Democratic congressional candidate Sara Idleman believes bipartisanship will create a path to better America’s future and says she has the experience necessary to reach across the aisle and get things done for the North Country.
The five-time elected Greenwich town supervisor is the only Democrat on an all-Republican board and one of four in a 17-member county board, meaning every day on the job requires bipartisanship.
While she said she strongly believes in the Democratic Party’s principals, she always will listen to others’ ideas and opinions for guidance, making compromises when necessary.
“I think that the only way you can get anything done is to work across the aisle,” Idleman said. “What we see in Washington right now is people digging into their entrenched ideas, and they are not willing to negotiate.”
This unwillingness to cooperate recently resulted in a weekend-long government shutdown, which Idleman said could have been prevented. While she understands why people voted both ways on the funding measure, she would have taken the second vote’s outcome the first time, holding Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to his word of finding a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals fix.
“We have to look at what we’re doing for immigrants; I think that’s a major issue,” Idleman said. “At the same time, I don’t think shutting down a government accomplishes anything.”
Farms and immigrants
Idleman is especially concerned with how national immigration reform will effect North Country farms, who often rely heavily on immigrants for their workforce. She said DACA recipients should be given a definite path to citizenship and that farms and tourism both need the introduction of year-round work visas.
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“These are the people that are working those jobs that nobody else wants to do,” Idleman said.
A former 8th-grade social studies teacher, Idleman said looking into America’s past is a good way to determine how to handle immigration in the future and give context to the current rise in immigration from Latin American countries. The Chinese tunneled through the Rockies, the Irish dug canals, and Czechs, Poles and Italians worked in the coal mines.
“The people who moved into this country to do the jobs that nobody else wanted to do were the physical builders of this country, and I think we forget that,” Idleman said. “When I look at the immigrants who are here now, they’re keeping a lot of these industries going.”
She said an increasing number of immigrant workers is not what keeps the working class from earning more; it’s the fact that labor unions have been weakened over the past few decades.
Idleman said she sees a large segment of the population that are one catastrophic event away from poverty. One of her priorities if elected would be to make sure dairy farmers are able to make a decent living. She said farming is a large industry in Washington county and she has talked with many constituent farmers who feel economically drained.
She is not currently confident about what could be done to help dairy farmers, but since around 20 percent of their product is exported, mostly to Mexico, she believes keeping international trade thriving is critical to their success.
When President Donald Trump talks about reducing trade, she believes that will directly hurt the North Country’s dairy farms.
She also said the government has to make sure there is enough farmland to meet production needs.
“I think we need to be really vigilant about protecting farmland. We’ve lost a lot of farmland to development,” Idleman said.
Labor and education
“We have put too much emphasis on testing and getting into college and not enough emphasis on developing trades,” Idleman said. “Our schools are not looking at the wide range of jobs.”
There is a lack of taught skilled labor, according to Idleman, that leads to high unemployment and many low-wage jobs. She said more funding should be given to high schools to teach trades at a younger age and prepare students for a job without a college degree.
She said people can take advantage of the apprenticeship programs offered by labor unions and be trained in much-needed and even high-paying careers.
For colleges, she said she has considered free public college education to be a positive solution because student debt, brought on by banks, is out of hand.
“The student loan program is almost criminal,” Idleman said. “We should not be burdening these kids with those kinds of interest rates.”
Watching and learning
Idleman said she would be an observant congresswoman, listening to the needs of her constituents, the ideas of the people she surrounds herself with and the criticism of her peers in Congress.
She has remained steadfast in the majority of her political opinions but is not afraid to change them. She was in support of the Vietnam War when it started, believing the “domino” theory that if one country fell to communism, the rest would as well. As she saw the war drag on, she saw less of a reason for military action in the country and learned from the mistakes made in that conflict.
She said she opposed the wars in Iraq and Syria and that the country needs a definite exit strategy to stop putting American soldiers at risk and end the drain on the defense budget.
As someone who has lived in the district her entire life, Idleman believes she knows the district’s needs, how to fulfill them and how to do it in a way both Republicans and Democrats will agree with.