2018 Candidate Questionnaire

Legislative Candidates

By Ben Olson
Reader Staff

We believe strongly in informing the community about candidates running for public office. As part of our commitment to this effort, we present this questionnaire for candidates in legislative races. Next week, we’ll feature a questionnaire from all the county candidates. SandpointOnline.com is also a great resource for election information, as well as the Bonner County Elections Page. Finally, don’t forget to vote Tuesday, Nov. 6. Polls are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.


Questions for all Legislative candidates:

1. Tell us why you entered politics.

2. Do you support or oppose Medicaid expansion in Idaho? What are your reasons for your position?

3. In the past several years, we’ve seen the Idaho Legislature working to boost its spending on education. Moving forward, what changes would you support for the education system, if any at all.

4. One source of disagreement that recently emerged among Republicans is the approach to take with undocumented laborers in the state’s agricultural industry. What is your opinion on this issue?

5. When it comes to budgeting for the state, what do you believe are the priorities for the Legislature to focus on?

6. Washington is beginning the scoping process for its EIS on the proposed Newport smelter. What do you think about the smelter, and what influence do you think you could have on the approval process if elected?

7. We’re beginning to learn more about BNSF’s proposed expansion to its rail system in Sandpoint. What is your opinion of this project?


State Senate District 1:

Jim Woodward


Jim Woodward with “Juliet” (his puppy) and “Jasmine” (his full grown golden). Courtesy photo.

Age: 47

Years of residence in North Idaho: 37 – I lived overseas as an exchange student, and I lived throughout the U.S. during my time in the Navy. Otherwise, Brenda and I have always known that North Idaho is the best place to live and work.

Marital status/family: Happily married to Brenda for 24 years. Two children: Avery and Anna. I have a fairly large extended family in the area as my mom’s three sisters – Barb Fournier, Liz Stephenson and Bev Kee – all live in Sandpoint and have children living throughout North Idaho.

Email: [email protected].

Facebook: Jim Woodward

Phone: (208) 946-7963


Education: Bonners Ferry High School

University of Idaho, BS Mechanical Engineering; U.S. Navy Nuclear Power Training.

Recent or pertinent employment history: Owner, APEX Construction Services, 2008-present; C.E. Kramer Crane and Contracting, 2000-2008; U.S. Navy submarine officer, 1991-2012 (seven years of active service and fourteen years of reserve service).

Public offices held: Director, Northern Lights Electric Cooperative, 2014-present.

Nonprofit groups, service or professional organizations to which you belong: My volunteer work has typically involved taking on projects which utilize our construction company skills. Some of the projects we’ve completed include demolition of the Memorial Field grandstands for the city of Sandpoint, installing new piling at Dog Beach adjacent the Long Bridge in conjunction with the Long Bridge Swim organization and playground drainage improvements at Southside School. I also volunteer in the schools both as a guest speaker and sometimes as a worker bee.

Other experiences or skills that qualify you for office: I’ve spent four years studying and observing the Idaho legislature to prepare myself. In addition, I have a combination of experience from working in the federal government (the U.S. Navy), contracting with local, state, and federal government as a public works contractor, and working for individual homeowners throughout our two counties in District 1 as an excavation contractor. Having lived almost three-quarters of my life in Bonner or Boundary County, I have great respect for our lifestyle here and have perspective on the changes we make as we grow. As a state senator, I can use those experiences to effectively interface with government agencies, listen to and work for people in the district, and make decisions which best represent the interests of us as Idahoans.


1. Throughout the campaign process, I’ve repeated the statement that I am not too interested in politics, but I would like to serve in public decision making. We have decisions to make at the local, state, and federal level for the good of the whole. I’d like to take my turn participating in the process as a citizen legislator because I appreciate what we have in Idaho and the United States. Our high quality of life is a result of our system of representative government which requires participation. Participation may take the form of voting, volunteering, actively engaging in public discussions, or serving in an elected position. Just to be clear though, know that when the legislature is not in session, you’ll still typically find me running around North Idaho in my Carhartt pants and a t-shirt, working in the dirt.

2. I wholeheartedly support figuring out an answer to the current situation where a group of people in the middle are being left out in the cold, although I think we might do better in the long wrong as a society with an answer other than straight expansion of Medicaid.

