Rep. Russ Fulcher (R-Idaho) is seeking his second term as the congressman representing Idaho's First Congressional District.
He's challenged by a first-time candidate, Democrat Rudy Soto, who recently toured the Panhandle to introduce himself.
Here are a few excerpts from his interview with SPR's Doug Nadvornick.
Rudy Soto: “I was born and raised in Nampa, Idaho. I’m a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and the son of a Mexican immigrant. I grew up there in the Treasure Valley and grew up on the north side of the tracks there in public housing amongst an impoverished community where many people struggle to make ends meet. I myself had some run-ins with the law at an early age from 12-to-14. I bounced around the juvenile corrections system for lots of stupid stuff, nothing too serious or severe, luckily. That was my upbringing and then I was fortunate and blessed to make it out of that and transform my life and turn things around.”
Soto wound up graduating from Portland State University. He was student body president there. He joined the U.S. Army National Guard, serving as a military policeman. And then he worked as a staff member for a congressional member in Washington, D.C. and later for the National Indian Gaming Association.
Now he’s running for Congress with health care as his priority issue.
Rudy Soto: “I saw what happened in 2018 with the passage of Medicaid expansion, which is huge. There are over 80,000 people now that are on it. In Idaho’s First Congressional District, it’s like 16 out of 19 counties voted in support of it. Over 60% of the people. That was really inspiring and deeply personal to me as well because my dad had passed away prematurely in 2014 after being laid off from Simplot because of downsizing and automation. He didn’t have access to any, he was priced out of health care plans because he had pre-existing conditions. Shortly after being laid off, he fell sick. We couldn’t get him on anything and by the time he ended up in an emergency room, we found out what was really going on. It was advanced stage cancer. That was a tough and traumatic experience for my family. I was, as his eldest and with two siblings with disabilities, I was the one who really had to help manage and deal with all of that. It really was a deep disappointment and the sense of shame that I felt since my state was one of the last ones that weren’t trying to take care of people by providing an access to health care. That really inspired me to and it made me feel like, with the right message, people would be willing to put partisan political differences aside for the right causes.”
If elected, Soto says he would work to create a public health care option within the Affordable Care Act to give people without insurance an affordable avenue.
Rudy Soto: “People shouldn’t also have to go bankrupt. I’ve heard so many stories from people who send me messages where they’ve seen my video online at rudysoto.us and Rudy for Congress on Facebook, where I share my story about my dad and I had people reach out and I had people reach out and tell me stories about how they had a parent move across state lines or would live away just so they could afford health care for a certain point to provide for a family member. I just think we’re better than that. So, certainly health care. Growing our economy from ground up, pushing for broadband development and rural and reservation communities so that when kids are out of school, by no fault of their own and their families and their community, that some are just not totally left behind because they can’t really get on. That’s not right and we can do something about it. It will be better for making sure there’s more small business and entrepreneurship opportunities outside of the urban area or suburban area of Boise and some of the bigger cities. Rural folks deserve a shot at the American dream as well.”
Rudy Soto is running for the U.S. House of Representatives as a Democrat in Idaho’s First District.