BOISE – Coeur d’Alene Rep. Bob Nonini’s bid to join the Idaho House GOP leadership fell short Wednesday night, but there were shakeups elsewhere as Idaho lawmakers met in closed caucuses to pick legislative leaders.
While the House GOP leadership team, including Speaker Lawerence Denney, is unchanged, the Senate has a new president pro-tem: Sen. Brent Hill, R-Rexburg. Hill defeated Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, a rising leader of the Senate’s most conservative wing, for the chamber’s top leadership post in a hotly contested race. Former Senate President Pro-Tem Bob Geddes, R-Soda Springs, retired from leadership.
Sen. Bart Davis, of Idaho Falls, held his seat as majority leader over a challenge from Terreton Sen. Jeff Siddoway. But Assistant Majority Leader Joe Stegner, R-Lewiston, lost to Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Meridian. Winder based his run on the pitch that the Idaho Senate’s GOP caucus turned more conservative in the Nov. 2 election, and he said its leadership should reflect that. Stegner was the most moderate member of the leadership team and was known for an independent streak.
Sen. John McGee, R-Caldwell, was elected caucus chair, a post Fulcher left to run for pro-tem.
In other leadership contests, House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, turned back a challenge from Rep. Cliff Bayer, R-Boise; and House GOP Caucus Chairman Ken Roberts, of Donnelly, held off a challenge from Nonini.
Senate Democrats shook up their leadership team and chose Pocatello Sen. Edgar Malepeai as the new minority leader.
House Democrats re-elected Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, who was unopposed; and chose Reps. Elfreda Higgins, D-Garden City, and Brian Cronin, D-Boise, for their No. 2 and 3 posts.
With leadership teams in place, the Idaho Legislature convenes its organizational session today, at which committee assignments and chairmanships will be decided and new lawmakers sworn in.