Decision-making is performed on the facts of the matter at the time of the decision. The facts are that the Affordable Care Act of 2010 is the law and that Medicaid would have been expanded as part of the implementation of the law if not for a Supreme Court decision in 2012 that allowed states not to expand Medicaid coverage. As a result, we now have a situation where a significant number of Idahoans make enough money that they are not eligible for Medicaid coverage, yet they don’t make enough to receive ACA tax credits to help purchase healthcare insurance on the exchange. It is essentially an administrative glitch that needs to be taken care of, one way or another. Medicaid expansion is not my preference. I would like to see the U.S. Congress go back and fix the problem, perhaps by lowering the lower income limit on the ACA credits. The chances of that are slim, so I understand that we must take care of the problem here in Idaho. I will honor the votes cast in the citizen ballot initiative process, but I also want to see an accountable system that does not become a way of life.

Finally, I think the focus has been in the wrong spot for decades. We’re always talking about providing affordable health insurance, which is going after a symptom of the problem. The underlying problem is the cost of healthcare. If healthcare were more affordable, having insurance to cover the costs of routine healthcare wouldn’t be the issue it is. We don’t use auto insurance to buy tires or put fuel in our cars. We use it for the significant events.

3. Education is a building block of our society. I support our public education system as a means of providing people the fundamental knowledge and skills necessary to live a rewarding and independent life. The Idaho Teacher Career Ladder has been a successful program in that it provided a five year plan. Because there was a plan in place, I think the question for the legislature every year has been simpler. ‘Do we or do we not continue with the plan?’ versus ‘What is the plan this year?’ As we enter the fifth year of the career ladder program, we should establish another strategic plan to continue moving forward. I am a firm believer in the old school method of success… consistent effort at a sustainable level. I’m not sure we need to change our educational methods as much as we do. We do need to hire and retain the best teachers, provide stable funding for staff and facilities and develop a culture of learning.

4. This is an issue that primarily affects southern Idaho, so I have not yet had a lot of conversations on the topic. What I do know, is that immigration is controlled at the federal level. If we have undocumented laborers in the work force, then we have an existing law that isn’t being enforced. At the same time, we have to acknowledge that Idaho agriculture depends on immigrant labor to accomplish the work of the day. We, as a country, can come up with an answer to ensure immigrant labor arrives in a legal status while not upending the apple cart.

5. Whatever level of government we’re talking about, I like to see the focus on topics that are appropriate to that level of government, whether it be local, state or federal. For state government in Idaho, education and transportation are two primary roles. If we focus on the basics, the peripheral parts of life fall into place as a result of good practices. Idaho operates in a fiscally responsible manner with our

constitutionally mandated balanced budget. I fully support our balanced budget and I believe that investing in education and transportation is investing in our future.

6. I am not excited about the idea of a smelter in our area, a place that we treasure for it’s clean water, clean air, and natural beauty. I do respect the process and existing laws that allow a private company to apply for a permit to operate a business that complies with current environmental discharge regulations. We’re seeing the public feedback part of that process and it’s clear that most people are not interested in a smelter operating in the area. As a state senator, I can make sure that our state agencies are actively engaging with their Washington counterparts and I can make sure our voice is heard in the process, but most interaction with the state of Washington will happen through our executive branch of government or through our federal delegation. Washington State Department of Ecology has regulatory authority over the proposed project. Our Idaho Department of Environmental Quality is interfacing with Washington DOE and will continue to do so.

7. I think the project is a net positive for the area. I live south of Sandpoint and get to observe train traffic standing still on a daily basis, while a southbound train moves past a northbound train or vice versa. I know of a few near fatal accidents at railroad crossings because of trains sitting still near crossings while another train is taking its turn on a section of single track. With two-way traffic, just like any highway or road we travel, trains will move at a consistent speed. So, from a safety perspective at the railroad crossings it is an improvement. It is also an improvement when considering the noise and excessive fuel burn when starting and stopping a train. Finally, railroads are a part of our U.S. economy. As a 5-year old, I lived in what is now the Pine Street Bakery. Many hours were spent in front of the house counting train cars as they passed through town, between our house and Dub’s, on the path we currently use for walking and cycling. Geography dictates that the trains come through Sandpoint. Perhaps, with appropriate operating practices, we can continue to consider them part of our storied Bonner County culture.


