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Reclaim Idaho Wants To Remove State Lawmakers Over Medicaid, Initiatives Bills

James Dawson

The group behind last year’s successful ballot initiative to expand Medicaid in Idaho is now working to unseat legislators they think are subverting the will of the voters.

You might know Reclaim Idaho from their iconic, green camper van that made pit stops all over the state evangelizing about the benefits of Medicaid expansion.

Now, after some Idaho lawmakers supported mandatory work requirements for the program and a bill that would’ve made it much harder to even put an initiative on the ballot, the group is pushing back by creating a roster of lawmakers they want to unseat.

“Yeah, I mean, it’s kind of a s--- list,” said Rebecca Schroeder, the executive director of Reclaim Idaho.

“The writing on the wall is so clear that they are not motivated by the citizens and it’s like a couple of special interests that are running [the state legislature] and none of us could ignore that fact,” Schroeder said.

Her group is planning to target about 10 Republican lawmakers by fielding opponents – both in Republican primaries and the general election.

Two of those targeted include backers of this year’s initiative restrictions bill, Senators Scott Grow (R-Eagle) and Mary Souza (R-Coeur d’Alene). Grow declined to discuss the list and Souza didn't return a email seeking comment .

Grow took heat from around the state this year when he proposed a bill that would force anyone hoping to get an initiative on the ballot to collect nearly twice as many signatures in one-third of the time that they have now.

He also drew criticism for his involvement on the bill with a lobbyist for the payday lending company Moneytree, as previously reported by Boise State Public Radio.

As thousands of calls and emails flooded Gov. Brad Little’s (R) office urging him to veto Grow’s proposal, Souza told her colleagues not to put much stock in the volume of comments against it.

“The modern abilities to send this information and have this instant feedback in mass numbers may not be interpreted by us in our old-fashioned ways and it may not be accurate for what we’ve experienced in the past,” she said on the Senate floor earlier this month.

Several Republicans sided with Democrats in opposing the measure. Little eventually vetoed that bill.

Schroeder says they’re also targeting Souza because of her involvement in pushing for mandatory work requirements and other changes to Idaho’s Medicaid expansion program. Those waivers will need federal approval before they can be implemented.

Prior to joining Reclaim Idaho, Schroeder ran as a Democrat for a state representative seat in Souza’s district, but lost by more than 13%.

Realistically, she says, her group wants to field candidates that have a chance of winning elected office, meaning they plan to back candidates from all parties.

“We’re going to be supporting Democrats and Independents and Republicans alike and offering support and protection to some of the Republicans that really did, that acknowledged the voices of the people in their district,” Schroeder said.

Reclaim Idaho hopes to tap into its existing network of 2,000 volunteers throughout the state to out-organize their opponents.

The group is also thinking about retooling Idaho’s campaign finance and election recall systems through ballot initiatives, but details haven’t yet been worked out.

Schroeder expects to finalize that aspect of the campaign in the coming months.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

Copyright 2019 Boise State Public Radio

I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!