With the primary election a little more than a month away, state Rep. Russ Mathews, R-Idaho Falls, wants voters in Idaho's 2nd Congressional District to know that he is much different than incumbent Rep. Mike Simpson, who has held the seat for the past 11 years. Mathews, in an interview with IdahoReporter.com, was particularly critical of Simpson's vote for the Temporary Asset Relief Program, better known as TARP.
Mathews said that Simpson was out-of-step with Idaho's congressional delegation when he voted for the measure in 2008. Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo opposed the bill, as did Idaho's 1st District Congressman Bill Sali. Former Idaho Sen. Larry Craig voted to support TARP. Simpson told IdahoReporter.com that he felt that due to the economic circumstances of the times he needed to vote for TARP to prevent more dire consequences. Mathews called his vote "outrageous" and that the whole bailout program was "a bad idea." Additionally, in talking about the economy in general, Mathews said that both Republicans and Democrats - and Simpson - have led the country on an "unsustainable course of debt and deficit spending."
Mathews, like Simpson, has desires to repeal the recently passed federal health care reforms. He said that reforms are essentially flawed because they require individual citizens to a purchase a product from private companies. Innovation and industry, Mathews believes, are the keys to the nation finding its way out of the health care crisis. He said that companies like Wal-Mart and Walgreen's that have recently started offering generic medication for $4 for a month's supply are good examples of what private companies can do to solve problems.
The Idaho Health Freedom Act, which authorized the state attorney general to sue the federal government over the reforms, originated out of a committee on which Mathews sat, and has had his seal of approval all the way through the legislative process. He said that the lawsuit currently under way, initiated by Idaho and 13 other states, is an example of checks and balances between the states and the federal government.
"We need to remember our background," said Mathews. "The states created the federal government, the federal government did not create the states."
Democrat candidate for governor, Keith Allred, proposed that Idaho drop the suit and go its own way on health care reforms, which could make the state exempt from federal regulations. Mathews, like Gov. Butch Otter, rejected Allred's idea, saying that the proposal would still be unconstitutional in his mind.
"The huge flaw in that proposal is that there’s still a compulsion to buy," said Mathews.
On politics generally, Mathews said that America, and its politicians, are too divided and that conservative, liberals, and everyone else must learn to compromise and work together to accomplish the "greater good." He said that in the state Legislature, he would collaborate with someone of different political ideologies in order to pass the best version of a bill possible.
"You can work with everybody," said Mathews.
He faces a tough fight in the four-way Republican primary, but Mathews believes he can win when voters go to the polls on May 25. "If we get the message out, voters will see I am the true conservative voice in Idaho's 2nd District. Chick Heilson, with the backing of much of the Tea Party crowd, has, like Mathews, become a viable challenger to Simpson's11 year reign in the eastern part of the state. Though Mathews believes that Heilson would make a good state legislator in the future, he feels that electing Heilson, who has never served in a Legislature of any kind, is something that Idaho cannot afford.
Unlike Simpson, Mathews has endorsed a candidate in the state's other battle for Congress. Earlier this year, Mathews signed on, with 32 other lawmakers from around the state, to endorse state Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Eagle, in his fight against Vaughn Ward for the right to face Democrat incumbent in Idaho's 1st Congressional District. Both primaries will be decided on May 25.