As political leadership races shape up today – with votes coming up tonight for House speaker and several other contested leadership positions in both parties – it’s interesting to take a look at campaign contributions by the two candidates facing off for speaker. Nampa Rep. Bill Deal, a moderate, pro-business candidate, gave $16,890 this fall to GOP candidates for the state House, though $4,500 of that went to candidates who lost last month. He bet on more winners than his rival for the post, conservative Midvale Rep. Lawerence Denney. Denney handed out $8,520 to GOP House candidates, but more than half of that – $4,820 – went to unsuccessful candidates like former state Rep. Julie Ellsworth of Boise, former House Education Chairman Jack Barraclough of Idaho Falls, and GOP challengers Sharon Culbreth in District 4 and Joshua R. Thompson in District 30.
The vote for speaker tonight is widely expected to be close. “I think it’ll turn on the new people, the nine new people that we have,” said Rep. Jim Clark, R-Hayden Lake. Clark is running for House assistant majority leader, against Rep. Scott Bedke, R-Oakley. Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, had considered a run for majority caucus chairman, but then withdrew, leaving Rep. Ken Roberts, R-Donnelly, unopposed, barring a last-minute candidate. “It’s just not the right time in my legislative career,” Nonini said.
Nonini agreed that the speaker contest will be close. “That’s what I’m hearing too,” he said. “The funny part of it was, during the North Idaho tour, if you talked to Lawerence and Bill and added up the total number of votes they both felt they had at that time, it added up to 60 – and there’s only 51 of us. It’s kind of funny.” The votes are by secret ballot in a closed caucus dinner meeting, to add to the mystery.
On the Democratic side, House Assistant Minority Leader George Sayler, D-Coeur d’Alene, is facing a challenge from two colleagues, Reps. Elaine Smith of Pocatello and Nicole LeFavour of Boise. House Democrats also have a two-way battle for the open minority caucus chairmanship between Reps. John Rusche of Lewiston and Anne Pasley-Stuart of Boise. Little change is expected in Senate leadership.