Candidates For Idaho's First Congressional District Meet For Feisty Debate

Oct 30, 2018

The two candidates vying to replace outgoing congressman Raul Labrador met for a televised debate Monday night. Recent news events figured in their answers.

Republican state senator Russ Fulcher and Cristina McNeil, a real estate agent and Democrat, sparred for an hour while cameras rolled. The pair talked over each other throughout the debate drawing several reprimands from the moderator.

“I think that it was important for McNeil to try to demonstrate that she’s not somebody that can just be pushed around by the Republican establishment,” says Matt Miles. He’s a political scientist at BYU-Idaho.

According to Miles, while McNeil’s feisty interruptions were a way of showing voters she wouldn’t be cowed, Fulcher’s interjections were different.

“He was concerned that the things she was talking about might resonate with voters and have a negative impact,” Miles says. “And so he would interrupt her and make her sort of forget her train of thought so that he could make that dialogue go away.”

The candidates had very different takes on President Trump. Fulcher took a sympathetic approach to his broad strokes style while McNeil said attacks by the president are blatant.

The weekend shooting in Pittsburgh was used to bring up the topic of gun control. Both candidates pivoted on the question to discuss mental health.

“The discussion of mental health was disingenuous,” Miles says, “but I think that it’s better than the old, ‘I’m a gun owner and I know what it’s like to be a gun owner and I’ll never do anything to restrict gun rights.’ That’s the answer you expect.”

Miles says he thinks who wins the race for the first congressional district hinges on voter turnout.

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