Eye On Boise

Picking legislative leaders...

AP reporter John Miller has this overview of GOP leadership battles in the House and Senate, which will be decided in party caucuses on Wednesday night:

"Secret balloting on Wednesday evening is set to determine if Idaho Senate Republicans will turn to conservative newcomers for guidance — or stick with more-established leaders. All four Senate leadership posts are in play, as President Pro Tempore Bob Geddes' decision to step down from the Senate's top post last week helped spur lawmakers in his chamber to seize the moment. Meanwhile, change appears less likely in the House, but GOP Majority Leader Mike Moyle and Caucus Chair Ken Roberts each face a challenge from an established GOP lawmaker with sights on bigger things. With Republicans controlling more than four-fifths of the Legislature after picking up five House seats Nov. 2, these leadership races are significant, because just who is in charge helps determine which issues become priorities."

Click below for his full report; leadership votes also are scheduled Wednesday night in the House and Senate minority caucuses; Senate Minority Leader Kate Kelly, D-Boise, didn't seek re-election, leaving her post open; nor did House Assistant Minority Leader James Ruchti, D-Pocatello.

Rival GOP lawmakers vie to lead Idaho Legislature
By JOHN MILLER, Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Secret balloting on Wednesday evening is set to determine if Idaho Senate Republicans will turn to conservative newcomers for guidance — or stick with more-established leaders.

All four Senate leadership posts are in play, as President Pro Tempore Bob Geddes' decision to step down from the Senate's top post last week helped spur lawmakers in his chamber to seize the moment.

Meanwhile, change appears less likely in the House, but GOP Majority Leader Mike Moyle and Caucus Chair Ken Roberts each faces a challenge from an established GOP lawmaker with sights on bigger things.

With Republicans controlling more than four-fifths of the Legislature after picking up five House seats Nov. 2, these leadership races are significant, because just who is in charge helps determine which issues become priorities.

"We knew at the end of last session, there would be a couple of challenges," said Geddes. "Now, it's 'Katie, bar the door.'"

Geddes' handpicked successor is six-term Sen. Brent Hill of Rexburg, who leads the Local Government and Taxation Committee. But Hill faces stiff competition: Senate Majority Caucus Chair Russ Fulcher, of Meridian, has risen quickly in the Legislature since 2005 and wants the job, too.

Majority Leader Bart Davis, a seven-term Idaho Falls lawyer, faces a challenge from Sen. Jeff Siddoway, a rancher from Terreton first elected in 2006. Siddoway said he's sparred with Davis over how he runs day-to-day Senate affairs, without giving specifics.

"If you criticize, you've got to be willing to stand up," Siddoway said. Davis didn't return a phone call seeking comment.

Meanwhile, Sen. John McGee, who heads the Senate Transportation Committee, is likely to face Sen. Dean Mortimer, a two-term Idaho Falls senator, to replace Fulcher as caucus chairman.

And Assistant Majority Leader Joe Stegner of Lewiston, in his seventh term as one of the Senate's most-moderate GOP members, goes up against second-term Sen. Chuck Winder, a commercial real-estate broker and former Idaho Transportation Board chairman.

Since winning and losing sides eventually must work together, few lawmakers will reveal much about their preferences — for fear of alienating somebody they may need later. Counting votes isn't a sure thing, either, Geddes said.

"Senators won't lie to you," he said. "But they don't always tell you the truth."

In the House, Speaker Lawerence Denney, of Midvale, and Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke, of Oakley, don't foresee challenges. But Moyle said he was bound to become a target after four years in the majority leader post. His aggressive style might rub some raw, but he says it's sometimes needed to get things done in a chamber of 70 members.

"These are toughest kinds of races," Moyle said. "It's friend against friend."

One lawmaker aiming to topple Moyle is Boise Rep. Cliff Bayer, a Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee member who said he's dissatisfied with existing leadership's communication with members of committees.

"My experience on JFAC...lends itself to successfully deliberating a challenging budget process," Bayer said.

Rep. Eric Anderson, of Priest Lake, is another possible Moyle challenger who has openly criticized House leaders for not aggressively sanctioning Rep. Phil Hart. Hart is fighting the government over unpaid taxes and in 1996 took wood from state land without paying for it, something Anderson calls a "stain" on the House.

"I've been lobbying for some changes, but I haven't been lobbying on my behalf," said Anderson. "We'll see what happens."

Roberts, of Donnelly, the current GOP caucus chair, faces Rep. Bob Nonini, a Coeur d'Alene lawmaker who insists he could improve House efforts to raise money for re-election of party colleagues.

For the record, Nonini's campaign brought in about $25,000 this year, while Roberts raised $28,000, according to state records. But the House GOP's fundraising arm brought in only $10,458, and Nonini wants more.

"That's a large aspect of what the caucus chair does," Nonini said. "I think I can do a lot better fundraising than Ken's done."

Roberts said he has nothing to apologize about.

"We've raised a fair amount of money for the caucus, and I've used quite a bit of my own campaign money to help other candidates," Roberts said.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.




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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Russell covers Idaho news from the state capitol in Boise and writes the Eye on Boise blog.

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