Photos from the Road

Photos from my 2012 Campaign for U.S. Congress.

500 Volunteers. 10 Staff. 4 field offices. 2000 donors. Over $300,000 raised from regular ordinary Idahoans. 110,000 votes in one of the toughest years to run as a Democrat in Idaho. Over 1/4 million phone calls made. Over 25,000 voters contacted and logged. More votes than any Democrat has gotten in the East half of the state ever.

With my deepest respect & gratitude: Thank you all. With LOVE & hope that we can & will do better. My staff is phenomenal. We would be nothing but 10 people in a cafe without all of YOU who gave time or money to make this happen. We organized half the state in ways that helped other candidates on November 6th. The work you all did will continue to help many in the years ahead.
What will I do next. I don’t know. I do know it’s not over Idaho.
.. nicole

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What to Celebrate

Nicole-field-good-crop-smEight months ago, standing in the statehouse considering whether to run for Congress, I figured I could run a good
campaign. What's amazing is that, together with thousands of you, my team ran the best campaign many have
ever seen run in Idaho. Stronger, better organized, more tech savvy, more deeply rooted in communities and more issue-focused than I could have imagined.


Thirty-five percent of the vote. While that sounds dismal, it still means more than 110,000 voters chose me over Mike Simpson on Tuesday. I think that's ten thousand more votes in the east half of the state than any democrat in any congressional or statewide race has ever gotten. And in spite of how LDS enthusiasm for Mitt Romney made this one of the most difficult possible years to run as a Democrat in Idaho, it appears that our campaign brought in about 25,000 new voters to participate in this election. That's an impressive twenty-five thousand people who did not vote in the 2008 presidential race.

We engaged Idaho's powerful Hispanic community and worked so hard that Mike Simpson gained fewer than 2,000 votes from the Romney tide. In fact thousands of LDS men and women and more than 10,000 Republicans and Independents voted for me. That was the work we all did on the phones and the doors –and it mattered.


More than anything, you all allowed me to finally have the resources to use TV and direct mail to push back on issues we so rarely get to re-define here in Idaho. I'm proud we exposed the attitudes that have led to Idaho's grim record on fair pay for women and the kind of cowardice that allowed passage of the Luna laws. We also changed the debate on budget cuts by focusing on job loss, and
explained who the job creators really are in the economy and why.

And last but not least, we've put to rest the question of whether Idahoans will actually vote for a gay person.


I feel profoundly grateful to you all. From the unemployed carpenter who gave me four dollars, to the Republican mothers,
fathers and working people who've crossed streets and sent email to tell me they
voted for me. From the long hours and tremendous heart, hard work and intelligence of my staff and volunteers, to the sense that so many of you gave your time and money because this work is something you believe in.

This has been the most amazing experience of my life. We've made history. Idaho needs us all to keep talking to neighbors over picket fences in our communities, volunteering to organize other volunteers, raising money or using phone calls to change minds on the issues we care about — perhaps to strengthen political organizations and non-profits, to run campaigns or, for many of you, to run for office yourselves.


I have no idea what I'm doing next but I love this state. Sadly, Idaho has failed so many families who've faced hardship these past years, those who've lost jobs and homes or small businesses; those who've waited so long for respect and dignity or legal status; those who strive for simple security or the tools for independence; those who struggle to pay for a college degree or just to put a meal on the table.

The work is not over. What you all have done is so beautiful. Many of you came to this because you care and believe Idaho and its policy makers can do better. Lives depend on all of us using our skills to motivate friends to challenge our Idaho Congressmen, state lawmakers and local officials when policies become cruel or disrespectful.

For the lives and futures of people we care about, let's carry with us what we did this year and make this congressional campaign not an end, but a beginning.


Hard Endings

In these last days, the boxes come out. Empty stacks of them line the halls like flimsy coffins. Senator McKenzie announced this morning we have tied now with the 10th longest session in our 121 year history. By Friday we will tie with the 5th longest. Yet this one with its gut wrenching policies and passionate, even desperate bipartisan debate, seems to have passed like a blurred dream.

–Long evenings pouring over each new version of Tom Luna's long, painful bills to find any change, the implications of each new word or deletion.

–Walking in here from dark streets in the snow or rain or cold. People honking, waving, thumbs up.

–Streams of email like water, where my email box came alive, filling faster than i could read or move to sort or answer.

–The tears of teachers. Many times. Passing words. Me wishing I could say how sorry I am, in my core.

And somehow I expected we would do more than just damage, that there would be a limit to the damage we were willing to do. But, with a few brilliant exceptions, we moderates and Democrats lost every major floor debate: protecting schools; trying to stop the bleeding in Medicaid, mental health and disability services; protecting private end of life and medical decisions; opposing the Republican Party's attempts to strip voters bare, branding party affiliation in waterproof marker on every human chest.

