By Clarice M McKenney
I drove to Congressman Russ Fulcher’s Town Hall in Sandpoint Tuesday night in spite of the brutal cold and joined a full crowd. To everyone’s credit, in spite of strong feelings on both sides of each contentious issue, it was a civil discussion. The brochure at the sign-in desk boasted of his cosponsoring the “Life at Conception Act,” the “Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act” that permits guns taken through other states to be concealed legally, and the so-called “Hearing Protection Act” that eliminates a tax on gun “suppressors,” as he calls the silencers that we know help criminals hide their crimes.
The congressman told the group that although he’s prohibited from campaigning for himself in such taxpayer-funded meetings, he wanted to recognize many in the crowd who are in office or campaigning for election or reelection. Identifying themselves were city councilors, county commissioners and a far-right Boundary County resident running for Sage Dixon’s office.
Sitting right behind him was his opponent, Democrat Kathy Larson, who also is running for Dixon’s seat. A woman was recording the meeting for Fulcher’s opponent, Democrat Kaylee Peterson. Kimberly Gentle, Vice Chair of the Port of Pend Oreille board, spoke at length against removing four of Idaho’s lower Snake River dams, a position matching Fulcher’s. A key proponent of bringing back the healthy salmon runs by removing the dams is Idaho’s other Congressman Mike Simpson.
Sandpoint City Council Chair Luke Omodt brought up the lack of essential funds to run local governments due to an overabundance of federal lands that do not contribute to our tax base. Fulcher agreed, saying, “We need to examine the formula for (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) funds, which have decreased since the forests are no longer in active management.”
Earlier he had explained, “Idaho is one of only five states where most of the land is federal. You can’t balance a budget without a tax base. I try to meet with new (House) members from states like Delaware and Massachusetts to explain it. From each dollar of revenues states like New York and Connecticut put in, they get 65 cents back; Idaho only gets 35-40 cents.”
In 2000, Congress reauthorized the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act. Fulcher hopes that western states soon will get more, respectively. The Good Neighbor Authority, which addresses the issue by partnering with the federal government in extraction of resources and by reexamining the formula for revenues from logging projects now that they’re not in active forest management. “It should open any door,” he concluded.
When he opened up the floor for questions, I was the first to speak. As I had told him when I introduced myself in the lobby, I said I have written him many letters since he came into office. Although I appreciate the fact that he replies, I have not liked his answers.
Now I said, “I understand that you see how heavily populated our district is with “Christian” Nationalists,” and you’re more comfortable with them as constituents. Will you recognize that many of us in your district are like me, and as a lifelong Christian I’m not being represented by the bills you have supported?”
“I stand for human dignity,” he replied. “But on social stuff we’ll be on opposite sides.”
Then a retired man in the audience confronted Fulcher: “You’re saying you’re on one side of the (political) divide and you’re not going to change. Your side is holding up the budget over the border. Why do you refuse to negotiate with the other side?” Fulcher replied, “The cost to you, your kids and grandkids (of illegal immigration at the southern border) is $200 billion.”
The man continued, saying Fulcher should be kicked off the ballot for attempting to overturn the election January 6. Fulcher replied, “I didn’t vote to certify the presidential election of 2020 because some states (he listed three or four) said they did not follow their own rules.”
A cardiovascular radiologist named Thomas Fletcher spoke at length against Dr. Fauci and disputed the effectiveness of masks or vaccinations against Covid, and Fulcher heartily agreed.
“Dr. Fletcher used the phrase ‘medical freedom,’” Sandpoint resident Ellen Weissman said, reminding everyone that our doctors no longer can provide medical freedom for mothers whose lives are threatened by unviable pregnancies because of laws that Republicans have enacted. Weissman asked Fulcher’s help, but he said he was unaware of the health service issues in Bonner County.
He added, “The Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade, and I’m a prolife person. I don’t support abortion, and I think it’s rightfully in the hands of the states.” When he claimed abortions are performed even after birth, I couldn’t help but blurt out, “You’ve been misinformed.” When he doubled down, insisting he has proof, I said, “Send me that proof.”
“We’ve got the smallest majority of either party in the history of Congress, Fulcher said of the Republican majority in the US House of Representatives. But the majority sets the agenda, he reassured his supporters in the crowd. “We got the IRS Army delayed, stopped the drain on our petroleum reserve and opened federal lands to resources. We eliminated the woke stuff because it’s not conducive to the military. We reinstated the Hyde amendment so there can be no tax-funded abortions. But it’s a crap shoot because we have no control of the White House or Senate.”
Fulcher spent most of his speech time reassuring voters who support his positions. He said he asked the Speaker of the House for a waiver so he could be on seven committees instead of the standard four. He told the group that his committees of Energy and Commerce and Natural Resources have the broadest jurisdiction.
Following the meeting, I spoke at length with a Clark Fork man named Alan Golub about what he had asked Fulcher during the Town Hall. He had said that friends and relatives, whom he called, “some of the best in the military had been kicked out for not taking the jab.”
He had asked Fulcher, “Is there a chance of bringing them back with higher rank?” Fulcher had said he didn’t know about reinstating them at higher rank, but that he agreed they should not have been required to vaccinate against Covid. “The more that comes out, the more the vaccine wasn’t what it was supposed to be,” Fulcher had said, to applause.
Now I asked him why his acquaintances had refused vaccination. He started to go into a long explanation of “evidence” against the vaccine, so I gave him my email address and asked him to send that evidence to me.
I also hope to receive Congressman Fulcher’s “proof” of abortions performed at or after birth.
My personal hope, though, is that he’ll share with me the gorgeous photo he took with his phone. When I introduced myself before the meeting, I asked if he was able to see the awesome sunset on his way to Sandpoint. He showed me two beauties he said were done with one hand and not looking at the phone. At least we have photography in common.