For more on the Idaho Statesman Voter Guide, please click HERE.

Candidate picture

Nels Mitchell (Dem)

Attorney & Teacher

Candidate picture

Jim Risch (Rep)

United States Senator, Small Business Owner, Farmer, Rancher

Biographical Information

Age: 60
Education: Boise High 1971; Columbia University, A.B. 1975 [History major, Economics concentration]; University of Idaho, J.D. 1978.
Prior political experience: I’m a citizen who loves my state and country and thinks it is about time we let some fresh air into the U.S. Senate. Although this is the first time I have run for political office, I have the background and experience to hit the ground running. I have been a practicing lawyer for more than 30 years. I have helped manage firms that ranged in size from 3 lawyers to several hundred. Having been a business owner, I understand the pressures of making payroll, paying rent and complying with regulations. I also had the privilege of serving as an enforcement director and regional trial counsel for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which works to protect the public from financial fraud. I supervised a staff of 75 and had the opportunity to work with local and federal law enforcement officials throughout the western United States. I am a problem solver with well-honed skills in advocacy, persuasion and negotiation. And perhaps most important, I know how to get along with other people and build relationships. I run to replace a career politician who has built a very different reputation. I believe our republic is best served when new leaders step forward, serve for a time, then step aside. In the Senate, I will focus on doing the job you elect me to, and I will work as hard as I possibly can to represent Idaho and its people with energy, purpose, and integrity.
Civic involvement: While my daughters were growing up and all the way through high school, I helped by serving as a soccer coach, assistant coach, referee, driver, and fundraiser. When they were teenagers, I had the opportunity to serve as a head coach for eight different teams, with five winning championships. After moving home to Boise, I started a leadership scholarship at Boise High in memory of my father Robert Mitchell and in honor of my mother Frances Mitchell. Two scholarships are awarded annually–one female and one male recipient–who have shown leadership at Boise High and in the community. In addition to my part-time teaching at the University of Idaho Law School, I served on the Advisory Council for six years. I also served on the Columbia University War Memorial Committee and the Alumni Recruiting Committee. I chaired an American Bar Association Litigation Section subcommittee addressing the recognition of foreign judgments, and served on a U.S. State Department Committee dealing with private international law issues.
Years living in Idaho: I have lived in Idaho off and on since 1968, more than sixteen years in all. My folks moved our family from Washington State to Idaho in 1968. My two brothers and I attended Boise High School, where I was elected student body president. I went to college in the east on a scholarship but returned home to Idaho to attend law school on a scholarship at the University of Idaho. After law school, I worked as a law clerk for Ninth Circuit Judge J. Blaine Anderson, in Boise. I practiced law for many years in New York and California. I began part-time teaching for my alma mater, the University of Idaho Law School, ten years ago and returned home to Boise five years ago to practice law.
Family: My wife is Mary Kimmel. I have two adult daughters, Brianne and Brittany. My mother, Franky Mitchell, lives in Boise. I was the middle child in a family of three sons. My older brother is Mike; my younger brother is Rob.
Age: 70
Education: B.S. Forest Management – University of Idaho J.D. – University of Idaho
Prior political experience: Ada County Prosecuting Attorney (2 terms), Idaho State Senator (11 terms), Idaho Senate Majority Leader, Idaho Senate President Pro Tem, Lt. Governor, Governor, U.S. Senator
Civic involvement: Public service all my adult life, University of Idaho College of Law Advisory Board, Vicki and I were Idaho Marriage Ambassadors in 2006, President of the Idaho Prosecuting Attorneys Association
Years living in Idaho: 51 Years
Family: Vicki and I have been married for 46 years. We have 3 sons and 7 grandchildren

What makes you a better choice for voters than your opponent(s)?

Nels Mitchell: Unlike Jim Risch, I’m not an ideologue. I won’t represent one narrow band on the political spectrum, and I will respect all Idahoans, including those who have different opinions. I will work with people from both sides of the aisle to find constructive solutions to the problems facing Idaho and our country. After 40 years as a career politician and 5 1/2 in the Senate, Jim Risch clearly enjoys the perks of office, but does little to help Idaho. He told the Idaho Statesman that the job is so easy that he could do it forever, and that it makes no difference if he’s on the job or not. Idaho needs a working U.S. Senator. Jim Risch has lost touch with the public that pays his salary. I will represent Main Street, not Wall Street, and Idaho families, not out-of-state lobbyists. While Risch enjoys his membership on the Foreign Relations Committee, I will serve on the committees that will advance Idaho jobs, Idaho agriculture, Idaho’s colleges and universities, and Idaho’s quality of life. The watchdog website ranks Risch as one of the most extreme members of Congress and lowest in the Senate for leadership. We can do better.
Jim Risch: I am the appropriate choice because the people of Idaho know me to be a reliable and hard-working leader, always fighting for individual rights and against the expansion of government intrusion in our lives. When I ran for the Senate I promised to fight the business as usual crowd in D.C. and that is what I have done. Every day I fight runaway spending, increasing debt and more taxes. I am a small business owner, farmer, and rancher and I have lived and worked in Idaho for more than 50 years. Not much is known about my opponents. Mr. Byrk is an attorney in Brooklyn and has never set foot in Idaho. Mr. Mitchell has recently moved to Idaho after working as an attorney for 27 years in New York and California. His campaign has focused mostly on raising property taxes. Voters that are concerned about raising taxes will have a clear choice between Mr. Mitchell and myself. Mr. Anderson is unknown and we know nothing about his stance on any issues. I would ask the voters to consider my experience and a record of consistent, conservative voting against the expansion of government. These are the things that differentiate me from my opponents.

