Helen Chenoweth-Hage, an outspoken conservative who served three terms as Idaho’s 1st Congressional District representative, died Monday after being thrown from a vehicle that overturned on an isolated central Nevada highway.
She was traveling toward Tonopah, Nev., at 11:40 a.m. PDT on State Route 376 when the Jeep drifted off the right side of the road, swerved to the left and flipped after the driver overcorrected in steering to the right, Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Rocky Gonzalez said.
State Route 376 is the main route between Tonopah and her ranch in Monitor Valley. The crash occurred about 40 miles from her ranch. Tonopah is halfway between Reno and Las Vegas.
The other occupants — daughter-in-law Yelena Hage, 24, and 5-month-old grandson, Bryan Hage — also were ejected but were not seriously injured. Nye County Sheriff Tony DeMeo said it’s still unclear who was driving.
Gonzalez said Chenoweth-Hage, 68, was holding the baby and wasn’t wearing a seatbelt.
A Republican, Chenoweth-Hage was elected to Congress from Idaho in 1994, serving three terms before stepping down.
She first ran for Congress against incumbent Democrat Larry LaRocco, gaining national attention during fundraisers when she held endangered-salmon bakes, serving canned salmon and ridiculing the listing of Idaho salmon as an endangered species.
During her congressional career, Chenoweth-Hage was a victim of a “salmon pie” attack while at a field hearing on forest health in Missoula, Mont. Randall Mark of Moscow hit her in the head with a “pie” made of rotten canned salmon, forcing the meeting to adjourn for an hour while she cleaned salmon flakes from her hair and jacket.
After the attack, the congresswoman joked, “I would like to say that I find it amusing that they used salmon. I guess salmon must not be endangered anymore.”
Chenoweth-Hage, a colorful lawmaker, said salmon aren’t endangered but that white males are. She also said the Endangered Species Act was unconstitutional, complained about black government helicopters harassing ranchers, said minorities didn’t like northern Idaho because it is too cold and called for disarming federal resource enforcement agents.
The outspoken advocate of smaller government self-imposed a three-term limit and chose not to run in 2000.
She lived in Orofino at the same time Barb and I were going to High School there. Barb’s sister Nancy used to babysit for her and her ex-husband Nick Chenoweth. There are stories I could tell, but won’t, about her private life.
She did a good job as our Representative in Congress. I’m sorry to hear she is gone.