Here's my full column from Sunday's Spokesman-Review:
By Betsy Z. Russell
Leadership contests are taking shape in the Idaho Senate, as the departure of longtime Majority Leader Bart Davis prompts a ripple effect through the Senate GOP leadership.
Assistant Majority Leader Chuck Winder, R-Boise, told Eye on Boise on Friday that he’s running for majority leader, and so far there’s no one running against him.
That leaves Winder’s GOP leadership position open – and Majority Caucus Chairman Todd Lakey, R-Nampa, is running for it, as is Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens.
And that leaves Lakey’s current leadership position open. So far, the announced candidates for Senate majority caucus chair are Sens. Fred Martin, R-Boise; Kelly Anthon, R-Burley; and Mary Souza, R-Coeur d’Alene. And the word is that at least one more candidate is likely to announce.
Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, said Friday that the leadership elections won’t take place until the first day of the legislative session in January. “We couldn’t see any purpose in calling all 28 Republican senators together, paying travel,” Hill said. “We will actually have the election that morning.”
Davis left the Senate to become the U.S. attorney for Idaho; he was majority leader for the past 15 years.
The 2018 legislative session convenes on Jan. 8; Gov. Butch Otter will give his State of the State and budget addresses to a joint session of the Legislature that day at 1 p.m.
Wilderness could be named for Andrus
Idaho 2nd District congressman Mike Simpson has introduced legislation to redesignate the White Clouds Wilderness in the Sawtooth and Challis national forests in Idaho as the Cecil D. Andrus-White Clouds Wilderness in honor of the late Idaho governor and U.S. interior secretary.
The bill, HR 4134, was introduced Wednesday and referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources.
Andrus, Idaho’s longest-serving governor, died in August. Among memorials to him already underway: The city of Boise has renamed Capitol Park, across from the state Capitol, as Cecil D. Andrus Capitol Park. A drive is on to name a new species of foothills plant, identified by scientists at Boise State University and the College of Idaho, for the late Idaho icon.
A scholarship for Idaho students has been established in his name. And the Andrus Center for Public Policy at BSU, now chaired by Andrus’ daughter, Tracy, after his death, is dedicated to furthering his life’s work and legacy.
Andrus made stopping a major open-pit molybdenum mine that threatened Castle Peak, the highest peak in the White Cloud Mountains, a top issue in his successful 1970 race for governor of Idaho. In later years, he helped Simpson in his 15-year effort to win wilderness designation for the Boulder-White Clouds, which was signed into law in 2015.
Idaho cities group names new head
Jessica “Jess” Harrison has been named executive director of the Association of Idaho Cities, to succeed Seth Grigg; he’s leaving to head the Idaho Association of Counties, where he’s succeeding the retiring longtime director there, Dan Chadwick.
Harrison currently is director of government affairs and communications for the Idaho School Boards Association. She holds both a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s in public administration from Boise State University, and is a graduate of Leadership Boise. At the school boards association, her work has focused on legislative advocacy, technical assistance to school boards and coordinating communication for the group.
“Jessica has proven herself to be a strong advocate, a skilled communicator and a talented coalition builder during her time at ISBA,” said AIC President Jeri DeLange, a Hayden city councilor. “She brings the best possible combination of knowledge, skills and experience to the job.”
Simpson tabs big-name campaign co-chairs
Idaho 2nd District GOP Rep. Mike Simpson has launched his re-election bid and named his campaign co-chairs: House Speaker Scott Bedke and U.S. Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch. “Idaho leads the nation in common sense solutions for tough problems and I look forward to working closely with Idahoans to continue to help Idaho grow and prosper,” Simpson said in a statement. “I am humbled by the support of many conservative Idaho leaders and once again ask for your support this election cycle.”
Each of the three co-chairs issued a statement supporting Simpson as he seeks an 11th term in the House; no one has yet filed to challenge him in 2018.
“Idaho continues to benefit on a daily basis from Congressman Simpson’s leadership in Washington, D.C.,” Bedke said. “Mike continues to fight back against onerous federal policies from the Obama administration that remain harmful to the state of Idaho. We need Mike on our side and I am excited to join him as a chair of his campaign.”
Crapo said, “Mike continues to be a strong conservative voice in Washington, D.C. He leads the fight in the House against arduous policies such as Obamacare and runaway federal spending. I am honored to co-chair his campaign once again.”
Risch said, “I am proud to support Congressman Simpson because of his solid track record of representing Idahoans. Mike delivers consistent results for the people of Idaho on issues such as reduced federal spending, rational health care solutions and lowering taxes.”
Two years ago, Simpson won re-election with 63 percent of the vote.