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Updated: July 22, 2017 @ 11:15 am
Those of us of a certain age remember the “domino theory,” which said we had to fight Communism in Southeast Asia, or the countries, like dominoes, would each topple to the Red Menace. But the Idaho Legislature is going through a different kind of domino toppling.
It all started when Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter announced he wouldn’t run for another term. That meant, for the first time in 12 years, that the governor’s race would be an open seat. Then, Lt. Governor Brad Little announced he was running for Governor – meaning that, also for the first time in 12 years, the lieutenant governor’s race would be an open seat. Last week, Congressman Raul Labrador announced that he, too, would be running for Governor, meaning that for the first time since 2006, the Congressional District 1 race would be for an open seat. In addition, Ron Crane announced in January that he wouldn’t be running again for State Treasurer in 2018 for what would be his sixth term.
Let the domino toppling begin.
So far, Sen. Marv Hagedorn, from Meridian, and Rep. Kelley Packer, from McCammon, have announced they are running for Lieutenant Governor.
Several legislators are also said to be interested in running for Rep. Labrador’s seat. While none of them has filed yet, they include House Majority Leader Rep. Mike Moyle, from Star; Assistant Majority Leader Brent Crane (who, incidentally, is Ron Crane’s son), from Nampa; Sen. Bob Nonini, from Coeur d’Alene; and Rep. Luke Malek, also of Coeur d’Alene. And that’s just the ones people are talking about. Any who run would leave a vacancy in their Legislative seat.
They would leave committee vice chairmanships vacant as well. Sen. Hagedorn is vice chair of State Affairs, one of the Senate’s most powerful committees, and Sen. Nonini is vice chair of Transportation. On the House side, Rep. Packer is vice chair of Health & Welfare, while Rep. Malek is vice chair of Judiciary & Rules. Each of these vice chairmanship vacancies could be a free-for-all among committee members.
While Reps. Moyle and Crane don’t chair anything, as majority and assistant majority leaders they wield a lot of power, and people will no doubt be gunning for their seats. For example, one of Kuna’s legislators, Rep. John Vander Woude, is Majority Caucus Chair, and he may well crave Moyle’s position. Rep. Greg Chaney, of Caldwell, challenged Vander Woude in December for Majority Caucus Chair, and he might get the position if Vander Woude moves up.
To make matters more complicated, Wendy Davis, Idaho’s U.S. attorney, left after the election of President Donald Trump, and the rumor is that Sen. Bart Davis, Senate Majority Leader, is hoping for that position. That would mean the Senate would be losing its top two people. Davis has been in the Senate for 10 terms and has been Majority Leader since 2002. Perhaps Sen. Chuck Winder, currently Senate Majority Caucus Chair, would look to that spot, but some people think Sen. Winder might be on his way out, too.
Nobody’s announced that they’re running for Crane’s Treasurer position, but that could still happen; 2017 isn’t even half over yet. And for that matter, any number of Legislators could still resign or be appointed to different positions by the next legislative session.
Remember, nothing is set in stone. Legislative leadership positions aren’t like promotions; you don’t automatically go to the next spot just because the person ahead of you leaves.
What’s really amazing about all this is we just had a Legislative election, and next year, 2018, all the Legislators will be up for election again.
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