In the resignation letter that Sen. Branden Durst, D-Boise, delivered to the office of Gov. Butch Otter, Durst says he decided to resign from the Senate “after a period of deep reflection and prayer.” He says he concluded that his constituents would be better served if some else were given the opportunity to represent them in the state Senate. “I have been incredibly honored and thankful to be given the tremendous opportunity to serve,” Durst wrote. “However, I am choosing to put my family first and doing so will prevent me from completing the term to which I was elected.”
You can read Durst’s full letter here.
Idaho Statesman reporter Dan Popkey reports this afternoon that Rep. Janie Ward Engleking, D-Boise, plans to apply to fill Durst’s Senate seat, while the other state representative in the district, Rep. Phyllis King, D-Boise, said she’s happy staying in the House. Popkey’s report is online here.
The Democratic Central Committee for Legislative District 18 has 15 days to submit a list of three candidates to replace Durst, starting Dec. 1, the date his resignation is effective. Then, the governor will have 15 days after receiving the list to select the new senator. That means the replacement will be on board in time for the opening of the upcoming legislative session on Jan. 6. If it's Ward-Engleking, a similar process then would be followed to fill her House seat.
Durst’s status has been the subject of speculation recently; after his wife got a job in the Seattle area and the family moved there, KTVB-TV reported Sept. 6 that neighbors hadn’t seen anyone at Durst’s home in his Boise district, and it appeared devoid of furniture. The station caught Durst in his yard and interviewed him through a wood fence when he refused to come out; he was clearly visible. He said then that he was still living at least 50 percent of the time in Boise. "I still have a bed and clothes all here. All my stuff's still here. Everything else is gone," Durst told the KTVB reporter Jamie Grey; you can see her full report here.
Under Idaho law, a vacancy in office occurs by “the incumbent ceasing to be a resident of the state, district or county in which the duties of his office are to be exercised, or for which he may have been elected.” In the months following the KTVB report, Durst's absence at a legislative interim committee meeting raised eyebrows.