Singer, prosecutor, construction worker, lawmaker. And he's only 31. A freshman in the Idaho House, Coeur d'Alene Republican Rep. Luke Malek dove into the political deep end when he was tasked with membership on the House Health and Welfare, State Affairs and Judiciary and Rules committees.
"I love this," said Malek, but added: "Having said that, I knew it would be difficult, but it is far more difficult than anything I imagined."
Between committee sessions, floor votes and a constant stream of meetings, Boise Weekly sat down with Malek to talk about his family (both parents are physicians), his music and and a search for political harmony.
You're the oldest of four boys?
I am. I have a 26-year-old brother in the Air Force, another brother who just turned 23 and my youngest brother is a junior in high school. We're named Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Yeah. We're Catholic.
What was the big dream for you as a young man?
I wanted to be a singer. I saw Garth Brooks in concert and thought I could do that.
Did you pursue that dream?
I did. I got a scholarship to study music at the College of Idaho but it turned out that music theory wasn't for me.
What was the fork in the road that set you on another path?
I ran for student government and became the student body president in 2002-2003.
Those were some pretty controversial times at the College of Idaho. How close did you get to the conversations about how financially tenuous things were?
I was the first student to know that we had an $11 million shortfall. The president pulled me into his office and said, "We may have to shut our doors."
What could a student do about any of that?
We were either going to turn into a professional-technical college or I proposed a plan to undergo a strategic breakdown to return to the roots of the college. And that's what we did.
What did you decide to do after graduation?
I was pretty tired so I decided to work construction. Plus, I shooed horses. I did that all the way through high school and college.
Do you have a family of your own?
How did you meet your fiancée?
When we were in law school at the University of Idaho. We've been dating four years this month.
Do you have a wedding date?
Sunday, September 1.
When did you first decide to run for the Idaho Legislature?
When Marge Chadderdon, the person who held this seat before me, decided to retire. She was extremely encouraging.
What was the foundation of your campaign?
I had already shared some pretty strong opinions in op-ed pieces that I had written for the Coeur d'Alene Press.
Did any of those columns stir up more controversy than the rest?
My columns about marijuana really struck some chords.
What do you believe are the risks of legalizing recreational use of marijuana or opening the doors to medical marijuana?
Having been a prosecutor, I know what a farce medical marijuana is. This campaign to legalize medical marijuana is a predatory campaign by the drug cartels.
Do you think there is particular risk to Idaho with Washington's decision to legalize recreational use of marijuana?
Once you legalize it you will have no ability to regulate it and it will be opening the floodgates for drug distribution.
You sit on the House Health and Welfare Committee and you came out on record, along with a number of other legislative freshmen, in support of Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter's proposal for a state-run health insurance exchange.
To be clear, we said we would not support the governor's bill without specific parameters. What needs to be included is a provision that says we'll be watching this at every step. If we choose to dissolve this six months or six years from now, it would be the federal government's responsibility to come in and pick this up. We've been told that this is better for small businesses and our constituents. If that turns out not to be the case, we'll dissolve the exchange.
At the age of 31 most people are hitting their professional stride but you're the second youngest member of the Idaho House. What's the advantage, or disadvantage, of being so young in the Idaho Legislature?
The negative, I would say, is that there is a large number of people with a tremendous amount of experience that I can't begin to touch. The converse of that is I bring a unique perspective from my generation to the table.
I should note that you have several pictures in your office of Idaho congressmen, past and present.
I interned for Senators [Larry] Craig and [Mike] Crapo. Plus, I worked for Jim Risch when he was governor.
How have they influenced you?
Jim Risch's question is always, "Why?" You need to always be asking that question. I think about him on a daily basis.
Who do you think are the faces of the Republican Party's future?
I'm very intrigued by [Florida Sen.] Marco Rubio. I have a U.S. Constitution signed by [Louisiana Gov.] Bobby Jindal. I was very sad to see [Former South Carolina Gov.] Mark Sanford fall from grace the way he did. He was really carrying the mantle for conservative values up to that point.
What's the chance of you holding a different elected office in the next 10 years?
I'm sure I'll hold another office. I don't know whether that will be at the local, state or federal level.
How would you describe your politics?
Nothing is more sacred to a human being than his own sense of self-worth. We need to have rules to play by, but they need to be in the context of empowering the individual. And sometimes that means choosing consequences over safety. I don't believe in a reactionary government. I believe in a government that is centered on promoting individual freedoms.
Do you think the U.S. government has gone too far in its attempt to balance protections versus infringements on personal rights?
Absolutely. If I could bring anything to the table, it would be me questioning if what we're giving up is worth it for an appearance of safety.
Do you have a sense that there is some looming or pending threat to the right to bear arms?
I do. There's a clear and present public sentiment that guns are not necessary and that it should be the government's role to protect us, rather than our own responsibility to protect ourselves.
How often do you get back home to Coeur d'Alene?
I try to get back every weekend. It's important. Nothing bothers me more than politicians who feel they have ownership of their offices. We need to be in constant contact with the people.