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Idaho farmer faces Olympian in House race

An Idaho farmer who serves as a state legislator will defend his seat during the November election against Olympic track and field legend Dick Fosbury. Fosbury, an Olympic gold medalist in the high jump, is running for office for the first time and will try to unseat Rep. Steven Miller, R-Fairfield.
Sean Ellis

Capital Press

Published on May 29, 2014 11:09AM

An Idaho farmer will compete against an Olympic track and field legend in November, but fortunately for him, it will be at the ballot box and not on the track.

Rep. Steven Miller, a Republican farmer from Fairfield, will be challenged by Olympic high jump gold medalist Dick Fosbury in the November election.

Fosbury, 67, revolutionized the high jump by going over the bar with his back facing the ground, instead of straddling it with his belly facing down, a technique that led him to the gold medal in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.

Fosbury set an Olympic record that year and the vast majority of high jumpers now use his signature move, which was dubbed the “Fosbury Flop.”

Fosbury said he knows headline writers will have a field day if he loses — “Fosbury Flops!” — and he also knows he faces an entirely different type of challenge than the ones he faced on the track.

Though he’s served on a number of public agencies, he’s always been appointed, and he’s also running as a Democrat in heavily Republican Idaho. District 26 includes Blaine County, which votes Democrat, but it also includes parts of Camas, Gooding and Lincoln counties, which are rural and heavily agricultural.

Fosbury has a lot of name recognition among certain circles, but he admits Miller enjoys significant clout among farmers.

Miller, 64, is a third-generation farmer who grows dry land alfalfa and winter and spring wheat. He also raises beef cattle and has grown organic hay and grain in the past and helped get Idaho’s organic laws passed.

He ran a grain elevator and warehouse in the Fairfield area until 2000 and has a bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering from the University of Idaho.

“I’ve done a lot of thing people in this (district) do,” said Miller, who is seeking his second term in the Idaho House of Representatives. “I’ve been a farmer and rancher all my life.”

Miller served on the local planning and zoning board for several years and as a Camas County commissioner for six years. He is also the superintendent of the local soil and water conservation district and served as president of the Idaho Association of Soil Conservation Districts.

Fosbury, a mostly retired civil engineer, has lived in Idaho for 37 years and has 20 acres of pasture for horses and a small garden and orchard just south of Bellevue. “I’m out moving irrigation lines every day,” he said.

Fosbury said he appreciates what agriculture means to the state and nation.

“Farming and ranching feeds our country and … it’s critically important to continue to provide support to the agricultural community,” he said.

Both men were unopposed in the state’s recent primary election.


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