Vera Gadman


Vera Gadman.

Age: 73

Years of residence in North Idaho: 

20 years

Marital status/family: 

Email: [email protected]




Education: Hammersmith College of Art, London.

Recent or pertinent employment history: Graphic Designer.

Public offices held: Precinct Captain, Hope.

Nonprofit groups, service or professional organizations to which you belong:

Other experiences or skills that qualify you for office: As design director for a major New York branding firm, I worked with many Fortune 500 corporations. I oversaw the growth of the company from 2 employees to over two dozen during my tenure, providing project management and overseeing many design teams.


1. My belief is that the Idaho legislature is following a strict agenda controlled by the Washington Republicans. This is not why they were elected, they were elected to look after the needs of Idahoans before following a strict party line without taking into account the needs of their constituents.

2. I support Medicaid Expansion, Prop 2. First of all it will allow the 62,000 Idahoans caught in the gap of making too much for Medicaid but too little for the exchange. Now we pay for their care through emergency rooms and state catastrophic funds. Secondly, we already pay federal taxes for Medicaid programs, and this money is now going to other states, which prevents $400 million from coming back to Idaho.

3. Education support is critical to the future of Idaho. Governor Otter and the joint budget committee passed a 5.9-percent increase in public school funding. This is a welcome increase. I believe money should be directed towards paying the teachers more to encourage them to stay in Idaho rather than leaving the state to find jobs in other states offering a living wage . One in 5 teachers leave to go to other states for higher paying teaching jobs or they just don’t return to teaching. It costs Idaho over $6 million to replace these teachers every year. Research also shows we rank 49th in the nation on school spending. For every dollar spent per student in Idaho, the national average is $1.49.

4. Idaho’s farming industry — one of the state’s top economic drivers — benefits from immigrants who make up over 40 percent of its labor force. Along with the agricultural makeup we have a large dairy producing business that depends on laborers that have worked in this industry for many years. I support the idea of bringing in workers that support the economy by working these jobs. There is definitely a need for a comprehensive immigration bill to be passed by the Congress.

5. Education, health care support, infrastructure to keep our roads and bridges from becoming dangerous and providing more jobs.

6. Not only will the proposed smelter produce 320,000 tons of carbon monoxide annually, it is a silicon smelter which produces an invisible dust containing crystalline silica particles.  It only takes a very small amount of airborne silica dust to create a health hazard.  The additional trucking needed to carry wood chips to the smelter will be detrimental to Idaho roads and bridges and additional trains carrying silica from Canada and from coal from Kentucky will put additional strain on our roads and rail lines that will be costly to repair and all repairs will have to be paid for with Idaho taxes. I would like to see a State Environmental Policy Act review on emissions from the smelter and the Department of Ecology supply an environmental impact study of environmental, socio-economic, aesthetic, and noise level impacts of a proposed smelter.

7. I would like to hear more from research done on the environmental impact to the surrounding areas where they will add the rail lines. I have concerns about rail safety, especially with increased shipping of coal and crude oil along with chemical shipments. Hazardous cargo is a concern and remembering that in the last two years there have been five train derailments is not very reassuring. The positive aspect is that BNSF promotes a strong culture of railroad safety by installing PTC and its more than 21,000 employees are trained in its operation. More research is needed.



State Representatives District 1 Seat A:

Ellen Weissman


Ellen Weissman.

Age: 65

Years of residence in North Idaho: 

25 years

Marital status/family: Single mother of two daughters

Email: [email protected]

Facebook: ellenweissmanforIdahoDistrict1A

Phone: (208) 265-2570


Education: B.S. Special and Elementary Education, U. Maine, Farmington;  M.Ed., Community Education and Educational Administration, U. Maine, Orono; M.Ed., Curriculum Development and Integrating the Arts in Education, Lesley University.

Recent or pertinent employment history: Executive director of Sandpoint Area Seniors, Inc. (Sandpoint Senior and DayBreak Centers) for the past four years.

