OSBURN — For over ten years, Idaho has had the same man in its governor’s position- Mr. Clement Leroy “Butch” Otter.
With Otter’s decision to step down at the end of this term though, the race for the governor’s office is wide open.
One of the men hoping to make that office is own is businessman and former ER doctor, Tommy Ahlquist.
Ahlquist, 49, a self described political outsider who has never held public office, swung through Shoshone County on Friday, Oct. 6 to speak with residents about his plan for the state.
This visit is part of a 44-stop campaign across the state where plans to speak in every county in Idaho.
Putting an emphasis on the issues of education, ethics & term limits, health care, tax reform, and small business, Ahlquist laid out his beliefs to attendees at the Osburn VFW Hall.
“I think it’s time for true leadership,” he said during his opening speech.
“We need to create pathways for success.”
Much of Ahlquist’s speech (and the event itself) focused on the topic of education.
According to the Education Week Research Center, Idaho received a D+ grade and ranks 46th out of the entire county in overall education for 2017.
Ahlquist addressed what he believes to be the issues Idaho is having in regard to this subject.
“I’ve asked really good people who love our kids and love education, ‘what does student achievement mean? Where are we headed?’ and you get a whole bunch of different answers.”
In order to fix the state’s education system, he stressed that “we need to all be on the same page.”
A handout given to audience members at the event detailed out what Ahlquist thinks should be on that aforementioned page.
In addition to ensuring coordinated efforts between state education agencies and reducing the number of state mandates by 25 percent, the handout also states that he wants to “create a line of sight between Idaho kids and Idaho kobs by engaging industry with our schools.”
In his speech, Ahlquist also described what he would like to be new “clearly defined” student achievement standards — reading proficiency by third grade and math proficiency by eighth.
These new standards, he explained, would work in conjunction with a new emphasis on streamlining the high school to college process.
“In Idaho,” he explained, “we pay — it’s a great thing — up to $4,000 per student in dual credits. Sounds great, right? Did you know in Idaho, 50 percent of those credits don’t even transfer into our public universities that we also pay for as taxpayers? It’ll be a hundred percent when I’m Governor!”
As someone who has worked in the medical field, Ahlquist also shared his thoughts on the health care situation in Idaho.
“Health care,” he simply stated, “it’s a mess.”
He explained further that, “we used to have a patient-centric, primary care-centric delivery of medicine in America and it shifted (over time) to a hospital-centric (system)…so people are now charging what they can, regardless of cost.”
To address this point, Ahlquist said he would fight to bring back the “doctor-patient relationship,” oppose federal mandates “that have made insurance unaffordable in Idaho,” and “create transparency for the pricing and options for health care.”
During the question and answer portion of his visit, an audience member asked what his stance is on the management of federal land in Idaho.
According to the Congressional Research Service, more than 60 percent of Idaho is owned or managed by the federal government.
The percentage is even higher in Shoshone County.
Ahlquist responded by stressing that local management of the lands is the key.
“We need to be the stewards of the land- both for access and for use,” he said.
“Anything I can do as Governor to improve Idaho’s position on either of those fronts — access or use — we will do.”
In regard to his voting record, Ahlquist admitted he did not vote for Donald Trump in the last election and instead wrote in Marco Rubio.
He explained that it was an “emotional decision” since this was near the time that an Access Hollywood clip was leaked to the public of Trump saying he “grabs” women in a sexual way and kisses them.
Ahlquist made it clear after elaborating that he supports the president.
“I love what President Trump is doing,” he said.
Following the candidate’s visit, the News-Press also spoke with Kip McGillivary, Osburn’s mayor and county chair for Ahlquist’s campaign in our area.
McGillivary said he decided to support Ahlquist’s campaign because of who he is as a person and his approach to running the state.
“He approaches it like he’s running a business,” he explained, “that’s kind of how I viewed it when I ran for mayor- looking at the city as a business.”
Ahlquist’s major opponents running against him in the GOP primary for governor are Idaho Lt. Governor Brad Little and U.S. Representative Raúl Labrador.
The Coeur d’Alene Press contributed to the article.