GOP stays the course in leadership elections

The Legislature completed its first to-do item Wednesday night, selecting leaders for the 2017 session.

And Republicans stayed the course.

Two House leaders survived challenges during caucus votes on Wednesday.

Assistant Majority Leader Brent Crane of Nampa held off Tom Loertscher of Iona, a 28-year House veteran who chairs the powerful State Affairs Committee. Caucus Chairman John Vander Woude of Nampa defeated Rep. Greg Chaney of Caldwell.

Hill Bedke, 3.1.16
House Speaker Scott Bedke, left, and Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill. Republican colleagues re-elected the two legislative floor leaders during closed caucus meetings Wednesday night.

House Speaker Scott Bedke of Oakley and House Majority Leader Mike Moyle both ran unopposed, Kimberlee Kruesi of the Associated Press reported Wednesday night.

The Senate’s GOP leadership remains unchanged: President Pro Tem Brent Hill of Rexburg; Majority Leader Bart Davis of Idaho Falls; Assistant Majority Leader Chuck Winder of Boise; and Caucus Chairman Todd Lakey of Nampa. All four ran unopposed, Betsy Russell of the Spokane Spokesman-Review reported Wednesday night.

On the Democratic side, Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett of Ketchum and Assistant Minority Leader Cherie Buckner-Webb were re-elected, while Maryanne Jordan replaces fellow Boise Democrat Grant Burgoyne as caucus chair. Burgoyne told Russell he opted not to run again for the leadership post.

A shakeup in House Democratic leadership was inevitable, as Minority Leader John Rusche lost in the Nov. 8 election, and Caucus Chair Donna Pence decided not to seek re-election.

Mat Erpelding of Boise will move up from assistant minority leader to minority leader, Ilana Rubel of Boise will take the assistant minority leader’s spot, and Elaine Smith of Pocatello will step in as caucus chair. Smith defeated Hy Kloc of Boise in the Democrats’ lone contested race, Russell reported Wednesday night.

Lawmakers convene at the Statehouse Thursday morning and will receive their committee assignments. Among the areas to watch: GOP leaders must select a new House Education Committee chair, and at least three seats are open on the budget-writing Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee.

Check back at Idaho Education News Thursday for the latest.