Public offices held: Student government representative in high school

Nonprofit groups, service or professional organizations to which you belong: International Jugglers Association, Pend Oreille Arts Council, Festival at Sandpoint, Panida Theater

Other experiences or skills that qualify you for office: Concern for the people, animals, air and water of North Idaho!  I was a member of the Festival at Sandpoint cleanup crew for 10 years and then became the lead for another 10 years.  Under my leadership, the cleanup crew became the “Green Team” and now recycles 85-90 percent of the trash from the Festival.


1. I have thought about politics for a long time, but the timing never quite fit. After the 2016 election, I was motivated, but it was after the shooting in Florida when I said “enough is enough.” I have worked with kids most of my life and it was hard enough to see them killed again, but when their experience was invalidated by adults, I was extremely upset. I decided, rather than just be frustrated, I’d try to do something about it.

2. Yes, I support the Medicaid expansion in Idaho! We are already paying taxes to the feds that are helping people in other states! Let’s help our own Idahoans who are falling through the cracks! Many of these folks are working two or three jobs to make ends meet and might end up relying on the county indigent fund paying for hospital bills. Let’s take preventative action!

3. I will work to boost funding for education in any way possible!  We must increase teacher pay and hire more teachers so that we can have smaller classrooms.  We need to update curriculum and old buildings. We absolutely must have more school counselors to help troubled kids and deal with bullying.

4. Many Americans don’t seem to want to do the hard labor jobs in the agricultural industry and if we tell all the undocumented laborers that they must return to their countries, our food system will be in serious trouble. The companies or the agricultural associations must help them get temporary or permanent work visas. Families must not be split apart against their will!

5. Education; roads and infrastructure; health and the environment. Also I think we need better funding for senior centers and food banks. We need to take better care of our elders and those in need. We will all become elders (hopefully!) and lives can change suddenly making us homeless or in need of food.

6. I am opposed to the smelter. It will poison our air and water for many generations and provide little benefit to Bonner and Boundary county citizens. As a state legislator, I would call Gov. Inslee and demand a full-scale environmental impact statement including a door-to-door survey of everyone in the Inland Northwest, (as well as) an investigation into how this project came into being and exactly who approved it!

7. This project, like the smelter, seems to be happening without full-scale involvement from the local folks who will be affected by it.  I do not think enough public forums have happened on it and yet, BNSF seems to be proceeding as though it’s been approved.  Or do we actually have a say in this?!


Rep. Heather Scott


Rep. Heather Scott.

Age: 49

Years of residence in North Idaho: 

20-plus years

Marital status/family: Married

Email: [email protected]

Facebook: Heather Scott for North Idaho

Phone: (208) 920-3120


Education: B.S. – Biology

Recent or pertinent employment history: Aquatic biologist working on natural resources and energy projects across the United States (1994- 2015); Idaho State Representative (2015 to Present).

Public offices held: Idaho State Representative, Spirit Lake Precinct Committeeman -Republican Party.

Nonprofit groups, service or professional organizations to which you belong: Director, God’s Provision Thrift Store Priest River; Foundation for Wildlife Management; Ducks Unlimited

Other experiences or skills that qualify you for office: 25 years in the consulting world and running my own business taught me how to effectively listen and work with people from all walks of life. My ability to connect, to stay focused on tasks, my work ethic of giving 110 percent and my ability to help people find solutions to their problems.


1. I got tired of watching government grow and attempt to reach into every aspect of my life. I came to North Idaho because of the rural, self-reliant life style it offers. I don’t believe in asking others to do something for me or that I would not do myself. So instead of sitting on the side lines and complain, I got involved and have been working to make a difference ever since. Is it easy or comfortable? No ,but it is rewarding and exciting to the educated and engaged citizens getting involved with their government.

2. I opposed Medicaid expansion because it will ultimately saddle Idaho with an incredible burgeoning debt. The continued reliance of our state on any federally-mandated or subsidized program leads Idaho farther down the road to dependence and loss of freedoms. It is another program that will likely discourage some able-body individuals to stop working because they can get free health care. Lastly this Prop 2 would have to be paid somehow by Idaho which can only mean cutting and diverting funds from other already established important programs like public safety, roads, and schools.

