To members of the Democratic Party, the Nov. 8, 2016, election came as a shock. Rather than electing the first woman U.S. president—former first lady, U.S. Sen. and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—the Electoral College handed her Republican opponent, businessman Donald Trump, the keys to the White House amid a wave of populist and anti-establishment sentiment that extended all the way to the Gem State, where Democrats lost four legislative seats, putting them in an even smaller minority.
Despite setbacks, it's still Shelby Scott's job to provide resources to Idaho Democrats, keep them in the news, communicate with voters across the state and look ahead to upcoming midterm elections in 2018. The Idaho Democratic Party's legislative services director, she discussed the 2017 Idaho Legislature, which gavels into session Monday, Jan. 9; the race for Democratic National Committee chair; and the path forward for key planks of the Democratic Party platform in Idaho.
How will a Donald Trump presidency affect Idaho?
Legislatively, I can see some of his priorities and appointments having issues for Idaho. Rick Perry [who was appointed U.S. Department of Energy secretary] could have huge repercussions across the state. I don't think too much about Trump's effect: I think about how we're going to have an affect on the Idaho Legislature still.
Democrats lost four seats in the Idaho Legislature. What will change?
[Republicans] didn't need us in the Legislature to pass bills. They haven't needed us for a while. It's really about making sure that if they feel like they do have a mandate, fighting against those things that could really harm Idahoans.
How will the Idaho Democratic Party be effective?
There are a lot of things we can do. When the Luna Laws were going through the Legislature, they made them stand up and read every single bill in its third reading. It's a tactic to slow things down and helps us get our point across.
Are you reassessing the policy areas where you could see a positive effect?
The economy, education, infrastructure and of course equality: We're never going to stop fighting for equality for every Idahoan. We've heard rumors [Republican legislators] are going to bring a preemption bill for all the human rights ordinances around the state. That would be something we'd continue to fight.
What does the path forward look like for pursuing Medicaid expansion?
We have a longer path to get that passed in Idaho. I wouldn't call it dead, but obviously a federal path isn't open anymore. The ball is in the Republicans' court. We've been fighting for this, but they need to take the reigns.
What's the outlook for Your Health Idaho?
If [Trump] just decides to completely dismantle that, I can't see there being any stomach from Republicans to keep it going or find funding for it.
What kind of post-election soul-searching are Idaho Dems going through right now?
Our messaging committee is trying to keep it really local. We're Idaho Democrats, not national Democrats.
What's the Idaho Democratic Party's long-term vision for Idaho?
Breaking the Republican supermajority, always. But that's more for the party. For legislators, it's about passing policy that would help a majority of Idahoans and not just a small subset of them.
Sally Boynton Brown is running for National Democratic Party chair. What does she bring to the table?
She's one of those people who takes huge ideas and implements them. She brings new blood to the race. With some of those other contenders, they're the party elite and they've been around in the Beltway for a while, and it's important that we get a voice from the West that's making sure our issues are being heard by people over there. There have been times when we've dealt with the DNC where messaging alone, it's like they're killing us out here. People have different values out here. I think it's really important that we have someone who's pushing for our issues. She's not afraid to do things no one else would do, and that's where we need to go.