(UPDATED, Nov. 21, with comments from Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum.)
Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill hopes a replacement for Sen. Branden Durst will be confirmed before the legislative session convenes Jan. 6.
Durst, D-Boise, announced his intention to resign to party and state officials on Tuesday. The Idaho Democratic Party announced Durst’s resignation Wednesday afternoon.
“Branden said his resignation is effective Dec. 1,” Hill said. “That doesn’t mean they have to have it done by then, but obviously we want to have it done by the time the session begins.”
Hill, a Republican from Rexburg, is acting governor while Gov. Butch Otter is out of the country and Lt. Gov. Brad Little is out of state.
Durst’s resignation will create a vacancy on the nine-member Senate Education Committee. Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb, D-Boise, is the only other Democrat on the committee.
Senate Majority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, said it is a priority for her party to nominate a successor with strong education credentials.
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“Ideally, because Sen. Durst’s strength was in education, whoever is selected should be a strong and knowledgeable person in education,” Stennett said. “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.”
Senate Education Committee Chairman John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, said Durst’s successor would be allowed to take Durst’s Education Committee spot.
“I am assuming that whoever the Democrats’ appointee is will continue with (Sen. Durst’s) committee assignments, but that will be their purview,” Goedde said. “It’s going to be a busy education session, and whoever gets appointed to that position will be drinking from the fire hose.”
If Democrats don’t want Durst’s successor on the Education Committee, Hill said he will allow party leaders to recommend another Democrat for the seat.
Democratic leaders outlined plans for Durst’s succession with an online post Wednesday.
- Durst’s replacement must live within District 18, and intend to seek re-election in 2014, when all 105 legislative seats are up for grabs.
- The Democrats will convene a candidate recruitment committee.
- That committee will interview candidates and recommend three to five finalists within 11 days.
- The District 18 Democratic Central Committee will interview finalist candidates within 13 days.
- The Central Committee will send a list of final recommendations to Otter within 15 days.
Depending on how the Thanksgiving holiday and weekends factor into the Democrats’ timetable, a roster of three candidates to succeed Durst will likely be before Otter by mid-December.
Stennett’s said Democrats will have no problem presenting Otter with a list of candidates to succeed Durst before the session begins.
Otter will then appoint Durst’s successor. Otter’s appointment is final and does not need to be confirmed by the Senate.
Hill said he will not take any action as acting governor and will defer to Otter upon his return to Idaho. Otter’s official schedule indicates he will return to Idaho on Nov. 24.
But Hill did say he would help in any way he can to get Durst’s replacement named before the session begins.
“It helps to have the whole group there when we get started (with the session) and make sure everybody knows what’s going on,” Hill said. “It’s also important for his district to be represented in the Idaho State Senate.”
Durst was elected to the Senate in 2012. He served two House terms between 2006 and 2010.
On Sept. 6, KTVB reported Durst was living out of his district part-time and splitting time between the Seattle area and his Boise district.