House Speaker Michael Simpson says he might consider a run for the U.S. Senate if GOP incumbent Dirk Kempthorne decides to campaign for governor.
The Blackfoot Republican has long been considered a leading gubernatorial candidate, but with speculation Kempthorne will run for governor, Simpson said he would compete for the Senate seat rather than oppose him in the gubernatorial race.
“Obviously, we’re waiting to see what Dirk is going to do and see what everyone else does,” Simpson said Friday. “But I am looking real seriously at running for the Senate.”
Last year, Simpson was considered a leading candidate for governor if Gov. Phil Batt did not seek reelection. Simpson did not organize a statewide campaign when it looked as if Batt was going to run for a second term. Simpson, like others, was surprised when Batt announced two weeks ago he would not run again.
“Obviously my hope is Dirk stays where he is and Mike (U.S. Rep. Mike Crapo) stays where he is,” said Simpson, a dentist.
If Kempthorne decides to stay in the U.S. Senate, Simpson said he is “99.9 percent sure” he will run for governor.
“It will be an open race with five or six candidates,” he said. “(Lt. Gov. Butch) Otter will be one, and (State Sen. James) Risch will be one. I’ll be one, and there will probably be two or three others.”
Crapo will not be among them. He announced Wednesday he will not run for governor, stating he would prefer to stay in Congress. However, he did not rule out the possibility of a run for the U.S. Senate if Kempthorne goes for governor.