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Democratic lieutenant gov. candidate Collum visits north central Idaho

Lewiston Morning Tribune - 9/14/2018

Sept. 14--Listen to Kristin Collum talk about her background and you'd swear she is a Republican.

She ticks all the appropriate GOP boxes: military veteran-turned-businesswoman, a fiscal conservative whose pull-herself-up-by-the-bootstraps story demonstrates her ability to adapt and thrive in any environment.

So why is she running as a Democrat in Idaho's lieutenant governor race?

"Probably anywhere else, I might be a Republican," said Collum, who is in north central Idaho this week for a series of public events. "When I got out of the Army, I was apolitical and leaned Republican. But the Republican Party left me behind. When I checked my values, I found I was an Idaho Democrat."

Those values include an appreciation for the transformative power of education, a belief that women should be paid equally for equal work, and a distrust of extreme wealth inequality.

Describing herself as a "lunch program kid," Collum grew up in a working-class family in Montana. Although she was a good student, no one talked to her about going to college. Instead, she enlisted in the Army and worked her way up through the ranks, leaving 12 years later as an officer. Along the way, she earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in information systems.

"I want everyone to be self-sufficient, but I also want to give people a chance," she said. "I know the solution to a lot of social problems is education. What if no one had paid for my school lunches? I'm the product of giving a poor, working-class kid a chance to go to school."

Collum goes up against former state Rep. Janice McGeachin of Idaho Falls in the Nov. 6 election. The winner will become the state's first female lieutenant governor.

She has never run for political office before. She decided to get involved because she wanted to push back against the extreme, partisan nature of politics these days.

"I served with NATO and with the joint services (at the Pentagon)," Collum said. "I see a lot of things going on in society now -- communities being divided, the social fabric being ripped apart. It's not what I want for my daughters. We need to get things back on track."

Given her diverse background, she feels she would be an asset to whomever is elected Idaho's next governor. For example, she'd love to focus on veterans issues, as well as cybersecurity. As a former single mom herself, she also has an understanding of many of the challenges faced by women in society.

"I think those are areas where I can step in and make a difference," she said. "Whoever is elected governor, they can only benefit by having me (as second in command). I have unique skills I can bring to bear on these nonpartisan issues."

After leaving the military, Collum accepted a job at Micron and later served in various capacities at other tech firms. In her last position -- which she gave up to run for office -- she served as software engineering manager at Xylem, a water technology firm. Now she's nine months into the longest job interview she's ever had, with seven weeks left to go.

"I've shown my willingness to serve my country and put people before party," Collum said. "I'm not running for office because of the party I represent, but because I want to give back to the state."

Collum will be at the Latah County Fair today before heading to Orofino to take part in Saturday's Lumberjack Days parade. She'll meet with voters in Orofino City Park after the parade.

Spence may be contacted at bspence@lmtribune.com or (208) 791-9168.

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(c)2018 the Lewiston Tribune (Lewiston, Idaho)

Visit the Lewiston Tribune (Lewiston, Idaho) at www.lmtribune.com

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