Many Americans develop their political beliefs in adolescence, with their parents as key influencers.
That’s true of Ketchum Republican Julie Lynn, who is running against Idaho Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, in the Nov. 6 election.
But Lynn counts another experience as formative that many Americans can’t—standing atop the Berlin Wall, which separated East Germany from West Germany while the former was under the rule of the Soviet Union in the 20th century.
Lynn served as a public information officer in the Army from 1976 to 1980, which helped pay for her college education, and was stationed in Germany before the wall came down in 1989.
She saw the stark contrast between East and West Germany. She saw how prosperous the west was under democratic governance, and how the east suffered under communism.
“It’s like going from color to black and white,” Lynn said of the difference. “That kind of tyranny sobers you.”
It fortified her conservative political beliefs, and her advocacy for limited government and a disdain for socialist systems of government. The Republican Party appealed to her fiscally conservative ideals.
“Socialism, to me, is just bad news,” Lynn said. “Taxes are huge. I don’t know if that’s something the United States wants to do. It taps down on innovation and small-business creation.”
She relocated to the Wood River Valley in 1984, and worked for the Wood River Journal newspaper as a journalist and photographer. She’s been here ever since, and lives in Ketchum with her husband, Bob. They’ve raised a daughter, Erica, who is now a Boise State University student.
She is active in politics through volunteering with the Blaine County Republican Party, the Girl Scouts and with Higher Ground, which helps veterans. She decided that 2018 was the right year to run for the Legislature. Lynn ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Ketchum City Council in 2012.
In contacting voters in District 26, which encompasses Blaine, Lincoln, Camas and Gooding counties, Lynn said one of the major issues on their minds is affordable health care.
She said she’s heard from families paying as much as $2,500 a month in premiums for health insurance. One family split that cost between themselves and a union, but Lynn said that’s a symptom of a sick system people are being asked to pay into.
She said people are priced out and are forced to drop coverage, which removes healthy people from insurance pools. The sicker—and therefore more expensive—people remain, driving up costs for everyone else.
“I think it’s a result of people not being able to afford the premium bumps, so they’re dropping coverage,” Lynn said. “They’re up and dropping it. So, it makes the risk pool they’re in sicker. All of the carriers are losing money.”
This November, Idaho voters will be asked to expand Medicaid to cover the so-called gap population, which are residents whose incomes are too high to qualify for Medicaid but too low to get subsidized care under the Affordable Care Act.
She said she sees how that would benefit people who lack coverage and are in the gap, but understands it’s “another social program that’s expanding.”
She said she supports work or community-service requirements for Medicaid recipients who are able to work and are not disabled.
“It would help those that are not healthy,” Lynn said of the measure, Proposition 2. “I don’t think it’s going to be a budget-buster. It looks like it will pass. It will get the state some money.”
However, she said the focus on Medicaid expansion skirts the issue of unaffordable care. She said she has been self-insured for decades, and understands the pain of families who struggle to afford premiums for self-insurance plans.
“The Medicaid expansion—that doesn’t help those people I’m talking about,” Lynn said. “The system is imploding. When the federal government didn’t repeal and replace (the Affordable Care Act), the state was left hanging.”
She said she supports a drive from Gov. Butch Otter and Lt. Gov. Brad Little to get permission from the federal government so insurance companies in Idaho can sell plans that don’t conform with the ACA’s regulations.
“It needs to be market-based insurance that affords competition,” Lynn said. “The insurance company needs to be up front about what they’re going to charge you.”
On the public school system in Idaho, Lynn advocates for more local control for school districts and increased parental involvement.
“Local control is more flexible and can be more responsive to the needs of the kids,” she said. “Good schools are good schools because of parental involvement and more local control.”
She said she was cautious about calls to vastly increase the amount of money the state spends on education, and supported a cut that the Legislature enacted earlier this year to the income and personal income-tax rates in the state.
“We have a pie,” Lynn said. “We can only spend as much as we can. Idaho is very careful about spending more than we have. I thought (the tax cut) was fair. We have to remember it’s not our money. It seems to be spurring the economy.”