Like the endorsement of Rep. Barbara Ehardt, our endorsement of Rep. Bryan Zollinger in his race against Democrat George Morrison is not unanimous.
Morrison has a point when he claims that more than two decades of Republican supermajority rule have undermined accountability. But, as with Jim De Angelis, a majority of the board feel the Democratic Party should have done more to recruit candidates who can compete in District 33.
Zollinger should hear one message loud and clear: no more bills dealing with debt collection. Don’t sponsor them. Don’t push other lawmakers for support. Proactively abstain from any votes on them.
Zollinger has obvious conflicts of interest on any matter dealing with medical debt or debt collection, but he has sponsored legislation that would make it easier for companies like Medical Recovery Services, one of his main clients, to collect more debt and attorney fees.
A lawyer who spends most of his time litigating debt collection cases, including regularly appealing them to the Idaho Supreme Court, shouldn’t touch legislation that so directly and narrowly impacts his business interests. And he should never sponsor a bill that effectively reverses a Supreme Court ruling against his client, as he did earlier this year.
Any reasonable person would look at that and assume Zollinger’s attention to the matter had more to do with his personal interests than the public interest. And, as the lawyer well knows, he has a duty not only to avoid actual corruption but also the appearance of corruption, which undermines the credibility of the Legislature.
Zollinger has two jobs — and a moral obligation to ensure that one never touches the other.
But Zollinger has shown that he can act reasonably when issues involving his constituents are at stake. Despite resistance from some other House Republicans to the state taking on debt, Zollinger signed on to a bill that would use state bonding authority to finance the construction of two buildings affiliated with Idaho National Laboratory. While Zollinger, the co-founder of the Idaho Freedom Caucus, is too frequently driven by ideology, he has shown he can be pragmatic as well.
He’s also on the right side of several criminal justice reform issues, including opposition to building a new prison.
Zollinger hasn’t earned an unequivocal endorsement. We’ll be watching closely.