Voters in Idaho's 2nd Congressional District, which covers the eastern portion of the state, including parts of Boise, Twin Falls, Pocatello, Idaho Falls, and Rexburg, can get a closer look at the three men who want to represent them in the U.S. Congress. Republicans Mike Simpson, who has held the seat since being elected in 1999, Chick Heileson, and state Rep. Russ Mathews, R-Idaho Falls, are set to debate Sunday night at the Idaho State Capitol building as part of Idaho Public Television's (IPTV) effort to televise debates for all major primary races.
The debate is set for 7 p.m. It will be broadcast live over Idaho Public Television. Those wishing to attend the event live can do so. The forum will take place in the 200-seat Capitol auditorium. Doors close at 6:45 p.m. and no shouting, clapping, or booing will be allowed. The debate will go for one hour. The Republican Primary election is set for May 25.
IPTV has already held a debate for a seat on Idaho's Supreme Court and will televise a debate on Tuesday, May 11, among Republicans vying for the 1st District nod to face Democratic incumbent Walt Minnick. The top contenders are thought to be Marine reservist Vaughn Ward and state Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Eagle.
IPTV will also feature a debate between Rex Rammell and Ada County Commissioner Sharon Ulman, who are squaring off with Gov. Butch Otter in the Republican gubernatorial primary. Otter said he will not attend because the debate does not feature all the candidates running in the primary. That debate will take place Tuesday, May 18, and will also be held at the Capitol.
Those watching the 2nd Congressional District debate Sunday are likely to see political fireworks. It will be the first primary debate in which Simpson has taken part in the 2010 election season. He declined to participate in a Tea Party forum for congressional candidates on May 1, saying that his official duties interfered with the event. His two challengers, Heileson and Mathews, may be looking to jab Simpson on his vote for the Temporary Asset Relief Program, better known as TARP. Mathews told IdahoReporter.com that Simpson was out-of-step with Idaho's congressional delegation when he supported the measure and Heileson said that Simpson's vote was unconstitutional. Simpson said that after listening to expert testimony on possible financial woes if the government didn't act to rescue failing banks, he was convinced enough to support the measure.
In other domestic affairs, the three men offer some similarities in their platforms. All three believe that federal health care reforms, passed by Congress in March of this year, must be repealed. On immigration, the three agree that the country must secure its borders and create an efficient guest worker program to allow workers streamlined access to legal work in the United States.
There may also be some sparks in between the two challengers on Sunday. Mathews told IdahoReporter.com that he feels Heileson would make a great state legislator, but doesn't have enough experience to be effective in Congress. Mathews said that electing Heileson is something that Idaho just cannot afford. In his own defense, Heileson said that he already knows the Constitution and parliamentary procedure isn't too hard to learn. “If you know the rule book, which is the Constitution, that’s the most important thing,” said Heileson. “I’ve studied that for 30 or 40 years.”
According to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), Simpson is winning the money race in the district, as incumbents typically do given advantages of increased notoriety and name-recognition. According to the latest FEC figures, Simpson has $428,568 in his campaign war chest, while Heileson has received$81,970 in campaign money compared to Mathews’ 17,449. Heileson, with $9,000, and Mathews, with $15,109, both have campaign debt. Simpson has none.