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Idaho Senate candidates debate federal government’s role in health care, social issues

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Idaho Senate candidates debate federal government’s role in health care, social issues

Oct 04, 2022 | 10:05 pm ET
By Kelcie Moseley-Morris
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Idaho Senate candidates debate federal government’s role in health care, social issues
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From left: Independent candidate Scott Cleveland, Republican Sen. Mike Crapo and Democrat David Roth debate on Idaho Public Television on Monday afternoon. (Jim Hadley/Idaho Public Television)

Candidates in the race for one of Idaho’s Senate seats in the United States Congress covered a wide range of issues at a debate held Monday night, with an emphasis on inflation, national debt and abortion.

U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, is seeking his fifth term in the U.S. Senate, a seat he has held since 1999. His opponents, Democrat David Roth and independent candidate Scott Cleveland recorded a debate Monday afternoon at Idaho Public Television that aired Tuesday evening because of scheduling issues. Cleveland is the owner of an investment and brokerage firm in Eagle, and Roth is the executive director of the Bonneville Youth Development Council in Idaho Falls.   

Crapo defended many aspects of his record in Congress from both opponents, including criticism of his vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill from Cleveland and his votes against the CHIPS Act and the Pact Act from Roth. Cleveland said any bill that would add to the federal deficit should be voted against in Congress.

Crapo said he has effectively and aggressively fought for Idaho principles and said he has voted against every spending bill in Congress. What America needs, Crapo said, is to return to a Republican-controlled government to continue the successes the country enjoyed before President Joe Biden was elected, when inflation was much lower and crime statistics were lower.

“The solution here is to give the Republican Party and a Republican Senate the control over the agenda so that we don’t continue to see Biden, (Sen. Chuck) Schumer and (Speaker of the House Nancy) Pelosi driving this runaway spending, driving these open borders and causing all the difficulties we’re talking about today,” Crapo said.

Roth said while it’s important to examine what’s causing inflation and national debt, he criticized Crapo’s support of tax cuts passed by former President Donald Trump that added $1.5 trillion to the deficit over the next decade and said more should be done to invest in local communities.

Federal government shouldn’t intervene in health care market, Crapo says 

The candidates fielded questions about health care and prescription drug costs, including Crapo’s vote against the Inflation Reduction Act, which is expected to bring costs down for seniors on Medicare through negotiated drug prices and slightly lower premiums.

Crapo said he voted against the bill because it would not reduce inflation, and said he consistently opposes efforts to increase federal involvement in the country’s health care economy. Crapo said he has his own bill that would reduce costs without government involvement by enhancing opportunities for alternative medications that would increase competition in the market.

Roth said as the largest purchaser of prescription drugs in the world, the United States should wield more power over drug pricing, and as someone with Type 2 diabetes, he supports efforts to decrease the cost of insulin.

“Health care needs to be affordable,” Roth said. “We need the support of the Affordable Care Act … and options to reduce those costs for Americans across the country.”

Cleveland said more competition would be effective in reducing drug prices and improving quality, and said the same should be done with regard to school choice.

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On gay rights, abortion, candidates disagree over state’s rights

The candidates also discussed gay marriage, and Crapo said he will not vote in favor of the bill that would codify gay marriage nationally, saying the U.S. Supreme Court was right to define it as a state’s rights issue and it should stay that way.

Roth said as a member of the LGBTQ community, he would vote in favor of the bill so that all people have the same marriage rights regardless of what state they are in.

Cleveland said he is “OK with the gay” and does not believe gay people should face any type of discrimination in housing or employment, but he does not think they should receive special treatment like celebrating Gay Pride Month or having a rainbow flag to represent gay pride.

“If we’re going to reduce discrimination in America, we need to treat everybody the same, including the gay community,” Cleveland said.

On abortion, the candidates were similarly opposed, with Crapo and Cleveland saying it is a state’s rights issue that every state should decide on its own.

“Anything that is not in the United States Constitution falls to the state to decide,” Cleveland said.

Roth said abortion laws should be consistently applied across the country.

“I believe that those fundamental rights, those rights that make up who we are as Americans are not left up to the states. They need to be the same regardless of where we are,” Roth said. “It is completely ridiculous that two people sitting at the moderator’s table have fewer rights here than they would if they drove an hour west. We are the United States of America, we are one country, so who you are as a person shouldn’t vary from place to place.”

Candidates for Idaho's U.S. Senate seat
From left: Independent candidate Scott Cleveland, Republican Mike Crapo and Democrat David Roth take questions from reporters at Idaho Public Television’s debate on Monday afternoon. (Aaron Kunz/Idaho Public Television)

On affordable housing, two candidates see need for expanded tax credits in Idaho 

The candidates also touched on affordable housing in Idaho, and all three acknowledged it was an important issue. Cleveland said the poor will always be among society no matter what we do, and there are social safety nets in place with nonprofit organizations, but he does not see a role for the federal government in building affordable housing.

Crapo said he has advocated for expanding and strengthening the low-income housing tax credit to incentivize more building of affordable housing.

“We need to get more capital committed in the United States to construction of affordable housing, and that’s exactly what that tax credit has a wonderful record of doing,” Crapo said. “I think that’s one of the most critical things we can do at this point.”

Roth said as a member of the board for Habitat for Humanity in Idaho Falls, he is familiar with the issue and the tax incentives need to match with companies who will pay their workers a living wage to avoid compounding the problem. He wants to see more partnerships between private companies and local governments, and tax credits for first-time homebuyers.

Other congressional candidates in Idaho refuse to debate

The debate is the only one that will take place for Idaho’s Congressional seats, because Reps. Mike Simpson and Russ Fulcher, both R-Idaho, declined to participate in debates with their opponents. Simpson also declined to participate in the May Republican primary debate.

Idaho Capital Sun reporter Clark Corbin was a member of the reporter panel at Monday’s debate asking questions of the candidates.

Two other debates are also scheduled:

  • At 8 p.m. Mountain Time / 7 p.m. Pacific Time on Oct. 24, the Idaho superintendent of public instruction debate featuring Republican Debbie Critchfield and Democrat Terry Gilbert will be broadcast live on Idaho Public Television and streamed on YouTube.
  • At 8 p.m. Mountain Time / 7 p.m. Pacific Time on Oct. 28, the Idaho lieutenant governor’s debate featuring Republican Scott Bedke and Democrat Terri Pickens Manweiler will be broadcast live on Idaho Public Television and streamed on YouTube.

The general election will take place Nov. 8, and the deadline to request an absentee ballot is Oct. 28.

To watch a recording of the debate, go to Idaho Public Television’s YouTube channel or the archived recordings. Idaho Debates producers will also rebroadcast the debates with Spanish-language captioning for the first time, and the Spanish versions will also be available online.