Former Idaho Senate Minority Leader Clint Stennett has died at age 54, after a long battle with brain cancer. Stennett died Thursday afternoon at his Ketchum home with his wife, Michelle, by his side. Click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.
Clint Stennett, former minority leader, dies at 54
By JOHN MILLER,Associated Press Writer
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — State Sen. Clint Stennett, a former Democratic minority leader who represented Blaine, Camas, Gooding and Lincoln counties, has died after a long battle with brain cancer. He was 54.
Rep. Wendy Jaquet, a Democrat from Ketchum, said Stennett died at his home in Ketchum on Thursday afternoon with his wife, Michelle, at his side.
Stennett, was born in Winona, Minn., in 1956 but was raised in rural southern Idaho, including Declo.
As a youngster, his single mother bought livestock that were in poor health and rehabilitated them, selling them for a profit to support her family, said his friend, former House Speaker Bruce Newcomb.
A graduate of Idaho State University, Stennett parlayed his business acumen into ownership of Idaho TV stations, as well as several ranch properties throughout the state.
Newcomb, now an instructor and lobbyist at Boise State University, said his duck-hunting partner emerged from humble roots to make a success of his life, personally and in politics. Stennett had just celebrated his 54th birthday, Oct. 1.
"It's certainly no justice," Newcomb said. "The good die young."
As a youngster, Stennett wanted to be a farmer, but decided as a teen there was more to life than moving irrigation pipes.
While at Idaho State University, he was the head of the Pocatello school's Young Republicans, then president of the student body. He later sold advertising at the Idaho Statesman in Boise before moving to the Wood River Journal in Hailey, where he became publisher. Stennett was also president of a company which owned television stations in Sun Valley, Twin Falls and McCall, which he sold several years ago.
"From moving pipe to the publisher of the Wood River Journal, that was Clint's career path: self-made," Jaquet said. "He served by one solid principle: Always check your gut, if it doesn't set right he said, it isn't right."
Running as a Democrat, Stennett was elected to the state House in 1990 to represent the central Idaho region that included Ketchum and Sun Valley.
He served two terms before running for a Senate seat in 1994. His opponent branded him as a "media mogul," but Stennett won anyway, then went on to serve as the Democratic minority leader from 1999 to 2009. Sen. Kate Kelly of Boise replaced him.
"He had a wonderful sense of humor," Kelly said Friday. "He cared so deeply about Idaho."
During his tenure, Stennett championed efforts to keep a southern California utility from building a coal-fired power plant in southern Idaho.
Stennett, who wore a mustache proudly, also worked to give residents of the state's agricultural belt expanded opportunities to weigh in on dairy farms that have flocked to Idaho over the last two decades, bringing with them profits for farmers but also smells and pollution concerns for folks who live near by.
He also criticized efforts of Republicans to tighten Idaho's abortion laws with bills that cost the state hundreds of thousands in legal fees, a byproduct of losing constitutional challenges from groups such as Planned Parenthood of Idaho.
"Every time, we spend another couple hundred thousand dollars in defense of an unconstitutional law," Stennett said in 2007, about a bill requiring parents to be told when their underage daughters sought an abortion. "We're close to a million bucks and that's from trying to stand up and protect and prove the constitutionality of something that always pushes the edge."
In January 2008, Stennett took a temporary leave of absence from the Legislature due to swelling in his brain that required surgery. He was then diagnosed with brain cancer.
He returned defiant in February, telling the Twin Falls Times-News, "I'm gonna beat this thing."
Though he won re-election that November, Stennett missed the 2009 session as his treatment, including radiation and chemotherapy, left him fatigued. He also missed the 2010 session, a period in which his wife, Michelle Stennett, served in his stead.
While caring for her husband as his health declined this year, Michelle Stennett has waged a campaign in Nov. 2's contested race to replace him. She's running against Republican Jim Donoval and the Constitution Party's Randall Patterson.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.