2022 ANALYSIS: Nature abhors a power vacuum
by Logan Finney, Idaho Reports
NOTE: This story was updated Thursday to reflect Jerome County results flipping a House seat for Republicans.
After the election dust settled, the partisan makeup of the Idaho Legislature shifted slightly to 59-11 in the House and stayed the same at 28-7 in the Senate. However, Idahoans can expect to see many new faces in both chambers this coming session.
Any election sees some turnover, but with a 47.6 percent turnover rate this year, just under half of sitting lawmakers will not return to Boise in the next session. Redistricting incentivized many retirements — and set up primary election losses — this spring for powerful committee chairs and prominent lawmakers in both chambers. The general election saw less dramatic contests, but included Democrats and Republicans trading a Senate seat in northern Idaho for one in western Boise, and Republicans picking up a House seat in the new district containing traditional Democratic stronghold Blaine County.
House Speaker Scott Bedke, the longest-serving speaker in state history, chose to run for Lieutenant Governor and easily won his race. His move to the executive branch (and presiding over the Senate) opens up the top leadership post in the House, with control over Representatives’ committee assignments. Those committee chairs in turn have immense power over which bills get hearings — or even get printed — before making it to the floor.
Notable faces disappearing from the House include committee chairs Rick Youngblood (JFAC), Greg Chaney (Judiciary & Administration), Stephen Harris (Revenue & Taxation), Clark Kauffman (Agricultural Affairs), Marc Gibbs (Resources & Conservation), Fred Wood (Health & Welfare), and Paul Amador (Ways & Means).
House Republicans left with highest seniority: Mike Moyle, Brent Crane, Joe Palmer, Judy Boyle, John Vander Woude, and Vito Barbieri.
Jason Monks told Idaho Reports this spring that he plans to run for the speaker post next year. Mike Moyle, the longest-serving current member, told the Idaho Press in May that he plans to run as well, while past Bedke challengers Brent Crane and Wendy Horman were considering it.
“People are reaching out to me and expressing interest in me being JFAC co-chair,” Horman said in an Eye on Boise interview. “At this point, I am just telling people I am considering running for speaker again, but also would love to be JFAC co-chair.”
The powerful budget-setting JFAC, or Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, lost over half its membership (including both of its co-chairs and vice-chairs) to retirements and primary losses.
Horman previously served as a JFAC vice-chair until she unsuccessfully challenged Bedke for the speakership in 2020.
Unlike in the House — where the pecking order will shuffle as a result of the new speaker — all four members of the Senate GOP leadership team survived redistricting and reelection. However, half of incumbent Senators retired or lost reelection, and returning Republican members will make up just a third of the chamber in 2023.
Notable senior members no longer serving in the Senate include committee chairs Jeff Agenbroad (JFAC), Steven Thayn (Education), Jim Rice (Local Govermnet & Taxation), Patti Anne Lodge (State Affairs), Steve Vick (Resources & Environment), Jim Patrick (Commerce & Human Resources), and Fred Martin (Health & Welfare).
Senate Republicans left with highest seniority: Chuck Winder, Todd Lakey, Jim Guthrie, Lori Den Hartog, Abby Lee, Kelly Anthon, and Mark Harris.
Will newly elected Republican senators — some of them former House members looking to change the moderate temperament of the chamber across the rotunda — have the political muscle to shake up the incoming majority leadership team?
The New Legislature
Whomever the caucuses elect to majority leadership will have a shorter roster of veteran lawmakers to appoint to key committee positions, and freshman lawmakers will have a smaller group of mentors to show them the ropes.
However, not every newcomer in 2023 is a freshman lawmaker. Three former House GOP members are returning to the chamber: Britt Raybould, who took her seat back from Ron Nate this year; Jerald Raymond, who took his seat back from Karey Hanks this year; and Steve Miller, who served three terms before losing his seat to Democrat Muffy Davis in 2018.
Senators making a comeback are Democrat Ali Rabe, who moved out of her Boise district partway through her first term last session, and Republican Dan Foreman, who served a term in 2016-2018.
An additional handful of newly elected Senators are coming from across the rotunda: Democrat James Ruchti and Republicans Linda Wright Hartgen, Ben Adams, Tammy Nichols, and Doug Okuniewicz. Newly elected senator Phil Hart served four House terms in 2004-2012.
Many political observers expect the new Senate to be more conservative than in the past — but it won’t be until the caucuses hold their leadership elections during the December organizational session that Idahoans will truly know just where the chips fall.