leading to more lawsuits. Under this current state of affairs, the only winners are trial lawyers and endless government spending. Salmon, energy, agriculture, and transportation interests all suffer.

The relationships between our Pacific Northwest communities, Idaho salmon, and the four lower Snake River dams are complex. Any attempt at approaching this issue must be a collaborative effort, which is why I released my original framework to begin the conversation of what the Northwest could look like in 30, 40, or 50 years”