And here I need to say this –say the Republican Party seems broken, bogged down in divisive social and anti-government issues that have been impairing its ability to deal with our state's failure to recover economically; to grow not destroy jobs; protect services which people's lives depend on; stop policy that is already demoralizing and decimating the most important profession in this state, policy which gives millions away to corporations under the guise of reform.

I wish all those moderates out there and in here who have been bashed and bloodied — those who have had enough of all this would join Democrats, help us re-build the Democratic Party back to something powerful enough to check this freight train that is taking our schools and economy downhill before our eyes. What more does it take? What more has to happen? What more can they do to you?

Madam President


Senator Kate Kelly served as Senate President yesterday. There are only seven democrats in the 35 member Idaho Senate. Senator Kelly is the state's first female Senate Minority leader since Mary Lou Reed in 1994. Kate will be retiring from the legislature this year and so Republican leadership asked her to take the honor of wielding the gavel and running the lot of us through the orders of business and the hugely formal process of running the Senate floor process where we meet as a group to vote on legislation that has come to us from the Senate's ten committees. It was a delight to call her Madame President. Some on the floor stood fro recognition just to do so. She got a standing ovation as she left the diocese.

Losing Kate from the Senate means losing the state's most hardworking proponent of ethics reform. It means losing a legal mind with a strong background in environmental issues. It means losing a classmate and friend I have served with for six years, someone I have laughed with, prodded to eat more, talked of family with, respected for her frequent kindness and firm integrity.

It means likely that Branden Durst, brilliant, hardworking and on occasion religiously conservative, will run now to come here to serve with us. Kate and Branden could not possibly be more different. Branden brings to us though a sharp eye like Kate's, a voice that cracks and breaks like Kate's, but one that will surely learn (like all of us slowly must) to blend with it the kindness and deference to the proprieties of the Senate.

It feels like nothing next year will be the same here, especially without Kate. It never is though. This place is like water, ice, steam — year to year, day to day, minute to minute.

Standing up for the Chickens and the Cows

My legislative district is amazing and unusual. I grew up in and lived for many years in Custer County, land of mountains and farms and ranches scratched green in desert along flat spots by rivers. A place of very few people. I understand conservative, agricultural and small government perspectives.

But here in the legislature I represent a district containing far more vegetarians than cows or chickens. My district rests beneath the statehouse and surrounds it like a sea of trees and buildings, rivers, cyclists, sage covered foothills, trails. Ours is a place where people often walk to work and grow gardens and I think perhaps understand the Idaho legislature as a hostile occupation of our progressive turf.

Today we debated oversight of facilities that raise animals for food and meat. Senator Siddoway debated, saying that the bill made him nervous, even if it was as some said intended to pre-empt attacks by animal rights groups to make the state of Idaho look bad.

In the debate here below the red velvet curtains, nothing was said of the animals, the chickens and the cows, so I did stand to debate that the proposed advisory board was skewed, giving barely two votes of ten to speak for the animals and not those whose business is to make money selling their parts to the non-vegetarians of Idaho.

I reminded myself that humor is one of the few ways for me to make my way here without constantly being an unwelcome voice of dissent. So I stood and spoke for the chickens and the cows. Someone has to.

Cement Booties

It is not like anyone seems to have a plan for how the Republican House, Senate and Governor will agree on anything and go home. Senate Republican leaders are trying to help Governor Otter save face. So polite. But at what cost? And why take the fall for him pouring himself such an oversized pair of cement booties? The House says it is going home with or without us. I agree, we should go. But Senate Republicans have closer relationships with the cement and engineering industry lobbyists who must be camped in Otters office. They say they wouldn't dare override the Governor. So how does this end? Cement booties for all?


Some days I walk myself to the statehouse in the dark, sit attentive
through long committees, ask unwelcome questions, end up the sole no or
yes vote on a bill, look at the long list of evening events we are
supposed to attend and wonder what I am doing.

I forget how many
kind people have written to tell me how much better it makes them feel
that I am here. I forget that on occasion I do make a change that
affects lives, I give voice to what isn't heard or those who will be
harmed. And that is something.

It is hard though.

when we heard a simple bill to mandate that insurance companies cover
"elemental formula" as if it were medicine so that kids (whose lives
depend on eating this formula instead of food) can afford it and can
stay alive.

So that you know, some kids can't eat regular food.
At about two months their bodies reject their mother's milk and if they
are lucky their doctor figures it out and puts them on special formula
and then about 1/3 of them get better quickly, another bunch get better
in a year or two and a very few need the formula for life.

