Nonini: If I’d ousted incumbents, there’d be no Idaho-run health exchange

Sen. Bob Nonini says that had he succeeded in defeating four GOP senators last year, “we probably wouldn’t have a state healthcare exchange like we have now signed into law.”

Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, granted a rare interview to the Coeur d’Alene Press, which was published Sunday.

Asked about his efforts to remove Sens. Dean Cameron of Rupert, Shawn Keough of Sandpoint, Patti Anne Lodge of Huston and John Tippets of Montpelier, Nonini told the Press:

“My purpose was more of trying to get senators elected that thought the same way I did on education issues, thought the same way I did on taxation issues, thought the same way I did on healthcare issues.

“If we would have had a majority, we probably wouldn’t have a state healthcare exchange like we have now signed into law. The people I was supporting would not have supported the exchange.

“If we could have gotten within a couple of votes on these issues, we could have had effective legislation.”

The Senate votes on two state-run health exchange bills were both 23-12, with Nonini’s four targets voting yes on both bills, Senate Bill 1042 and House Bill 248. The latter was signed by Gov. Butch Otter.

Had just those four votes switched, the margin would have been 19-16, but such a close vote may well have changed the political calculus and threatened passage.

Nonini miscounted his targets, telling the newspaper he campaigned against three, not four, senators. (Nonini also targeted two House members). “As far as those three senators go, we talked, we carried on a professional session, and they have not held any hard feelings,” he said.

That wasn’t precisely the case in late March when Nonini offered a public apology to just one of his six targets, Tippets. At the time, asked whether she wanted an apology, Lodge said, “That’s up to him. It’s his own conscience he has to live with. We’re big people.”



Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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