When Cathyanne Nonini voted for Donald Trump in 2016, it wasn’t a departure from her past voting practices.
A pro-life Catholic from Coeur d’Alene, Nonini has voted a straight Republican ticket most of her life.
Although she had concerns about Trump’s treatment of women, she thought he could help turn the economy around. Her husband, Bob Nonini — a former seven-term state lawmaker and former chairman of the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee — also reminded her that Trump would appoint more conservative justices to the U.S. Supreme Court.
So she voted for him — and has regretted it ever since.
“If Jesus walked into the room today, do you think he’d vote for Trump or Biden? I think he’d vote for Biden,” Nonini said. “Trump is just so rude. He’s a bully. That’s not the way to treat people.”
Her distaste for the president recently prompted her to join a new Facebook group, Idaho Women for Biden, which offers a community forum for those who support Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
Co-founded three months ago by former U.S. Attorney Betty Richardson and Kassie Cerami, the state lead for the Idaho for Biden grassroots campaign, Idaho Women for Biden now has reached the 10,000-member mark.
“Within the first week we had 1,000 members,” said Richardson, who grew up in Lewiston and graduated from the University of Idaho. “We’re adding about 100 per day. It’s all been organic. We haven’t spent a penny on promotion. It’s all been women inviting other women to join.”
The group’s Facebook page is private, meaning only members can see or respond to posts. It also has rules of conduct, including respect for privacy, a prohibition on fundraising and a ban on hate speech.
“We really want it to be collegial,” Richardson said. “No trolls.”
Many participants are women of faith who see Trump as “completely out of step with their values,” she said. And in one of the “reddest” states in the nation, some, like Nonini, are Republicans who may never have voted for a Democrat in their life.
For example, in a news release celebrating the group’s 10,000-member milestone, former GOP state senator Judi Danielson of rural Adams County expressed disappointment at President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. She’s also offended by the way he talks about people, including veterans and women.
“When Trump won, I said OK, we’ll give him a chance, and the checks and balances of our democracy will work,” Danielson said. “Well, they haven’t.”
While anti-Trump sentiments motivate some women to join the group, Richardson said there’s also “tremendous” enthusiasm for Biden, as well as his vice presidential running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris.
Nonini echoed that remark, saying she views Biden as “classy” and kind.
“When you see him, it looks like you can walk right up and say, ‘Hello, Joe,’ ” she said. “Trump is just so unkind and unprofessional. Other countries have leaders who are dignified; we have a reality TV star.”
As a pro-life Catholic, Nonini doesn’t support all of Biden’s positions. However, she believes this election is bigger than a single issue.
“It’s not just about abortion,” she said. “Would you really rather have a president who’s against abortion but who sucks at everything else?”
Nonini said she’s taken grief for her position, including some “ugly” text messages from a local precinct committeeman. Nevertheless, she doesn’t hide her support for Biden.
“I’m a confident person,” Nonini said. “I don’t want to be confrontational, but when people ask, I’ll explain my reasons. I did my research, and when I make a decision I’m not going to waffle. Women need to stand up for the dignity of this country.”
Nonini described herself as a “violinist, a Catholic and a gardener.” She’s 65, silver-haired and “not very threatening.” When she says her prayers at night and says grace over meals, she now adds a plea to “please help elect Biden.”
“I used to play (violin) for the Coeur d’Alene Symphony,” she said. “In an orchestra, you have to be very precise. Everyone needs to work together; that’s what makes a beautiful sound. We (Americans) have to start working together, and Trump doesn’t know how to do that.”
Richardson was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1972, so she’s been observing politics in Idaho long enough to be realistic about Biden’s chances.
“I’m not saying he’ll carry the state, but I think he’ll do better than any Democrat since Lyndon Johnson,” she said.
She also expects some of that enthusiasm to spill over into the U.S. Senate race, where Democrat Paulette Jordan is challenging two-term incumbent Republican Jim Risch, as well as into the state legislative races.
“I think Democrats will pick up three to five legislative seats,” Richardson said.
For that to happen, Republican and independent voters will have to support the cause.
“I think I voted for one Republican this year,” Nonini said. “The rest were all Democrats. First time in my life.”
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