Dems recommend Durst’s successor

State Rep. Janie Ward-Engelking tops the Democrats’ list of three potential successors to fill the Senate seat vacated by Branden Durst.

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Rep. Janie Ward-Engelking

On Friday, Democratic leaders from legislative District 18 recommended Ward-Engelking, Lawrence Crowley or Beth Oppenheimer to fill the vacancy.

Durst, who has been living part-time in Washington state, stepped down Dec. 1 to focus on his family.

Two of the nominees offer strong education voices. Ward-Engelking is a freshman House member and former teacher who serves on the House Education Committee.

Oppenheimer serves as the executive director of the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children.

Crowley is president and director of The Energy Services Group, which works on business development, financial analysis, utility rates and regulation.

“We are pleased to report that there is very high interest in serving in Idaho’s Legislature as an Idaho Democrat,” said District Chair John Goettsche said in a news release. “We were excited to have a very competent and competitive slate of applicants from which to choose.”

This year, Durst served on the Senate Education Committee; chairman John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, has said his successor would have a spot on the committee, if Democrats so choose.

Democrats have also been vocal about education credentials.

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Former Sen. Branden Durst

“Ideally, because Sen. Durst’s strength was in education, whoever is selected should be a strong and knowledgeable person in education,” Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, told Idaho Education News in November. “That’s a greater portion of the budget and we’re looking for a person who knows a great deal about it, if at all possible.”

Once Otter reviews the pool of nominees, he will make the final appointment. He does not have to pick the top name on the list.

Should Ward-Engelking be appointed, District 18 Democrats would need to begin a search and application process to identify her House successor.

The 2014 legislative session begins Jan. 6.

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