Rudy Soto says he is “a different kind of Democrat.”

The 34-year-old Nampa man will battle incumbent Republican Russ Fulcher for Idaho’s First Congressional District seat in the November general election.

“I’m running because I think people of Idaho and especially people of Idaho’s First District deserve better representation and a fair shot at the American dream,” Soto said.

Soto is finishing off a north Idaho tour that included stops in Sandpoint, Coeur d’Alene and Moscow. He will be in Lewiston today before heading back to the Boise area.

Soto said he was inspired to run for office after his father died from a lack of access to health care.

“Him not having access to any quality health care after all the work and time he put in just didn’t seem right,” Soto said. “It didn’t sit well with me. It was hard for our family.”

Since his father’s cancer was considered a preexisting condition and there was no Medicaid expansion in Idaho at the time, he was priced out of health insurance plans and died months later, according to Soto’s website, rudysoto.us.

Soto said he used his father’s death as motivation and quickly went to work as a health policy analyst, enrolling people in health care plans like Medicaid and Medicare.

Health care is a human right, Soto said, and it is the top issue he wants to address, if elected.

“We have a lot of gaps and shortcomings in our health care system that need to be addressed and resolved,” he said.

Soto said he would like to strengthen and expand federal programs like Medicaid and Medicare.

Infrastructure development, including rural broadband so small communities are not left behind, is another priority for Soto.

“There should be equal opportunity throughout the country for small businesses and entrepreneurs that don’t live in or really close to big cities,” he said.

Soto said his background and first-hand experiences make him a different kind of Democrat.

Soto served 9 1/2 years in the U.S. Army National Guard, is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes in Idaho, the son of a Mexican immigrant and the first person in his family to graduate from college. After serving in the military, Soto worked as a congressional staffer in Washington, D.C.

He said he was deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border while in the military to enforce immigration laws.

“I’ve seen our immigration system’s shortcomings in a multifaceted way,” Soto said.

He said he brings unique perspectives to the table that allow him to understand both sides of an issue.

For example, Soto said he spent time as an adolescent in a juvenile corrections center but also served as a military policeman in the National Guard.

“I have really balanced views on these things that are based on first-hand experience,” he said.

Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to gcabeza@dnews.com.

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