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Idaho U.S. Senate Candidates Debate

Idaho Public Television

Three U.S. Senate candidates from Idaho laid out their positions on issues Friday for a statewide public TV audience. Because of the pandemic, the candidates were interviewed separately instead of gathering for a joint appearance.

Republican Senator Jim Risch is running for a third term. He’s a former Idaho governor and lieutenant governor. He was asked whether he supports repealing the Affordable Care Act.

“I voted against Obamacare at the beginning. I voted to repeal it every time. Obviously it can’t just go away," Risch said. "This debate that’s going on nationally, ‘Don’t vote for the Supreme Court justice. She’s going to vote to get rid of Obamacare.’ If indeed the Supreme Court rules, whichever way it rules, there’s going to be a lot of work done in health care as we go down the pike. The bottom line to your question, do I favor repealing it?, yes. But I also favor replacing it with a much more market-oriented approach.”

Not surprisingly, Democrat Paulette Jordan, favors keeping the Affordable Care Act. She is challenging Risch two years after losing a race for governor to Brad Little. She’s a former two-term state legislator and former member of the Coeur d’Alene tribal council. She says she favors the public option as a lower-cost alternative to private insurance plans.

“Especially when we’re spending three trillion dollars in chronic health care. I’d like to cut that in half and make sure that we’re spending for preventative measures, ensuring that we’re helping build the lives of our people, our elders, our youth. Now that we have Covid and this pandemic over us, we have certainly been aware that our nutritional health care plays a great deal in our livelihoods. So I will certainly protect the ACA to the best of my ability in the Senate leadership," Jordan said.

There are two others in the race. Natalie Fleming is an independent candidate who lives in Nampa. She’s a former Congressional candidate.

Like Risch, Fleming opposes the ACA, especially the individual mandate. She says it stifles competition and ideas that hold down the costs of health care.

“There’s an idea of allowing people to purchase direct primary care from the local physicians and then having universal catastrophic for anybody over $50,000 in expenses and then having an insurance policy for that gap between what their local doctor can provide, up to the $50,000 limit," Fleming said.

Constitution Party candidate Ray Writz did not appear on Friday’s broadcast.

Idaho voters have until October 23 to request an absentee ballot. Or they can vote in person on November 3.