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David Lincoln and Chelsea Gaona-Lincoln

One family, two parties, two high-profile campaigns

George Prentice Apr 18, 2018 4:01 AM

Chelsea Gaona-Lincoln, 34, remembers the first time she met David Lincoln, the man who would become her stepfather.

"I was four years old. I went on one of his first dates with mom," said Gaona-Lincoln. "I was even included in their vows when I was five. And when we got to move to dad's farm in Wilder, it was the best."

"I became an instant dad," said Lincoln, now 62, beaming at his stepdaughter. "All of a sudden, I had this lovely, inquisitive, analytical girl as a daughter."

Personality-wise, the two have plenty in common, but politically they have plenty of differences. She's a staunch Democrat and he's a longtime fixture in Canyon County Republican party politics. More importantly, they're both running for the Idaho Legislature this year—for opposing parties. Luckily, they're not running directly against one another. Lincoln is one of five Republicans in the Tuesday, May 15 GOP primary for Idaho House seat 11B. Gaona-Lincoln is running unopposed in the Democratic primary, but come November she'll face Rep. Greg Chaney (R-Caldwell) in the race for Idaho House seat 10B.

Before this year, did you talk much politics at the dinner table?

Lincoln: No, we really don't do that. My wife limits us.

Gaona-Lincoln: But Mom talks politics with me.

Lincoln: And then she tells me what they talked about.

Just for the record, you're running in different districts, so Mr. Lincoln, there's no question that your wife will be be voting for you.

Gaona-Lincoln: She supports Dad 110 percent.

Mr. Lincoln, you've worked for the GOP in your district for many years, but this is your first time running for the legislature. Why wait?

Lincoln: When Rep. Christy Perry (R-Nampa) decided to run for Congress and relinquish her seat in the Idaho House, I was overjoyed that people asked me to run for that seat. With my experience, I'm pretty certain that I could serve on any committee at the Legislature. I've got some pretty strong ties there.

Ms. Gaona-Lincoln, you're no stranger at the Statehouse either. I've seen you testify there on a number of occasions.

Gaona-Lincoln: But sometimes, a few Republicans walk in the other direction when they see me coming.

How easy or difficult was your decision to run for office?

Gaona-Lincoln: After graduating from the College of Idaho, I decided to stay in Caldwell with the intent of running for the legislature someday. I'm a behavioral therapist, working with families stuck in difficult positions. But I offer those services part-time now, so I could shift some of that energy toward running my campaign.

Mr. Lincoln, your name is on one of the most crowded ballots in the GOP primary with no fewer than four challengers. Do you feel you have your work cut out for you?

Lincoln: District 11 is very unique, taking up three-quarters of Canyon County. It's a different dynamic. When I go out to knock on doors, it takes me hours because of how rural the district is.

Ms. Gaona-Lincoln, which issues are top priorities in your campaign?

Gaona-Lincoln: Education has to be close to the top. Plus, agricultural issues are huge. I come from an agricultural family and we have to make sure that our laborers can work here in the best way possible. I'm also concerned about access to health care.

Can you appreciate that some Republicans might say the exact same thing?

Gaona-Lincoln: My biggest focus is to stop politicizing things and choose directions that are not just business-savvy, but also humanity-based. We're supposed to be representing all of our constituents.

Let's talk about health care. Mr. Lincoln, the person who has been representing your district up until now, Rep. Perry, tried hard to push through legislation to address Idaho's Medicaid gap this year—but the legislature chose not to act.

Lincoln: I really think there's a solution out there that doesn't just include Medicaid. I'm willing, win or lose, to step up and try to help find a solution. I don't think people realize what this problem is costing our counties. I think there's some way we can resolve this.

Ms. Gaona-Lincoln, you're one of the most recognizable advocates in Idaho for LGBTQ issues. I think a lot of people may recognize you for your advocacy for proposed Add the Words legislation in years past.

Gaona-Lincoln: Our team has shifted some of its focus to not just having more rallies or protests, but empowering people to do something transformative and restorative. I do believe that there's more of an openness on this issue among Republican leadership in the legislature. We had an amazing 22-hour Add the Words public hearing in January of 2015, and that was "Day One" for a good many conservative legislators. I met with Rep. [Paul] Shepherd (R-Riggins) and told him, "I know we're on opposite sides of the aisle, and you may not see what I'm seeing just yet, but I see this as 'Day One' for you."

Mr. Lincoln, the most intriguing race on the Republican ballot in May is the gubernatorial race. Who are you supporting in your party primary?.

Lincoln: My agricultural roots tell me to vote for Brad Little.

If you could cast a ballot in your daughter's district, can I assume that you'd vote for her?

Lincoln: Of course, she's my daughter.

What if she wasn't your daughter?

Lincoln: Well, that's an entirely different question.

Would you vote for your father?

Gaona-Lincoln: I don't know if he's aware of how much influence he's had in my life. I know Dad as a godly man, [but] not because he ever preached sermons to me. I know him as a family man and as a leader.

Ms. Gaona-Lincoln, the fact that your spouse, Van Beechler, is running for the District 10 State Senate Seat makes this election season even more interesting. How long have you been married?

Gaona-Lincoln: Since September 2016.

And you're expecting a child?

Gaona-Lincoln: In July.

When the whole family gets together, can I assume that you at least talk a bit about your respective campaigns?

Lincoln: Very little. But Chelsea insisted that I needed a Facebook account, so I'm a three-week veteran of Facebook.

Gaona-Lincoln: But life isn't politics, right? When family gets together, there are so many more, better things to talk about. :