I’ve known Idaho Senator Nicole LeFavour for more than a decade. She and her partner Carol have been neighbors of ours for most of the 15 years that my partner Jim and I have lived in Boise, and we have all worked side-by-side with her over the years as volunteers on issues in Idaho related to LGBTQ equality. I can honestly say that Nicole is one of the bravest, dedicated and passionate people I know – qualities she brings to her new goal of becoming the first openly gay member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Idaho.
Nicole, a Democrat, announced her candidacy for the state’s second congressional district in March, after deciding to not seek re-election to the Idaho Legislature, where she has served a total of eight years in both the House and Senate. The state’s primary election is May 15. If she wins the Democratic nomination, Nicole will face in November Republican incumbent Mike Simpson, who has held the seat since 1999. The district encompasses northeast Boise, Mountain Home, Twin Falls, Ketchum, Burley, Pocatello and Idaho Falls.
“I’m running for Congress because I love Idaho and we can do better,” Nicole said. “This is a hard time in our nation, and sadly I feel Congress is not doing all it could to set our economy right. Idaho families want to feel secure about retirement, about their jobs and the opportunities their children will have. I understand that so well. We have a job to do as a nation and we have no time for partisan struggles.”
Those struggles have been particularly visible in Idaho when it comes to issues related to the LGBTQ community. Repeated, and growing, citizen efforts in the state to create legislation for anti-bullying in schools and adding the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the Idaho Human Rights Act continue to fall on deaf ears in the Republican-dominated state Legislature, and failed again this year.
“To all those out there who wait for the day not to have live in fear, I’m sorry,” Nicole said on March 28, after the Add Words bill was returned to her desk by the Idaho House State Affairs Committee without action. “Please know this issue will just grow each year. Be ready for next January.”
In a Pride Foundation blog post in May 2011, Nicole told me that she believes the Idaho Legislature overall is “a long way behind,” particularly when it comes to LGBTQ-related issues. “I think one of the reasons is because very few people there have experienced discrimination,” she said.
In running for Congress as an openly gay candidate from Idaho, Nicole said she is continuing to provide a recognizable voice speaking out on important issues such as ending discrimination.
“A gay person running for office has both advantages and disadvantages. Some say we have to be twice as smart and twice as hard-working to even think of running,” she said. “There is something unique about the level of attention a gay candidate brings to a race. If a candidate is well-spoken and solid on the issues, this can be a chance for them to become human to voters, something Democratic candidates always struggle to get enough coverage to be able to do.”
Steve Martin is Pride Foundation’s Regional Development Organizer in Idaho. Email Steve.