(UPDATED, 5:47 p.m., with Rep. Janie Ward-Engelking voicing interest in the Senate vacancy.)
State Sen. Branden Durst will step down from the state Senate, effective Dec. 1, “to focus on his family’s needs,” the Idaho Democratic Party announced Wednesday.
For more than two months, Durst had been splitting his time between his Boise legislative district and the Seattle area, where his wife teaches. Durst had maintained that he was still able to represent his constituents.
But Durst apparently had a change of heart.
“After a period of deep reflection and prayer, I have concluded that to best serve my constituents in Idaho’s 18th legislative district that someone else be given the opportunity to represent them in the Idaho State Senate,” Durst said Tuesday, in a resignation letter to Gov. Butch Otter. “I am choosing to put my family first and doing so will prevent me from completing the term to which I was elected.”
Durst had been one of two Democrats on the Senate Education Committee. He also was one of two Democrats on a legislative interim committee studying K-12 issues.
Durst attended the first two interim committee meetings, but missed the committee’s final meeting on Nov. 5, citing a conflict with a business meeting.
Boise Democrats will select three nominees to complete Durst’s term; Gov. Butch Otter will select a successor from that list. Democrats are accepting nominations online.
Rep. Janie Ward-Engelking — a District 18 Democrat, retired teacher and member of Otter’s education reform task force — is interested in the Senate vacancy, according to the Idaho Statesman’s Dan Popkey. Fellow Democratic District 18 Rep. Phylis King is not interested in the spot, reports Popkey.
Durst served in the House from 2006 to 2010. He was elected to the Senate in 2012. In recent months, Durst has been an outspoken critic of Idaho Education News.
Check back later for updates on this story.