Idaho insurance companies don't cover this stuff. And after today's
vote they still won't. The companies promise though to try harder and
we believed them. We don't like mandates I guess. This is something new
for me to know about the Commerce Committee. It governs health
insurance. Or, I know now, doesn't govern health insurance. All the
things we COULD do to make health insurance companies do a better job,
stop denying claims, be more accountable for making people wade through
so much red tape to get something covered they know should be
covered… we don't do that. We trust insurance companies instead.

sat there today and listened to those parents' stories. I can only ask
what kind of nation makes people lose everything because someone in
their family is sick? What kind of government tells them to get a
divorce so they can maybe qualify for Medicaid so their child does not
die? What kind of state makes people go through this? Run up tens of
thousands on their credit cards, sell everything? What kind of people
refuse to do anything because the insurance company lobbyists are
really nice people and they promise us things if we will only agree not
to make them do what they don't want to.

I'm disgusted because we
have no backbone, because I work in one of the few places where we
COULD fix some of what is wrong with healthcare and we won't. I'm
disgusted because I work in one of the few places in the state where
the people I work with mostly don't seem to think there is anything
wrong with insurance companies or the way health care works. Or worse,
they use how broken the system is to agree to do nothing at all.


On a similar insurance coverage issue, Lot Watts, social worker from St. Als Hospital testifies as to how some cancer patients are unable to pay for a chemotherapy drug because insurers classify it as a pharmaceutical rather than a cancer therapy. Watts and the chemotherapy bill's sponsor Senator Joyce Broadsword are opposed by not fewer than seven seated insurance industry lobbyists.

Why we run

Whether I am just one voice, or we are four or seven or 19 or 18, we will be there. To say what needs to be said sometimes… on the house or Senate floor, in committee or halls of the statehouse. I am asked again and again why I'd want to serve in the Idaho Legislature representing a party that makes up only 25% of that law making body. I love the issues and also know that just being there to say when something is not right or to speak for the Idahoans who don't win the floor debate or the Committee vote. That's part of why we run. We, the fewer. The minority.

John McGee is a Republican law maker appointed to the Senate the same year I was first elected to the House. He is a moderate and a kind person. Speaking with him at College of Idaho last week, I felt how different are our experiences as legislators, his and mine even though in many ways we play somewhat parallel roles in our respective parties. We were chosen by our local presidential campaigns to debate together three times this election season on KBOI radio, each giving our rational as to which candidate won each of the Presidential and Vice Presidential debates.

But John serves as chairman of a the Senate Transportation Committee. He's been a possible appointee for Lt. Governor and the U.S. Senate. He cuts ribbons when new sections of freeway open. This year I will be a freshman in the Senate, the second to the bottom of the order of seniority there, bringing with me four years in the House, visible and often a lead voice on the issues, but never with a formal title, never a chair vice chair.

As a member of the Minority, by virtue of the process, I often speak for what does not pass, what never gets printed or even heard.

Most the battles on the House and Senate floors, the ones you see on Public TV are not partisan battles. Those bills we debate on the floor and the issues attached to them have made it out of committee with the support of the Majority, or at least some portion of those on the committee who serve in the Majority. I speak alongside republican colleagues in those debates and the legislature becomes a deliberative body where the partisan minority and majority lines blur. I will debate with John McGee this year in the Senate I am sure, on issues that have nothing to do with our political parties. We will make law together, Democrats and Republicans.

But listen to what issues Democrats raise. Sometimes only we will say what never got a hearing and what the Majority has decided is not going to be heard. 


We, the minority (and the majority,) will be sworn in Thursday December 4th at 9AM to the Idaho House and Senate. You can watch it on line or on Idaho Public Television.

Democratic Conclusions

I adapted the following
based on a piece by House Democratic Assistant Minority Leader, George
Sayler, I added several points as did many of the 19 members of the
Democratic Caucus of the
House of Representatives.

Democrats came to the Capitol ready to make progress on issues of
importance to the people of Idaho. We listened to the Governor’s state
of the state speech, set our own budget priorities and gave our own
response in which we said we agreed with many of the goals set by the
Governor, not necessarily the means toward them.

Sadly this
session shows that Republican legislative leaders are out of touch on issues of
importance to Idahoans. 

They ignored the advice of several statewide coalitions and
working groups. They ignored "Moving Idaho Forward" which came offering
public transit solutions. They stood in the way of the Farm, Ranch, and
Forest Preservation working group which came ready to save Idaho lands
from development. They set aside the principles developed by the
legislative interim committee on tax exemptions.

  • They chose this year to fly on a private airplane to a fund raising
    dinner, fly back to Boise, and the next day vote to pass a bill
    that is bad for working people but favorable to the owner of the airplane.
  • This year again they catered to special interests at the
    expense of ordinary Idahoans, nearly shifting over $100 million dollars
    in big industry taxes onto the sales tax which families pay.
  • They have opposed reforms that would clean up politics at the state
    level including ethics legislation that would end lobbyists’ revolving door to politics.

