Meet some of the upstart Dems running in deep-red Idaho

Once a Democratic stronghold, in recent decades North Idaho has swung dramatically to the right. But this year feels very, very different. Stuck for years, the pendulum may be swinging in the Democrats' direction again.

Strong and energetic Democratic candidates have stepped forward. In Kootenai County, where I live, Ruben Miranda decided to run for Kootenai County commissioner because the current commissioners voted out the building codes that protect the environment as well as the neighborhood — and therefore the neighbors' financial investment.

A Vietnam veteran, Miranda spent more than three years in the Army Special Forces as a paratrooper, ranger and special training officer. After leaving the service, Miranda enrolled in college on the GI Bill, and, in due course, graduated from Chapman University in Orange, California.

Miranda spent 40 years as a software developer, which indicates he's very sharp, with 30 of those years as chief information officer of a manufacturing company. His record shows that he's a leader and experienced in working with people.

Miranda believes the county should follow environmental codes and management practices that protect our natural resources. As we know, Kootenai County is loaded with natural lakes and open space. There's lots to protect, and the recent history of county commissioners' inaction is dismal.

Miranda would add brains and commitment to a brighter future for Kootenai County.

Idaho is at the bottom of the states in a number of things we all care about — money for schools, colleges and mental health services, to name a couple — but it does have a tip-top bipartisan reapportionment commission that doesn't dally in gerrymandering.

So Idaho's legislative District 4 is a compact district that includes all of the city of Coeur d'Alene and a couple of adjacent neighborhoods.

Rebecca Schroeder is the Democratic candidate for the open race to represent District 4, Seat A, in the Idaho House of Representatives. Schroeder is the strongest candidate for the Legislature that I have observed in years; she excels in persuasive speaking, reasoning, has charm and a very positive attitude.

Schroeder's father worked for the Forest Service, and she grew up in the small town of Kooskia, Idaho, south of Lewiston. She claims she had the best of all worlds — a childhood filled with the great Idaho outdoors and a small town where you had to behave because everyone followed your every move.

Schroeder was senior class president in her local high school, as well as valedictorian. She graduated from the University of Idaho with a double major in chemistry and Spanish.

Schroeder's story hits home. As she describes it, she and her husband Brock were thrown a curve ball when their young son, Brady, was diagnosed at birth with cystic fibrosis, a potentially fatal disease. Schroeder was immediately drawn into volunteering with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. There, she learned advocacy skills in speaking, appealing to Congress and organizing. Fortunately, a breakthrough drug, Ivacaftor, has been very effective in controlling Brady's symptoms.

Schroeder wants to continue working for medical care for everyone who needs it, adding that she wants the Idaho Legislature to correct its lack of willingness to invest in the future — for children, for workers, for everyone.

Cory English, physical therapist and wife of former Kootenai County Clerk, Dan English, has until now been content to sit back and let her husband run for office. No more. English has jumped in with energy and enthusiasm to run for District 4's State Senate seat. She says she felt compelled to run out of her frustration over the failure of the Idaho Legislature to address the educational, medical and social needs of the people of the state.

English maintains that Idahoans are supportive of giving their children and grandchildren a better education, a stronger set of tools, as the young people plunge into the competitive world they face.

"Idaho chooses to do nothing, when other states at least do something," she says. "The state has a chance to leap forward by endorsing the Medicaid expansion Proposition 2."

Shem Hanks is the third in the trio of worthy Democratic candidates in Legislative District 4 races — he's running for Seat B. Hanks grew up in a modest double-wide trailer in Hayden with parents who valued faith, hard work, honesty, social justice and equal opportunity. A great launch.

Hanks worked his way through college waiting tables. He graduated from Eastern Washington University with two degrees in history. Hanks would bring the perspective of waitservers who survive on $3.15 an hour plus tips. He's very concerned about an economy that seems to be working against young people who are starting out in life.

"[I'm] running because we do not have a broken education system," Hanks writes, "we have a broken Legislature that refuses to fund and value education properly."

Each of these four Democrats is eager to serve the constituents of Kootenai County and the state of Idaho. I encourage you to take a closer look. ♦

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