3. We have increased funding and are still not seeing better results. Its time to start looking at where the money is really being spent. High administrative salaries might be a good place to start. Common Core needs to be eliminated from our schools as soon as possible.

4. Idaho businesses should always follow all state and federal laws and only employ legal workers in ALL of our industries. The media would benefit greatly by understanding and correctly reporting the difference between immigration, refugees, illegal aliens and legal citizens.

5. Roads, public safety, county spending and education.

6. The proposed smelter still is not a for-sure deal, and Idaho has opportunities and fight against it. I have remained actively engaged by contacting the Idaho governor’s office, agency heads and lieutenant governor’s office asking for their involvement to ensure the protection of Idaho citizens and resources. I have also worked with the various groups opposing the smelter and I have been and will continue to be a strong proponent of insisting Idaho has a voice at the table to insure the protection of our valued north Idaho way of life. I drafted House Resolution 7 during the 2018 Legislative Session to put the legislature on notice of this issue. Once I am reelected, I will continue make the 2019 legislature aware of this issue. I know Bonner County’s most valued and irreplaceable resource is our watersheds including Priest Lake and Lake Pend Oreille. Protecting them from any downwind impacts from the smelter project is my number-one priority.

7. The whining about this needs to stop. BNSF is not going away, and they are a valuable business partner in Bonner County and in Idaho. They provide good jobs, transportation of goods and critical county and state funding in the form of taxes. I am confident that the appropriate protection measures are or will be in place to protect Lake Pend Oreille and expect Idaho agencies to do their job insuring BNSF follows appropriate permits and protocols.


State Representatives District 1 Seat B:

Rep. Sage Dixon


Rep. Sage Dixon.

Age: 49

Years of residence in North Idaho: 

16 years

Marital status/family: Wife / seven children

Email: [email protected], [email protected].

Facebook: ElectSageDixon

Phone: (208) 610-4800


Education: San Jose University – Finance major; continuing Ed classes in Leadership and Sustainable Agriculture.

Recent or pertinent employment history: Electrical Contractor in District 1 for 13 years / currently working in Insurance. District 1 State Representative 2015-present.


1. I entered politics because others asked me to serve, and to more accurately represent the changing constituency of Dist 1.


2. I oppose Medicaid expansion for two primary reasons:

First, I am philosophically opposed to socialized medicine because its benefits are limited, and it creates a false economy that causes cost increases and transfers. Medicaid expansion is a key component to the ACA (Obamacare) and is intended to address the “gap” population that was created by the ACA.

Second,  there are a plethora of reasons not to support Proposition 2. The projected enrollment numbers have all been far below actual enrollment, the projected cost savings have never been realized, hospitals have increased their rates, there are more people added to the waiting rooms of fewer doctors, and studies have shown little measurable increase in overall health.

3. The legislature has added, on average, $100 million each year for the past three years into the K-12 system. There have been increases in higher education as well. We are committed to another $30 million just for teacher salaries next year, and have been working on a new funding formula that should more evenly distribute funds based on where the student is being educated. I support seeing these efforts to fruition.

4. Undocumented laborers, or foreign-born workers as the industry calls them, should be treated as anyone else who does something illegal. Portions of our agriculture industry insist that they cannot function without these workers, and there is a reality to that assertion. However, we should not turn a blind eye to illegal activity, and should instead work towards finding solutions that will uphold our national immigration policy, while providing the needed labor for our agriculture industry.


5. The legislative priorities for budgeting are myriad.  Every budget item is thoroughly vetted by our Finance and Appropriation Committee and then presented to the legislature as a whole. Currently, Education receives 63 percent of our budget. Health and Human Services receives 22 percent, and Law and Justice receives 10 percent. I do not see these percentages changing. However, these percentages could change dramatically if Proposition 2 passes. Additionally, there are a number of large requests in the 2020 budget that could make the process very difficult.


6. I am aware of the concerns that many in our district have regarding the proposed smelter in Newport, and am uneasy with the project myself.  As an out-of-state legislator, the scope of my influence on a Washington project is very limited. The Idaho DEQ is working with the Washington Department of Ecology, and I have informed them of our trepidation with the project. However, in the end, it is a Washington State Issue. I do not want Washington making decisions for Idaho, and must hold the reciprocal true as well.


