(UPDATED, 12:14 p.m., with comments from legislators and details on the appointment process.)
House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding is stepping down from the Legislature, effective Friday.
Erpelding, a Boise Democrat, is resigning to take a position with the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce.
“It is clear that I need to advance my professional career,” Erpelding said in a letter to Gov. Brad Little, House Speaker Scott Bedke and fellow legislators.
The Democrats’ legislative caucus released the letter early Wednesday morning.
Erpelding served seven years in the Legislature. He served on the House Revenue and Taxation Committee, a powerful panel that represents the starting point for all tax bills in the Legislature. This year, Erpelding also served on Little’s “Our Kids, Idaho’s Future” K-12 task force.
In his resignation letter, Erpelding admonished political leaders to seek common ground.
“We best honor the wishes of our diverse state when we collaborate, merge ideas, and compromise,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, Idaho’s political polarization is deeply disconcerting. I encourage my legislative colleagues to increase bipartisan efforts rather than kowtow to the extreme views being advocated on both ends of the spectrum.”
Said Bedke: “In his position as minority leader, (Erpelding) has proven to be an insightful and collaborative legislator. We will miss him, but we wish him every success in his new position.”
“Rep. Erpelding was a champion of progressive values, and much of his work will continue to touch the lives of Idahoans for generations,” Assistant Minority Leader Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, said Wednesday. “His political leadership and courage carried the Democratic caucus through some of our most important fights.”
Erpelding’s resignation means House Democrats will need to elect a new floor leader. A vote is slated for Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Rubel announced her interest in the vacancy via news release. Moments later, in a separate news release, Rep. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, said Wednesday she is interested in the assistant minority leader’s post.
While Democrats sort out their leadership team, it’s up to Little to appoint a successor to serve out the rest of Erpelding’s term, which runs through the end of 2020.
Erpelding represents legislative District 19, Boise’s North and East ends. District 19 Democrats will accept online applications for the House vacancy through Dec. 11, interview candidates starting Dec. 14, and submit a list of three finalists to Little by Dec. 21.
Wednesday’s news is the second big legislative shakeup of the week. Senate Education Committee Chairman Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, told the Idaho Falls Post Register that he will not seek re-election.