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Eye on Boise: When lawmakers convene, nearly a quarter will be new

Yes on Proposition 2 campaign volunteer Lauren Necochea watches as early returns show a lead at the campaign's election-night headquarters at Beside Bardenay, on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Boise, Idaho. (Joe Jaszewski / AP)
Yes on Proposition 2 campaign volunteer Lauren Necochea watches as early returns show a lead at the campaign's election-night headquarters at Beside Bardenay, on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Boise, Idaho. (Joe Jaszewski / AP)
By Betsy Z. Russell Idaho Press-Tribune

When the Idaho Legislature convenes for its organizational session the first week of December, nearly a quarter of the 105-member Legislature will be new.

All told, there will be 24 new members this year, three in the Senate and 21 in the House. In addition, two have moved from the House to the Senate, Van Burtenshaw, R-Terreton, and Don Cheatham, R-Post Falls.

The turnover stems not only from the six upsets in Tuesday’s election, but also from retirements and earlier upsets in the primaries.

Among the new members, there are 15 new House Republicans and six new House Democrats; in the Senate, there are two new Republicans and one new Democrat.

Three days of training has been scheduled for the new lawmakers prior to the Dec. 6 organizational session. In addition, Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, and House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, announced Friday that training will be offered for all legislators this year, new or not, on ethics and maintaining a respectful workplace. That will take place on Jan. 9, the third day of the 2019 session.

Little on election night:

‘Committed to education’

When Idaho Governor-elect Brad Little addressed the GOP election night watch party at close to midnight, he noted that former Gov. Phil Batt broke a 24-year Democratic lock on Idaho’s governorship when he was elected to the office in 1994. “This is the 24th anniversary of that,” Little said. “Idaho is still a very red state.” The crowd whooped and cheered.

Little paid homage to Batt, and to other Idaho GOP leaders including the late Sen. Jim McClure, current Sen. Jim Risch and current Gov. Butch Otter.

“The change Phil Batt made in the governance of Idaho is why we’re where we are today,” Little said, “those conservative values. Not only did Phil Batt change the Republican Party, but he changed the Republican brand.”

Little said, “How do we have the best opportunity for us, for our kids and for our grandkids to be successful here in Idaho? I’ve been very consistent about this message for the last two and half years. And I look forward to having the opportunity to implement that, through all we do in state government, and you can rest assured that myself, my staff and my cabinet, that’s how they’ll view every decision going forward.”

Little also applauded “all that ran this year,” and said, “I also want to congratulate Paulette Jordan on a hard-fought race.” That was greeted with cheers and applause from the GOP crowd.

Little also said he’s “committed to ensuring our education system meets our constitutional, but more important our moral, obligation to educate our children in the best manner possible.”

“It’s been a standard Democratic talking point that Idaho’s schools are not doing well. That denies a successful record of investment and advancement that Idaho has taken these past four years, and it runs opposite to what I hear from students and teachers and employers all over Idaho,” Little said, “but we must build on that momentum. Education policy requires long-term planning and commitment.”

Jordan on election night:

‘We will not disengage’

Democratic candidate for governor Paulette Jordan addressed supporters at the Idaho Democratic Party’s election night watch party a bit after 10:30 p.m., with the results still coming in. There were chants of “Paulette, Paulette” as she made her way slowly to the stage, winding through a diverse crowd of fervent supporters who all wanted to greet her and snap photos and accompanied by family members including her mother, brother and two young sons, who stood solemnly by her on stage through her speech, despite the late hour.

Jordan was introduced by Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, who called her “one of the best candidates for governor we have ever had.”

“It’s been a long year and this will be a long night,” Jordan told the crowd after extended cheers. She said many of her supporters likely would have to leave before all the votes were counted to get to work in the morning or get kids to school. “Before you go home, I want to tell you from the bottom of my heart that I am grateful and humble,” Jordan said. She acknowledged the other Idaho Democratic candidates and extolled the late Democratic icon and four-term Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus.

“This is our time, this is our turn,” declared Jordan, 38. “It’s time for the next generation to stand up and to lead.”

“We asked about your struggles and your hopes for our Idaho, and you shared your stories, and I heard you,” Jordan said. “I heard you and I will always hear you. … You are the heart of our movement, that brings a government that looks like you, that understands you and that welcomes you. … We are building that movement right now.”

“We do know that no matter who wins, you have already won,” Jordan told the enthusiastic, cheering crowd. “We will not disengage!” she said, and the crowd shouted back, “No!” “We will not be silent!” she said, and the crowd shouted back, “No!” “We will not simply go away. This is our Idaho.”