One of Idaho's stoutest conservatives faces tough GOP primary in Elmore, Owyhee and Twin Falls counties

Mountain Home GOP Rep. Pete Nielsen, an outspoken conservative who regularly speaks of socialism's grip on Idaho, faces a spirited primary with two capable challengers.

Because of a redrawn District 23, the most serious threat to the 10-year lawmaker appears to come from Matthew Bundy, a retired Air Force aviator who has taught at Mountain Home High School for eight years.

Bundy promised to broaden the conversation in the Legislature, quoting Gen. George Patton's famous line, "If everyone is thinking alike, then someone isn't thinking."

"We need to have a Legislature where we're allowed to voice an opinion," Bundy said. "The opinion might not be the same as everybody else, but it shouldn't cause political heartache. It should bring us together."

Elmore County, with a population of about 27,000, dominates the new district. Owyhee County has about 11,500 people and the western side of Twin Falls County has about 5,900. The third candidate, Steve Millington, of Buhl in Twin Falls County must overcome not being as well known as Nielsen or Bundy.

All three were at a forum Tuesday night sponsored by the Mountain Home Chamber of Commerce.

Nielsen’s pitch was reminiscent of his frequent speeches on the House floor: Cut taxes and regulations, stem the creep of socialism.

“I’m very concerned about the trend of socialism in this state and country and work hard to try to reverse that,” Nielsen told a crowd of about 100, adding that the recession that forced spending cuts was a godsend.

“One of the best things that happened to us was when you quit sending us so much money,” he said. “We had to make cuts.”

Bundy and Millington also spoke of thrift in government, but they knocked Nielsen for two ideas that he’s championed and gone nowhere.

Bundy criticized Neilsen’s support for repeal of the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and returning the power to elect U.S. senators to state legislatures.

“We should not restrict your ability to participate in representative government,” said Bundy, who teaches government and recently returned from teaching on an exchange in Ukraine.

Millington knocked Nielsen’s authorship of House Joint Memorial 11 which called for a U.S. constitutional convention to amend the constitution to require any increase in the federal debt be approved by a majority of state legislatures.

Millington said he opposes a convention because he said it could not be limited to a single subject as Nielsen said and “nobody can tell me how we would define the people who would participate.”

“It would be an open season on everything in the Constitution,” Millington said.

Nielsen didn’t defend his position on the 17th Amendment, but said he’s dropped his plans for a convention, even though he said Millington’s concerns are unwarranted.

“I’m not scared of an open convention,” Nielsen said. “However, that’s not going to happen. You won’t see me goin’ down that road any more.”

The House defeated Nielsen’s memorial 50-20 in March.

Bundy spoke of his innovations in the classroom, including building a program providing concurrent credit at BSU for government students. Bundy impressed Millington so much that he said Bundy should stay put. “He belongs in the classroom, not the Legislature.”

But Bundy said he plans to remain in the classroom and would work hard to find a suitable substitute during the legislative session. “They’re going to learn from my being in the Legislature,” Bundy said.

All three Republicans said they supported Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna’s education reforms, but Bundy suggested a change to the mandate for online education.

“What I don’t want to see is the money for online education going to out-of-state institutions,” Bundy said. “We have online teachers, we have organizations here in Idaho. Let’s spend the money in Idaho. Let’s use Idaho taxpayer dollars for Idaho kids, for Idaho classes in Idaho programs.”

Millington said he would work to stabilize education funding, saying the shift of maintenance and operations from local property taxes to the state sales tax was a mistake. “They shortened one of the legs on that funding stool and that caused a severe dislocation in that funding process….We have to put a safety valve in there so that education doesn’t always come out on the wrong end.”

Nielsen said he wants to stem spending on the departments of Health & Welfare and Corrections to protect school spending.

In his closing statement, Nielsen cited his commitment to the job. “My full-time job is working for you as your legislator,” Nielsen said. “Mostly, I’m going to help you lower your taxes and (have) less regulation.”

The winner of the May 15 primary will face Democrat Pam Chiarella of Mountain Home. Chiarella also is a teacher, who said she entered the race because of her opposition to the Luna reforms. Chiarella said Nielsen, a member of the House Education Committee, should have worked against “Students Come First,” rather than favor the bills.

Chiarella is a former computer information specialist who teaches computer applications. She said Luna’s plan to give a laptop to every high school student is a poor idea; instead, she said technology spending should focus on putting computers in schools and expanding bandwidth.

“Laptops for freshmen in not the way we need to spend our technology money,” she said. “We should be building infrastructure.”

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oh please. oh please.

Please let's get rid of Rep. Bag o' Hammers. Please.

If redistricting were actually fair, all wingnuts would be gone

Idaho is nearly 80% urban, these rural wingnuts & crazy "c.a.v.e. people" (citizens against virtually everything) have gamed redistricting for over 30+ years. The maps just redrawn are still not truly reflective of the state's urban character; they could still be thrown out by higher federal courts.

You think we don't have any "wingnuts" in the urban areas?

Are you kidding?

Who comes up with these headlines?

What does being "one of Idaho's fattest conservatives" have to do with anything?

Rep. Nielsen is NOT fat!

I suspect you may be kidding, but I meant 'stout' in the sense of strong, firm and bold.

Dan Popkey

All Stouts will Ale someday, and no recapping can be done.


"foreignoregonian" is not anonymous

It is my identity and my philosophy

Would you prefer everyone to be called 'Poster'?


He bangs the hammer about socialism, but his, "don't look what I'm doing" is fascist. He is trying to consolidate power (unsuccessfully thank goodness). Forcible suppression of any opposition, which is the people. Nielson is a loony toonie. I think Matthew Bundy would bring some level headed legislating instead of extreme right-wing rhetoric. I think everyone is tired of that.

Yeah, but Mrs. Bundy runs the show.


"foreignoregonian" is not anonymous

It is my identity and my philosophy

Would you prefer everyone to be called 'Poster'?

I thing the teachers is who we should be in line with.

I just cant support Luna, but I really liked what I read about the teachers. So much fixing needs to be done with this legislature. Socialist Creep, in Idaho, really?

"Mountain Home GOP Rep. Pete

"Mountain Home GOP Rep. Pete Nielsen, an outspoken conservative who regularly speaks of socialism's grip on Idaho..." Is he talking about all the welfare farmers???

So if I agree with Gen. Patton one of us is a mess?


"foreignoregonian" is not anonymous

It is my identity and my philosophy

Would you prefer everyone to be called 'Poster'?

Too Much Sun

So who left Neilson out in the sun too long...
His kind of talk indicated sun stroke.....