Rep. Caroline Troy of Genesee enjoys just about every aspect of serving in the Idaho Legislature – from communicating with her constituents to the respectful treatment she gets from her colleagues. And she is eager to serve a second term.
But not everyone on the home-front is pleased with the Republican lawmaker. To some hardliners, she’s not conservative enough. To Democrats, she’s too Republican and too conservative. She says that the two Democrats serving District 5, Sen. Dan Schmidt of Moscow and Paulette Jordan of Plummer, don’t include her in town hall meetings.
Since taking office, it has been like a taffy-pull for her political soul – with her being the taffy.
Before this year’s session began, a petition was filed to recall Troy for being too liberal on a variety of issues, including putting Idaho in compliance with federal child-support laws. She also was cited in the petition for imposing additional transportation taxes and fees, and bills to add “burdensome and costly licensing.” The petition failed to get sufficient signatures for a recall, but the message was clear.
“Caroline Nilsson Troy deceived District 5 voters,” the petition stated. “She has on numerous occasions presented herself as someone she is not, and undermining the liberties of the people who voted for her, instead of protecting them.”
Wayne Hoffman, director of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, says Troy campaigned on a conservative platform. “She had me convinced! Her voting record betrays her. I think that’s because she thinks she has to be someone she’s not in order to stay in office.”
Troy still bills herself as a conservative who favors limited government and lower taxes. Recently, she voted for House Majority Leader Mike Moyle’s proposal for a $28 million tax cut and sided with conservatives to disallow a sales-tax exemption on the sale of Girl Scout cookies.
But Troy says she didn’t come to Boise to be an ideologue. “I’m not doing this for glory, or money. I’m doing it to make a difference. I’m one of 105 people in the Legislature, and I’m trying to do my part to make things work.”
Troy’s approach generally is in the line of Gov. Butch Otter, Lt. Gov. Brad Little and the top leaders of the House and Senate. They all call themselves “conservative,” but do not view government as a mortal enemy.
Rep. Heather Scott of Blanchard and Assistant Majority Leader Brent Crane, two leading House conservatives, are among Troy’s biggest fans.
“Do we always vote alike? No. But I respect her as a legislator, because she does her research,” Scott says. “There are two parties, and it’s not Republicans and Democrats when you get to Boise. It’s the gravy train party, and those working for the citizens. Caroline Troy is not on the gravy train party, and she’s not working for her self-interest.”
Crane calls District 5 one of the toughest in the state. “You have people in Benewah County who are very conservative, and those in Latah County who are more moderate or liberal, and she’s trying her best to represent both sides. That’s difficult for any legislator to do.”
Crane dismisses suggestions that Troy isn’t conservative enough. “Is it conservative compared to Barack Obama? Ronald Reagan? Ted Cruz? Donald Trump? Who are we using as the standard to say, ‘This is what conservative is’? In my opinion, she is conservative, and the most conservative person they can elect for that district.”
He offers caution to those who think Troy’s district would be better served by a Democrat, who would have no clout in the Legislature. A Democrat, he said, “can’t get a hearing on a bill if Republicans decide to block it. Caroline Troy could get a hearing on any bill she wants and she has direct access, whether it’s the governor, or if it’s House and Senate leadership. If there are things she needs to get done for her district, she can get things done.”
He calls Troy “a friend and phenomenal colleague. If citizens had any idea of how effective she is here, they would send her back in a heartbeat.”
Prospective election opponents, of course, will have different thoughts about sending her back. Troy might need to recruit Crane for a few campaign appearances after the session ends.