Idaho House Speaker Denney Loses Top GOP Seat

Dec 6, 2012

Idaho Statehouse home of the Idaho Legislature
Credit Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

After three terms in the speaker’s chair, Representative Lawerence Denney lost the top House spot in the Idaho Legislature Wednesday night.  Representative Scott Bedke of Oakley was elected Speaker of the House during a secret vote at a dinner at a Boise country club. 

Idaho Statesman reporter Dan Popkey has been following the ongoing rivalry between these two lawmakers. He says several issues led to Denney losing support from his Republican colleagues.  

“I think there was a lot of baggage accumulated for the Speaker over the course of six years, particularly in the last several years with the [former Representative] Phil Hart ethics problems, the deposing of chairman who were more moderate than the Speaker but well-respected in the House.  But most significantly, two things that happened this year.  The attempt to remove two steadfast Republicans from the Redistricting Commission and then to join an effort and contribute caucus funds to ousting members of the House caucus and Senate caucus, six of them total, was just I think for some people over the line.  Leadership’s money is meant to be spent on preserving the incumbent’s advantage and that’s who was voting.  These weren’t the outsiders anymore, the big freshman class were insiders.  I think they saw risk and instability.  I think that was sort of the coup de grâce."

Q: Denney and Bedke are not that far apart when it comes to politics, is it more a question of personality and leadership style?

House Speaker Scott Bedke
Credit Idaho Legislature

A: Yes.  Former Speaker Denney was perceived as being someone who put people in boxes, who labeled people, who removed a couple of chairman famously because they were too moderate.  Bedke today said, as the reporters gathered around him after he took the oath and the first part of the organizational session was over, Bedke made a point of talking about inclusion, of talking about not labeling people, about how when you do that, you don’t interact on an intellectual basis and you don’t get the best results, you don’t get the best policy.  He said if everyone feel comfortable, playing their hand in the open, the ultimate result of the hand is collectively made, it will be better.  I think people bought that.  I think the 57 Republicans in that caucus like the idea of a shift in style that dissipated the power of leadership.

Q: What does this leadership change mean for the average person on the street?

A: I think that for the average person, Bedke’s more open, tolerant style, could well wind up with better results in our public policy.  The House has been kind of locked down and you’ve lost some really good people too, who just kind of had their fill because they weren’t part of the guard that was in power.  Bedke seems to be saying, look, even if we disagree, I want to hear what you have to say because it’s important to get to the best solution and if you wind up on the outside of what the coalition decides, we’re still going to love you.  I think that is a change, I can’t point to a particular issue where that will make a difference, but I think that will make a difference in the institution over time, as long as he’s Speaker, if he keeps his word.

Dan Popkey has covered the Idaho Legislature for the Idaho Statesman since 1987. He says the message so far from the new Speaker is one of conciliation.  Scott Bedke says there are six open chairmanships in the House and he would like to consider outgoing Speaker Lawerence Denney for one of those positions.

Copyright 2012 Boise State Public Radio