Leadership elections are coming up for the Idaho House and Senate, and on the House side, a number of challenges have been announced.
At the top of the ticket will be a challenge to Speaker Scott Bedke of Oakley by Rep. Brent Crane of Nampa. We hope Bedke continues to hold the speakership.
Most of the candidates for Republican leadership posts hail from western portions of the state. Incumbent Majority Leader Mike Moyle is from Star, and his challenger, Rep. John Vander Woude, lives in Nampa. Two of the three vying for majority caucus chair also come from the western half of the state.
It won’t be a good thing for eastern Idaho if nearly all of the House leadership hails from the Treasure Valley or the panhandle.
Some debates at the Legislature are matters of ideology — whether or not to adopt a particular tax cut, for example — and they divide lawmakers along ideological lines. But other issues, such as what part of the state gets the first behavioral health crisis center, tend to divide lawmakers along regional lines.
A decent measure of how lawmakers will line up on issues important to eastern Idaho is how long it takes them to drive to Idaho Falls. It’s about a two-hour drive for Bedke, a four-hour drive for Crane.
Bedke isn’t from eastern Idaho, but along with Rep. Dorothy Moon of Stanley, who is running for majority caucus chair, he’s as close as is available. Opting instead for Crane would too narrowly concentrate the geographic distribution of power in Boise, Nampa and other western Idaho cities.
If re-elected, Bedke can show that he’s interested in making sure that eastern Idaho is fairly represented by naming local Rep. Wendy Horman chair of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, which writes the state budget. Longtime JFAC chair Rep. Maxine Bell didn’t seek re-election this year. When she announced she would end her long period leading the committee this year, she stated plainly that Horman was the best equipped to replace her.
Horman, who already serves on the committee, has done an admirable job in recent years carrying the public schools budget, which is the largest chunk of spending in the state. Horman has always been at home with spreadsheets, tables and complex formulas. She’s level-headed and careful. These are ideal qualities for a JFAC chair.
She may not be the most senior member of the committee, but seniority and ability are not always the same thing.