District 16’s state Senate race pits Democrat Ali Rabe, a local housing advocate, against Republican Dennis Mansfield, a business coach and author whose son Nate’s death inspired one of his books.
Both have experience running or serving before: Rabe resigned from the Legislature last year after moving to another district. She and her partner had been house-hunting, and were repeatedly outbid before finally buying a home in the district next to hers.
Mansfield ran in 2000 against Butch Otter for a congressional seat, but the campaign was marked by his son’s arrest for drug possession charges, according to the Associated Press. He previously lost a few primaries.
District 16 Sen. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, is retiring, leaving either Rabe or Mansfield to fill his seat.
Mansfield was the voice of Idaho’s religious right. According to The Spokesman Review, he waged ‘holy war,’ vowing retribution on lawmakers who opposed abortion limits. He was the director of the Idaho Family Forum and saw himself as a soldier in a holy war, the Spokesman reported.
Since his son’s death, Mansfield said he has changed. However, his opponent, Rabe, wrote in a campaign message earlier this month that she was still concerned about his politics, including that he is still anti-abortion rights.
“You can’t hold the dead body of one of your adult children in your arms, and not be changed,” Mansfield said. “A lot of my worldview became softer and kinder. An expression of that became more open to seeing that people not only can change but must change.”
He believes the biggest issues facing Idaho are strengthening academic skills for students and equipping teachers to do what they need to do, addressing cost of living challenges and growing the economy. He also said Second Amendment rights and the Constitution are key.
The Legislature needs to be more civil, he said.
“I will look towards seeing common ground,” Mansfield said. “I believe that when we sit down and better understand one another’s perspective, what their worldview is and what their behavior traits are, we don’t assume the worst of someone.”
When it comes to abortion, Mansfield said, he wants to work with people who are concerned about the Supreme Court’s June abortion decision on streamlining the adoption process.
“I think we have to concentrate on what is and work together about what we can do within the state to ensure that we respect the rights of people and respect the rights of life,” Mansfield said.
If elected, he said his first area of concern would be education.
In his eyes, the ideal role of government is to serve the people and the ideal of service is to lay down one’s life for another.
“Government is here to protect us, to serve us, to be able to give us the opportunity to succeed, not to guarantee success, but the opportunity to succeed,” he said.
Rabe won election to the Legislature in the Senate in 2020 and works as the executive director of Jesse Tree, which provides eviction and rental assistance.
She said she’s running because she’s concerned about growth and wants to make sure the government is planning for it. She said she’s seen a lot of people being evicted or becoming homeless for the first time in their lives through no fault of their own.
“I believe housing is everything,” Rabe said. “And we’ll need to continue to look for solutions that allow for Idahoans to have an affordable place to call home.”
She said the biggest issues facing Idaho are population growth, housing and workforce challenges. Also she said she wants to keep public lands public and help with the pressures on the public education system. Rabe said she wants to keep the public education system well funded and resourced. The impact on Idaho women of the overturning of Roe v. Wade is another issue, she said.
Polarization is another huge challenge, she said. In the past, she said she’s worked across the aisle on different issues.
“We’ve seen overidentification with party politics across our state and with that, more far-right candidates getting into our Legislature,” Rabe said. “The Senate has been more moderate in the past and it looks like that may change, so it will be a challenge but despite that I’ll try to work with everybody.”
Her number one priority is to prevent homelessness. She previously worked on getting $50 million put into a Workforce Housing Fund. She said, if elected, she’d want to work on getting more investments for the fund and work on consumer protections for tenants who are renting, such as ensuring that fees are reasonable.
“I fear that if we don’t work to get ahead of this issue, our city and other cities across the state will become like a Portland or Seattle or San Francisco, in terms of the number of people who are homeless,” Rabe said.
She said the government should provide basic services, like public education, infrastructure like roads and bridges and ensure that people have a “safe” and “equitable” place to live.
“I think my idea of government is to focus on the most pressing issues that our community is facing that private sector cannot deal with, or is not suitable to deal with,” Rabe said. “Or in some cases to correct or fill the gaps, in policies that need to be addressed, to ensure that people have their basic needs built.