Fifty-year-old first-time gubernatorial candidate Tommy Ahlquist chose the heart of Boise’s newly developed downtown - surrounded by buildings his development company, Gardner Company, built from the ground up - to serve as the backdrop for a one-on-one interview about his platforms he is running on.
"It's been one of the blessings of my life to be able to come down and do some of these things. You know, things that people said, ‘you can't do,'” Ahlquist said.
“Bringing people together and creating a downtown and a vibrant community, really driving the economy. You know, when we finished that building,” he said, pointing to the Zions Bank tower. "We were still in the depths of the recession. We were still laying in bed thinking, 'can we do this?' Bringing people together.
"I'm very, very proud of some of the things we've done together as a company, and the way we've kind of done it right. Again, people saying, 'you can't do it,' and then delivering what I think is a crown jewel of downtown."
But, the man who was instrumental in changing the landscape of downtown Boise says his passion is health care and education.
A former ER physician and father of four with, what he calls, real solutions for issues the state has been wrestling with for a decade.
"Health care is a disaster for health care companies and families everywhere and the proposals I’m seeing are, I think, a lot of back room deals going on, political stunts.” Ahlquist said.
“I understand why they're doing them, but let's actually get some real-world solutions and real-world leadership and make a difference for families in Idaho, and I believe we can do that. We need more transparency in the system. We need to reform Medicaid and get personal accountability in there. We need more insurance reform. And then we need transparency for patients so you know what it costs.
"The economists I’m working with think we can drop premiums for Idahoans down 50 to 60 percent. Imagine that, in your family budget or your business budget, we will tackle health care.”
And when it comes to reforming the education model in Idaho, Ahlquist says, because he is actively involve at the personal level, he knows what needs to happen.
“I’ve raised my kids here, my two older kids, I still have two younger kids at home, and those young kids are going to the public school system and despite us putting more money in, it always seems like we're putting more money in, we're at the bottom, and I say enough of that, let's get some real-world leadership education, let's clearly define goals, let's do what we do in the real world, how would that be?,” Ahlquist said.
“Clearly defining goals, having incentives for our teachers and superintendents to do the things that are going to make a difference. Let's hold people accountable, but let's help our teachers, let's quit blaming our teachers for a lot of the things we're in. Let's clearly define goals and then go after this. I think every kid in Idaho needs to be able to choose from a technical education, right to an Idaho job, Idaho kids for Idaho jobs, let's streamline our higher ed in Idaho."
He wrapped it all up with his bottom line:
"This election is about the future, it's not about the past. What do we want to do in Idaho in the future for our kids, for our families, for our businesses, and I believe I’m uniquely qualified. As a doctor, as a developer, as a business guy, as a husband, as a father, I think I’ve got the qualities and the leadership, I think it's real-world leadership to come in and make a difference.
“So much of a government is designed to grow and to allow mediocrity to creep in; get rid of the mediocrity, that's what we do in the real world. Let's bring excellence into everything we do and I think that'll be our heritage, it will be that we went in, we worked hard, and we represented the people, we brought transparency and from dawn to dusk for the right reasons. That'll be the heritage."
Idaho’s primary election is May 15.