7. I have seen BNSF be very transparent and forthcoming about this project for over a year. A second rail bridge will help our area by improving the flow of rail traffic and thereby alleviating the number of stoppages in the area. They have addressed the concerns of local and state entities, and have been a generous and active partner with the County Office of Emergency Management.


Stephen Howlett


Stephen Howlett.

Age: 67

Years of residence in North Idaho: 

My family and I have lived within the Idaho Legislative District 1 for over 41 years.

Marital status/family: My wife is Gerry Ann. We have two granddaughters.

Email: [email protected]

Facebook: Candidate Stephen F. Howlett

Phone: (208) 597-6433


Education: High School Graduate

Recent or pertinent employment history: I have owned and operate a licensed and bonded building and remodeling business in Boundary County for the last 32 years.

Public offices held: I have been re-elected Precinct Captain for the Naples precinct in Boundary County. I have held this position for 16 years. This is my second campaign for Legislative District 1B.

Nonprofit groups, service or professional organizations to which you belong: I served for 18 years as a Volunteer EMT-A on the Boundary Volunteer Ambulance, serving for 2 years as President and other board positions.  I chaired the Boundary County Parks and Recreation Department for 16 years. Served various positions with the Boundary County Community Theatre. Currently a member of the Boundary County Friends of the Restorium, Boundary County Historical Society and the GROW Boundary County Community garden. I am endorsed by Boundary County and Bonner County Democrat Central Committees.

Other experiences or skills that qualify you for office: I have management skills from running a retail lumber yard as well as operating a Water Well drilling business. I have experience in property management and property maintenance.


1. I entered politics as a precinct captain talking about Idaho local and state issues. Then in the 2016 election cycle a pretender was running as a candidate for the State Legislature District 1 Seat B. The inspiration was more of a reaction to finding out that my opponent was misrepresenting himself as a Democrat, when in reality he was an ultra-right conservative who wanted to make a sham out our democratic process. I ran as a write-in candidate and won the primary. I will represent those who feel they are under represented by our current elected representatives.

2. I support Proposition 2 that expands Medicaid for hard-working Idahoans.  Health insurance allows for wellness care to keep our work force and their families healthy and productive. It reduces county indigent funding so tax revenues can be redirected to other priorities. The state catastrophic fund would be reduced with payments being made by patients; our rural area hospitals can remain solvent and operations paid for. Bipartisan Idahoans want this, Idahoans want security in knowing their medical needs can be met.

3. I would support a stipend to repay part of our educator’s loan debt. I think the legislative defense fund has to be eliminated and that budget added to our Education budget. We need to assist school districts with maintenance and operations budget (M/O), helping to reduce property tax levies.  I would keep our public endowment money in the public schools system and limit the dispersion to other school types (private and secular).

4. The solution to an undocumented labor work force is in the hands of the U.S. Congress.  Idaho Senators Crapo and Risch along with Idaho Representatives Simpson and Labrador need to push for a quick and fair decision. 

Our milk producers represent the largest revenue source to Idaho. The undocumented work force has become a dependable and stable labor pool.  Undocumented workers are an important work force in other Agriculture based business just as well; field hands on onion and sugar beet farms.  These individuals plant and reforest our public and state lands. They are employed in the nursery industry. I support a rapid and fair decision that favors our agri-business and the undocumented workers and their families.

5. My focus will be placed on adjusting the per-student ratio higher, not lower like my opponent supports. I would look into what funds can be found to replace local maintenance and operation levies, reducing property taxes at a county level.

We have a priority to fix our bridges, roads, and infrastructure along with other crumbling state assets. I will commit funds to accomplish this.  Health care solutions are a concern for the Medicaid-gap community addressed in Proposition 2.  I will support it when it passes and I will commit to this program if it fails bringing the funds available from the Federal Government back to Idaho where it belongs.

6. I oppose this project personally and will do what is allowed to prevent it from happening. Right now it is out of Idaho’s jurisdiction to intervene directly, if approved by Washington State EPA.  

7. Idaho could require that rail cars are covered with a tarp just as the state requires vehicles to be tarped. Idaho should push for trains within their borders to be equipped with Automatic Train Stop systems.


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