State Sen. Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, has been a disappointment. Undoubtedly talented and intelligent, Mortimer has wasted his political capital by doing a steady drift to the right.
While colleagues Brent Hill (Rexburg) and Bart Davis (Idaho Falls) have ridden a collaborative and inclusive approach to Senate leadership, Mortimer caucuses with bomb-throwers — folks on the fringes who make more noise than policy.
But, it appears Mortimer, now in his third term, will be given an opportunity to resurrect his reputation. The defeat of Senate Education Chairman John Goedde in the May 20 GOP primary left a gaping void on that key panel at a critical juncture.
Mortimer, the committee’s vice-chairman, is the logical choice to replace Goedde. And, as he told Idaho Education News, Mortimer is interested in the job.
Hill, assuming he remains Senate President following December’s reorganization, will make that call. Mortimer is the favorite, in part because other options, including far right Sens. Steven Thayn and Bob Nonini, are not good.
As chairman, Mortimer would need to come back to the mainstream and work collaboratively with everyone: Democrats, moderate Republicans, tea partiers, lobbyists, educators, school administrators and the teacher’s union.
The challenges will be great: a new State Department of Education leader setting policy and vital issues such as Common Core testing, teacher career ladders and the continuing need to backfill recession-era budget cuts.
Here’s guessing Mortimer would be up to the challenge, that if given this responsibility he would surprise those who have written him off as just another rock-chucker in a political arena filled with glass houses.
Let’s hope he gets his chance, and makes the most of it.