This interview is part of a series of interviews of Democrat candidates across the state from varying religious backgrounds. LDS Dems-Idaho recently interviewed Travis Manning about his current run for Idaho House of Representatives Seat 10A. We encourage you to learn more about him at www.votetravismanning.com.
This interview was conducted by Jon Young, an LDS Democrat living in Boise, ID.
Jon: Travis, you narrowly lost your first run for this seat with 46% of the vote. How would you explain this near success and the possibility you'll win this seat in 2014?
Travis: In 2012 I earned 46% of the vote in Legislative District 10 running as a conservative Idaho Democrat. A Democrat has not won in Canyon County since 1982 when Terry Reilly won a term to the Idaho Senate. The 2012 House race was my first ever run for public office. Well, technically, it was my second ever run: I ran for sophomore class secretary in high school, but lost to a good friend of mine.
I ran a gutsy campaign in 2012, knocked a lot of doors, talked to thousands of people, and had a dedicated team of folks help me get out my message. I have learned much since 2012 and I am light years ahead of where I was 2 years ago. I am much more organized, our campaign infrastructure is in place, and we are on our way to effectively getting out our message and pulling out a win. We know we have to activate our base and work to extend our message to Independent and Leaning Republican voters. We have a lot of work ahead of us this year. I am looking forward to the rigors of the race.
Jon: You consider yourself a "conservative Idaho Democrat." What, in particular, differentiates that from a "conservative Republican" or a "liberal Democrat?"
Travis: I call myself a "conservative Idaho Democrat" because I am fiscally conservative and tend to lean socially conservative as well.
I believe the government serves an important purpose for its citizens; but, government is not the master, it is the servant. An effective government is one that supports its citizens, protects them from illegal activity, acts quickly to resolve issues, and temporarily assists them when they are in dire need.
Social issues. Like Idaho's four-time Democratic Governor Cecil D. Andrus, I am pro-life. I understand why people are pro-choice, though. I also understand why the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution is often cited and, subsequently, why women have a right to privacy under the due process clause.
I believe the U.S. Constitution applies to every American, including our LGBT brothers and sisters. I think opinions toward adding the words "gender identity” and “sexual orientation" to the Idaho Human Rights Act are shifting. I was happy to see that Mitt Romney recently supported Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s decision not to impose discrimination on the LGBT community in her state. Religion should not be used as a bully pulpit against the LGBT community. Former Idaho Gov. Phil Batt, a Republican, has been leading the charge on this front.
There is a fine line between exercising freedom of religion, as outlined in the First Amendment, and denying fellow citizens like Constitutional protections. I believe the institution of marriage is sacred, but I also believe our LGBT brothers and sisters should have the same legal privileges as do our heterosexual brothers and sisters.
I also believe in capital punishment and believe parents ought to be the ones to teach their children sexual education. I believe responsible Americans, without mental health issues, should be allowed to carry a concealed weapon. I believe in a strong military, but one that we can afford.
I do not believe in privatizing everything, from social security to public schools, national forests to prisons. Privatizing every public entity presents too many conflicts of interest. Private prisons, for example, want longer sentences for inmates – and more inmates – because it helps them make more money. Private prisons are more willing to cut corners in order to make profits. The CCA debacle here in Idaho, where the FBI has now stepped in to investigate, is one such example.
Jon: Wow, that's a unique perspective, but it also serves the interests of a wide variety of voters. What life experiences have helped you develop this pragmatic view of the role of government?
Travis: I suppose my views are an aggregate of my entire life’s experiences. I was born in California, spent a little time in Arizona and Ethiopia as a young child when my Dad worked for the Army Security Agency, then grew up in Tacoma, Washington. I have traveled all over the U.S., Europe, China, Canada, the Bahamas, and Mexico. I also spent many years in college and grad school. I am an avid user of social media and mass communications, as many are, and have read widely. I suppose this comprehensive exposure to cultures, places, conflicting ideas, religions, eras, ethnicities, landscapes, and ideologies have contributed to my broad world view, which influences my political views at various levels.
