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Idaho State Democratic Chair Cornforth Speaks in Weiser

By: Linda Strain

The Washington County Democrats met face to face for the first time in many months, the evening of May 25th at the Weiser Little Theater, with 19 folks attending. Our speaker was Fred Cornforth the new Idaho State Democratic Chair. Cornforth is from Garden City, was newly elected in March and replaces Democratic Chairwoman, Evengeline Beechler, who declined to run for a second term. He is a long time Idahoan from a logging family and homesteaders born in Blackfoot. Fred spent his high school years in Belgrade, Montana and stated, “People with calluses on their hands are my type of people. It is an incredible honor to be elected State party chair. We are the minority party, and it is not even close. Things need to be different in our state. We have dropped the rope in our competition with the Republican Party. We need to stand up and take back our power. We are in the middle of a U-turn in our party. The present legislature even wants us to ask permission to name our streets.”

Something has happened in rural Idaho that we have lost so many Democrats. Blame it on not listening. What has happened, is we have not pulled together. To change that it will take 44 counties worth of strategy to get our state back. The Party wants to listen and must listen. We have exceptional Democratic leaders out of Boise’s North end, but we need to expand on that. We see areas where we have a chance, like district 10.


Our Legislators have attacked Education at all levels this year and from denying funding for teachers to refusing to accept Federal Grants for kindergarten and Universities. Education is what raised him up and made a different life possible. He was Member of FFA, he moved pipe and he worked on the family farm. Critical knowledge and skills to survive are taught in schools, from welding, cooking, sewing on a button in Home Economics class. Is that even available in our schools anymore? It troubles him when he sees our neighbors that are Republicans, not see it.


He shared a Story of himself as a former minister, where his father asked him to read Romans 1 in the Bible. He said he was not sure of the lesson he was supposed to learn until his father told him, “Now to read Romans 2”. The message is that we should not judge. That should also be applied here. If we are going to win, we cannot judge our Republican friends. Once we start to judge we lose our ability to communicate. We do not like being told what to do, that is common among all of us.


He, in his adult life, became an apartment developer for affordable housing. Cornforth has taken his education, life with dedicated parents and took it to develop affordable housing in Idaho communities. An apartments complex in Payette, behind the High School, was one of his first projects.

Right now, we have 19 out of 105 seats in the Idaho Legislature and we have several that we feel we have a chance of turning. We see a lot of hope in our eyes, every day we show up. Our party was too focused on our leader Cecil Andrus. His gift was not building our party, but to get many people with different views to walk in the same direction together.


The hard hearts can be changed through service. Come alongside them. We must listen more than we talk. How can we advance and come together? Challis is seeing 50% home price increases, mostly due to people buying second homes. Idaho the second worst for property taxes, behind Nebraska. The Legislature did not pass one education bill, legitimate property tax relief, but took the ability to name our community streets away. Then they had to take a two-week break because they refused to wear masks and Covid started spreading among them. Scott Bedke called it a vacation.


“My feelings, as the chair of the Washington Co Democrats is that Chairman Cornforth speaks wisely and practices what he preaches. We are Idahoans. We need to listen to one another and stop casting blame and ugliness when we do not always have our way. We need to come alongside, listen to each other, and solve the issues that impact us as Idahoans. It won’t be easy but nothing worthwhile is!”

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