As the majority party since 1990,
Republicans chair every legislative committee in both houses. This year
when we challenged Republican leadership to hold hearings and discuss
issues; when we called for real cooperation and consideration of
sound solutions, they refused.

  • We worked to start removal of the sales tax on food at the register; Republican leaders opposed it.
  • We crafted legislation to limit how much health insurance companies
    could raise premiums on Idaho families and small businesses
    Republicans refused to hear the bill.
  • We supported conservation easements to protect Idaho’s vanishing working farms and forests; Republicans killed that bill too.
  • We supported systematically reviewing special interest tax exemptions; Republicans would not consider it.
  • We supported affordable housing legislation; Republicans would not consider it.
  • We
    proposed residential sales price disclosure to put more accountability
    into how we set property taxes; House Republicans would not hold a
  • We wanted to provide Idaho’s teachers with the needed level of pay
    ; The Governor’s plan for education penalized Idaho’s teachers
    and included disastrous proposals like Tom Luna’s iSTARS. 
  • We supported creating treatment focused alternatives to mandatory
    minimum sentences
    to make communities safer and prisons less costly and
    crowded; Republican committee chairs would not give this bill a
  • We supported adequate and reasonable state employee pay increases;
    Republicans ignored the needs of state employees and their families and
    took a hatchet to retirement benefits.
  • We supported protecting children in child care by requiring
    criminal background checks on child care providers
    ; Republicans refused
    to hold a hearing on this bill.
  • We supported early childhood education programs to improve quality of life
    and success for Idaho’s kids; Republicans opposed this effort to
    strengthen families and improve education.
  • We supported measures to expand children’s health insurance;
    Republicans opposed providing 6000 children in need with essential
    medical care.
  • We led bipartisan efforts for human rights, successfully
    introducing fair employment policies for gays and lesbians and
    strategies for divesting state funds from companies supporting genocide
    in Darfur
    ; Key Republican leaders blocked consideration of
    these measures in Senate.
  • We supported building energy efficient schools and public buildings
    to save money, energy and prevent climate change. We encouraged the use
    of global climate change studies to protect Idahoans health and our
    precious resources. Senate Republican Leadership killed or watered down
    these measures one after another.
  • We supported open, deliberative and inclusive politics and decision
    ; Republicans at the end of the session proposed a 93 page bill
    on election consolidation and another on closing Idaho primaries
    without including input from voters or dialog with the county clerks. 
  • We supported local option sales taxes to allow local people to vote
    to fund urgent local needs including public transit and roads
    Republicans derailed the process and stood in the way with a
    restrictive and unnecessary constitutional amendment.
  • We proposed providing a $50,000 exemption to the personal property
    tax to help small business
    ; until their special interest version of the
    bill nearly died, House Republican Leaders would not consider our proposal.
  • We supported lowering property taxes by making growth pay for
    and by allowing local governments to more easily charge impact
    fees on new development; Republicans would not even consider the bill.

The bottom line is, Democrats worked hard this session to provide
solutions and make progress on issues of importance to ordinary
Idahoans. We continually seek to protect the interests of our citizens,
and have stood up to the special interests who seek to warp the state’s
democratic processes. We are committed to standing up for Idaho’s
middle class and small businesses, preserving Idahos quality of life
and access to public lands
. We support transparency and ethics in

The Republican Majority has been an obstacle to
progress on those same issues. They have pursued their own ideological
goals and partnered with special interests to rob Idahoans of the kind
of representation they deserve. Under current Republican leadership and
with government so very unbalanced, the changes that Idahoans care
about will never be accomplished

However, we will not give up. We will not stop laboring to make sure your voice is heard.

your help, we will continue to make progress issue by issue. And, with
your help, we will make progress this year by electing more Democrats
to the legislature. Our goal in 2008 is to bring democracy, balance and
better policy to the Idaho Legislature by winning more seats in both
the House and the Senate. No matter where in Idaho you live, you can
help us

Competing Motions

Competing Motions

Minority Leadership approaches the Speaker’s desk to debate whether a motion by the Minority will be allowed. The motion was not allowed on a party line vote of 13 to 37. 20 members were missing since House State Affairs Committee was in meetings.

The Speaker moved the bill to the Rev & Tax Committee where we voted 6 to 10 to not concur with the Senate amendments and instead go into a conference committee. Sadly, the conference committee gives IACI cover to kill the bill or amend it to start the elimination of the whole $120 million personal property tax. The House will vote on the move to send the bill to the joint house and senate conference committee when we re-convene at 1:15 PM.

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