If elected, what are your top three priorities? How will you accomplish them? Please provide specifics.

Nels Mitchell: My first priority is jobs and the economy. I would be an advocate for Idaho’s economy and living wage jobs; there is a lot that a Senator working for Idaho can do. I would support and fight for funding for INL, and not vote against its funding as Jim Risch recently did. I would be a staunch defender of Mountain Home Air Force Base and other federal facilities. I would work with Idaho’s farmers who are advocating the need for immigration reform. Another priority is the protection of the outdoor and recreation heritage that we share in Idaho. We have a great lifestyle in large part due to the public lands that we use for hiking, hunting, fishing, trapping, biking, skiing. Those same lands can also be used for economic development as long as we recognize our role as stewards so that they will be there not only for us but also future generations. Finally, a priority that will impact everything that I do is my belief that we should promote opportunity, equality and fairness for all, not just a privileged few. Unlike Jim Risch, I would have voted for extension of the Violence Against Women Act, extension of unemployment insurance, the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
Jim Risch: 1. Jobs – As Idaho’s Governor and Lt. Governor, my top priority was always quality jobs for hardworking families. As U.S. Senator, I continue this fight. Jobs are created by the private sector and not by the government. In recent years, the government has pursued policies that have slowed private sector job growth. Government regulations, higher taxes, and Obamacare have cut the growth of the economy and the expansion of small businesses. As ranking member of the Small Business Committee, I fight successfully to change those policies. 2. Balance the Budget – This administration is trying to spend its way into prosperity. We must learn to live within our means and balance the budget at the national level like we do here in Idaho. Every day I fight to change the tax and spend program of the Obama Administration. I am passionate about this issue. That is why I was ranked the number one senator to oppose the Obama Administration’s liberal agenda. 3. Repeal Obamacare – I am committed to ensuring that Americans receive the best healthcare possible and that is not Obamacare. I would replace it with a plan that gives individuals greater control over their healthcare.

For challengers: How have you prepared to run for this office? For incumbents: What have been your contributions to your office this term?

Nels Mitchell: I was raised in Idaho by two hard-working, loving parents. As the middle child in a family of three boys, I learned early on how to work with others and solve problems. I wasn’t born into money, and was expected to pull my own weight. I was taught the value of honesty, integrity and standing up for what is right. I learned to treasure Idaho’s great outdoors, and always do my best. Raising my own daughters challenged me in the ways familiar to every parent–finding the delicate balance between work and family, partnering with my children’s teachers and coaches, instilling values while letting them learn from mistakes, and teaching them to live on a budget, save for the future and care about others. Studying and teaching law at the University of Idaho, representing clients as a partner in small and large firms, and serving as an SEC Enforcement Director have all given me a deep appreciation of our form of government as well as our system of private enterprise. This is a great country, but we need to continue working together as we face and address new issues and problems today and in the future.
Jim Risch: The people of Idaho elected me to fight the way things are done in Washington, to fight the fiscal insanity of our overwhelming debt and deficit, to limit the intrusion of government into every aspect of our lives, and to fight Obama’s liberal agenda of a big and oppressive government. I carry that message with every vote I cast and every speech I make. Idaho has a strong voice and consistent vote for conservative Idaho principles. Due to your space requirements, I can only provide a few of my accomplishments from my first term as Idaho’s Senator below: – As the number 1 Republican on the Small Business Committee, I have held health care and tax reform hearings in the Small Business Committee – As the number 3 Republican on Energy and Natural Resource Committee, I have led efforts on hydropower efficiency, U.S. energy independence, and protected access for recreational use of public lands – Fought against the EPA’s intrusion on Idahoans – Led the effort to not take military action in the Syrian Civil War – Protected Idaho rural air traffic control towers – Protected Idaho’s tech industry during patent reform and maintaining the supply of helium to the industry.

Do you believe a portion of the Boulder-White Clouds area should receive a federal monument designation? If so, which portion? If not, what do you recommend?

