Idaho’s Democrats: Minority, down 4-1, forced ‘ourselves into the conversation’
For an object lesson in doing more with less, look to Democrats in the Idaho Legislature this year.
Outnumbered better than 4-1 in both the Senate and House and down another four seats after last November’s elections, the 17 Democrats in the Legislature, all but five of them from Boise, punched above their weight this session, their impact abetted by strategy, circumstance and the “exciting accident” of new leadership.
Democrats were more unified and focused this session. In the House, despite the leadership change, they worked with the GOP majority leadership while also exploiting dissension and rebellion within the Republican ranks to their advantage. That fracture allowed Democrats to pick when to side with Republican moderates or with the far-right conservatives who feuded with GOP leaders all session.
With their numbers, Democrats could have played the victim card, but didn’t. With no hope of getting Republicans to move on options for expanding Medicaid to help the 78,000 Idahoans without health care coverage, or of getting their own bill introduced, they kept a spotlight on the topic. They introduced floor amendments to another health care bill so a debate on Medicaid expansion at least could be had. When the Republican chairman of the House Environment committee refused to hold a hearing on climate change, the Democrats set up their own. Organized and hosted by Boise Democrat Rep. Ilana Rubel, it was the biggest public hearing — on any topic — of the session.