I know there are many viewpoints as to how government should function. For me, I believe that human rights are God-given. The interpretation of what constitutes a human right, though, has required government and the courts to step in and mitigate differences in perspective. The three branches of government constantly butt up against each other as they seek the most effective ways to govern.
As a general philosophy, I like George Washington’s thoughts on the purpose of government:
“It is a firm principle that the smallest or lowest level that can possibly undertake the task is the one that should do so. First, the community or city. If the city cannot handle it, then the county. Next, the state; and only if no smaller unit can possibly do the job should the federal government be considered. It is well to remember that the states of this republic created the Federal Government. The Federal Government did not create the states.”
It is best to tackle problems at the lowest conceivable level of government. However, sometimes local governments do not respond to basic “human rights” in a fair and just manner. A good example here is the desegregation of our nation’s public school system. Some states in the South, notably Alabama, for decades refused to integrate public schools. Alabama Gov. George Wallace is a case in point. He adamantly refused the integration of the state’s public schools and infamously said as much in his inaugural speech on January 14, 1963: “In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”
While I agree generally with a state’s right to entirely oversee its people, there are sometimes glaring injustices that must be addressed by a higher governmental entity when a lower body is clearly out of step with a super majority of the citizenry.
The U.S. Constitution also guides my approach to government. Generally speaking, an effective central government with a wide range of enforceable powers – given to it by its three branches of government, including proper checks and balances – allows for appropriate management of the affairs of a large nation like the United States of America. Beneath the umbrella of federal powers, states ought to have as much flexibility in governing their own as can possibly be given, utilizing their state constitutions, local and state elected leaders, and state courts as the main facilitators of governance.
Jon: Many families are having a hard time making ends meet financially. Some of that is due to few high-paying jobs and poor access to education. What do you think the State of Idaho can do to help more families prepare their kids for college and career?
Travis: This is a complicated issue. Idaho, unfortunately, leads the nation in the highest percentage of minimum wage jobs. Tax breaks for special interests is part of the issue here while regular families are getting squeezed. I also think Idaho has an education system that needs improvement, but, is not failing kids, as some claim. As a teacher myself, I have a strong sense of how many hours a day students consume media versus pursuing academic interests. As a society, we need to encourage and inspire kids to engage in their own futures.
In Idaho, we need a cultural shift. Young children enter the education pipeline later than most kids across the country leaving our children academically behind by the third grade. The good news? Parents, communities, and schools are all part of the solution here. Children need a year or two of quality pre-school before they enter kindergarten, whether it is a public school, private, non-profit, or home school. Kindergarten ought to be mandatory and a full day. Earlier engagement in education results in more students who are interested and able to attend higher education and job training after high school. Idaho legislators need to recognize this reality and advocate for high quality, early education.
Jon: How can we attract higher-paying jobs to Idaho?
Travis: We need a balanced, sustainable approach to economic growth, helping both small business development and large-scale employers, and the subsequent high-paying jobs. Attracting large employers is important because it creates a multiplier effect. Large businesses need smaller ones to support it. We also need more public-private partnerships with industry and secondary schools and universities in order to coordinate efforts, leverage strengths, and grow appropriate skill sets for the jobs of the 21st Century.
The Idaho legislature is out of touch. Idaho ranks 50th in the country for per pupil funding. This month, 94 of 115 Idaho school districts ran supplemental levies. When the vast majority of Idaho citizens decide to jointly tax themselves – remember, we’re talking Idaho here – in order to adequately fund their community public schools, something is seriously wrong with legislative priorities. Growing strong public schools translates into fostering strong economic growth. Companies looking to establish roots in Idaho look very carefully at the state’s educational system.
Thank you, Jon, for the questions. I appreciate the opportunity to talk about why I am the best candidate for Idaho House seat 10A.