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Lieutenant governor candidates differ on Medicaid, wages

October 18, 2018 GMT

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho’s candidates for lieutenant governor staked out far different positions on Medicaid expansion, minimum wage and abortion during a televised debate.

Former state Rep. Janice McGeachin and Army veteran and software engineer Kristin Collum are vying to succeed Lt. Gov. Brad Little, who is running for governor.

McGeachin, a Republican, promised to hold onto Idaho’s “conservative values,” saying Wednesday on Idaho Public Television that she opposes same-sex marriage, abortion, Medicaid expansion and supports gun rights and limited government.

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Democrat Kristin Collum described herself as a moderate who would collaborate with those on the right and the left for the good of “Team Idaho.” Collum supports Medicaid expansion, says abortion is a personal decision and not a matter for the state to decide and, like McGeachin, she supports gun rights.

“From what I see, it is this extreme side, either from the right or the left, it is this extreme ideology that takes us away from moving forward,” Collum said. “Right now everyone’s feeling the divisiveness. They’re feeling that stretch, that rip in the fabric, and it’s because there’s divisiveness from both sides stretching it like a rubber band.”

The lieutenant governor serves both as Senate president and the person prepared to take over if the governor is out of state, incapacitated or otherwise unable to serve. The lieutenant governor can also cast a vote to break a tie in the Senate.

McGeachin has fought against Proposition 2, a voter-led initiative that would expand Medicaid coverage to roughly 62,000 residents who earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid but don’t earn enough to qualify for subsidies on the state health care insurance exchange.

If passed, lawmakers will be expected to implement Medicaid expansion. McGeachin wouldn’t say whether she would respect the will of the voters if the proposition passes, or if she would work to thwart any such legislation.

“I’m not trying to evade the question, but ... if Prop 2 passes in Idaho, the way that the legislative policy body chooses to implement, I don’t know what that’s going to be,” she said. “I don’t know if they’ll choose to implement the program and cut funding in other areas. I don’t know if they’re going to choose to raise a tax or which tax that might be.”

Collum, meanwhile, has been an outspoken proponent of Medicaid expansion. She said lawmakers didn’t act to fix the gap, so now voters have to.

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“People are dying. People are sick. People are falling through the cracks and this is wrong,” Collum said. “So the people across the state have gotten this on the ballot and they are ready to vote it in.”

She also called for increasing the minimum wage.

“It should be something that is gradual and considered — maybe even just a local option,” she said, allowing communities with higher costs of living to raise the current $7.25 minimum to suit local conditions.

McGeachin opposed raising the minimum wage, saying as a small business owner she knows the free market will take care of that.

“In this economy, you can’t hire someone for less than $10 per hour,” McGeachin said, contending that a higher minimum wage would just prevent high schoolers from getting entry-level jobs.

McGeachin said she believes the government should have “no role” in determining wages.

Both candidates said they would work with a governor from either party. Such pairings have happened in the past, most recently when then-Lt. Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, a Republican, served under former Gov. Cecil Andrus, a Democrat.

No matter who is elected, it will be a historic moment for Idaho: The winner will be the state’s first female lieutenant governor.

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