Nels Mitchell: The Boulder-White Clouds area is one of Idaho’s special places. It should be protected. I supported Rep. Simpson’s CIERDA proposal because I believed that it addressed and considered the interests of all of the various stakeholders. Unfortunately, despite a 2008 pledge to support the CIERDA proposal, after his election Jim Risch reneged on his commitment which, unfortunately, derailed Simpson’s efforts. As a result, I now support the need for a monument designation because it is the best alternative that we have for protecting and preserving the Boulder-White Clouds. The proposed boundaries take in approximately 570,000 acres of Forest Service, BLM and Sawtooth National Recreation Area lands. An economic study has shown that monument designation will have a positive impact. Monument designation, however, must be a collaborative effort, and must include reasonable accommodation for traditional uses including water rights, grazing, hunting, fishing, biking and off-road vehicles. I also want to see the impacted counties compensated for costs incurred from the designation, including emergency and search-and-rescue operations.
Jim Risch: I am opposed to the presidential fiat or executive order establishing a monument which is done without public hearings. When I was governor, and in collaboration with Idahoans, I added tens of thousands of acres of wilderness protection to the Boulder White Clouds area through the Idaho roadless rule that I wrote, which is now law. Like many Idahoans, I have hiked, fished, hunted, and camped in the Boulder White Clouds. These are some of the most magnificent lands on the face of the earth and why I gave them such a high priority in my roadless rule. In fact, the most important part of Idaho’s roadless management plan was the collaborative process that I directed, which included public hearings and the input of many diverse Idaho groups and Idaho citizens at the local and community level. Idahoans should decide how best to use their lands. I would want to see the same collaborative and public hearing method to set aside any additional lands in a monument designation.

Do you favor repealing Obamacare? If so, what should replace it?

Nels Mitchell: Jim Risch and the other members of Congress who want to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in its entirety have yet to propose anything that would address escalating health care costs and provide access to affordable, quality health care. Certainly, there are problems with the ACA, and they need to be addressed. We should keep what works and fix what doesn’t work. In the U.S. Senate, I will work with colleagues from both parties to repeal, or amend, those parts of the ACA that do not make sense and to retain those provisions that are working well. Most Idahoans I’ve talked to tell me they are relieved that coverage can no longer be denied because of pre-existing conditions and that they appreciate the fact that coverage can no longer be limited by annual or lifetime caps on benefits. Parents are glad to know that their young adult children can remain on the parents’ health care policies until they turn 26. But the ACA still needs work; consideration should be given to removing individual mandates and raising the cap on employer mandates. And, of even more importance, the ACA has not put the breaks on escalating health care costs in this country.
Jim Risch: Yes. I fought against Obamacare originally and I voted for and cosponsored every attempt to repeal it. This regulatory quagmire is not the solution for America’s healthcare problems. We need more jobs and its small businesses that create those jobs. Obamacare has discouraged small businesses from expanding, and in doing so, it has stifled the growth of our economy. It has instead encouraged small business owners to cut hours, hire more part-time employees, increase the amount the employees contribute to healthcare, and in some instances, even quit providing healthcare coverage. When so many Americans are seeking stable sustainable employment, we do not need this law with thousands of pages of federal mandates and its chilling effect on job growth. I would replace Obamacare with market-oriented reforms; a plan that gives individual Americans greater control over their healthcare and reduces the cost. The Patient CARE Act proposed by republican senators is a better alternative.

Should the federal government raise taxes in order to balance the budget? Which spending cuts do you favor? Please be specific.

Nels Mitchell: Members of the Senate and Congress spend too much time grabbing for headlines. When Ted Cruz, aided by Jim Risch, shut down the government for 16 days more than $24 billion of taxpayer dollars was wasted. That type of callous waste and indifference is dangerous to the country. We have a tax system that plays favorites and is inefficient. We need to make our tax system fairer and simplify it. We also need to increase transparency and eliminate waste and fraud. Federal subsidies to profitable, well-established corporations are a waste of the taxpayer’s money. For instance, oil and gas industries are highly profitable, but have been getting huge subsidies from the U.S. taxpayers for almost a century. A conservative think tank recently estimated that corporate welfare in the federal budget costs taxpayers almost $100 billion a year. That’s $870 for each one of America’s 115 million families. The Simpson-Bowles Commission provided a good starting point for serious work on tax reform and fiscal responsibility. I strongly support Social Security, Medicare and Veteran’s benefits and would fight efforts to cut or privatize those important programs.
Jim Risch: No tax increases. I do not favor any cut to the current recipients of social security, Medicare, veterans’ benefits, or those who are soon to become recipients. Those promised benefits have been earned and paid for by the recipients and are a legal and moral obligation to them. Because the government is spending 25% more money than they are taking in, and borrowing that money, all other spending needs to be reviewed.

Have you been convicted of, or pleaded guilty to, a misdemeanor or felony or had a withheld judgment? If so, what, when and where?

Nels Mitchell: No.
Jim Risch: No.

Have you or a company you owned filed bankruptcy? If so, when and where?

Nels Mitchell: No.
Jim Risch: No.
For more on the Idaho Statesman Voter Guide, please click HERE.