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Politics & Government

Candidate Conversations 2018: Brad Little

Frankie Barnhill
Boise State Public Radio
Lt. Gov. Brad Little is vying for the top job in the state amid a crowded field of Republicans.

Brad Little is no stranger to Idaho politics. He's served as lieutenant governor since 2009, and began his career at the Idaho statehouse in 1981 when he filled in for his father in the senate. The rancher from Emmett has received the endorsement of establishment Republicans in his bid to become governor, including from Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter and House Speaker Scott Bedke.

What's his plan to address the estimated 62,000 Idahoans who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to receive health insurance subsidies:

Little says he wants to renew a push made under Otter. The executive order sought to give people the option of buying coverage that doesn't comply with the Affordable Care Act. That measure failed to advance through the Idaho legislature and slammed up against roadblocks from federal officials in March.

"The proposal that existed in the legislature this year," says Little, "I think probably would have legs under it next year but we'll see what the initiative does." Little is referring to a ballot initiative that seeks to expand Medicaid to people who make too much money to qualify currently.

How does he propose to improve Idaho's high school graduation rates and prepare students for high-skilled jobs:

Little says when it comes to improving the state's high school and college graduation rates, the focus should begin with getting students reading proficiently by the end of third grade. He says that takes a multi-pronged approach.

"In some of these school districts on the first day of kindergarten, 15 percent of them show up maybe thinking they might go to college. In other districts, 80 percent of them think they're going to college. You can't use the same tools in one school as another, and that's why I think we need full-day kindergarten, reading coaches [and] summer reading programs."

How will he preserve Idaho's cultural heritage while also embracing its role as the fastest-growing state in the country:

The politician says his experience building relationships in rural corners of the state would be an asset as governor.

"We have to maintain the infrastructure in our rural communities ... as technology does away with jobs, we have to either add commodity to those communities or bring new industry and diversify those industries so they're resilient."

He says his experience working at the statehouse taught him the value of getting to know all sides of an issue, and the new legislators representing those values.

"Idaho's changing; we've got a lot of communities that are making a big radical change. And if you don't understand the values of those people when they show up on their first month of the Idaho legislature then it's hard to work with them to get things done and I think my record reflects that I've been pretty active in that area."

Little is one of seven Republicans running for his party's nomination for governor.

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