I visit the Idaho Statesman website on a regular basis (though we are also subscribers to the daily paper) - often to link my blog to key stories. Before I comment on an incredible story (below), I want to also make you aware of Editorial Page Editor Kevin Richert's blog - well worth visiting. Always interesting. Hit it at http://www.idahostatesman.com/392/story/75941.html and keep tabs on what's happening there.
Regarding the GOP story, itself - reporter Shawna Gamache did an outstanding job of detailing the friction and reaction of moderates within the House GOP.
Of even greater interest are Minority Leader Wendy Jaquet's comments, as a Democrat:
“I feel sorry for the moderates in the majority party of the House that they’re having to vote the way they don’t want to,” ... At some point, the folks that are moderates are going to have to stand up and say, ‘We won’t support that.’ ”
Though I have a tremendous amount of respect for Rep. Jaquet, I think she is in utter error about what the moderates within the GOP "should" say and do. Having been in GOP politics for many years, I think the real issue is what Dem leaders of Idaho "should" say and do to help the whole political system - simply recruiting the moderate GOP members to switch parties could be the healthiest thing in Idaho's recent political history.
The GOP moderates tend to be pro-choice, anti-death penalty, pro-tax increase, pro-gay, pro-tax and spend...etc, etc. And the Democrat's should welcome them with open arms, shouldn't they?
It would also force the GOP platform to either mean something...or not. Political parties' philosophies either direct public policy...or it's all a sham, isn't it? We either debate the issues of our times or we simply revert to high school...posing, positioning and pretending.
I am proud of the Speaker's leadership. He has always said who he was....and quite frankly, that's why the moderates lost. The Speaker is the real deal. Quiet, calm and deliberate. No posing. No pretending.
And that must drive the future-Democrats in the House crazy.
So, along with Rep. Jaquet, let's all "call the game" and ask the moderate GOP House members to make the decision - either sign up or sign out.
GOP moderates say conservative House leaders are pushing them aside
Caldwell legislator blames votes against new speaker, Lawerence Denney
By Shawna Gamache - Idaho Statesman
Edition Date: 03/18/07
But this year, Ring, R-Caldwell, said his efforts have been thwarted. Ring lost his seat on the House Health and Welfare Committee and can't get bills introduced. He said new House leaders are punishing him for his politics and for voting against new Speaker Lawerence Denney.
"I'm a multiple offender. I opposed the speaker's gay-bashing amendment. I openly supported (Denney's opponent)," Ring said. "Without all the crap going on, I'd have been the natural chairman of Health and Welfare."
For the shrinking number of moderate Republicans in the House, this has been a difficult session. Some, like Ring, say they're being forced to the edges of the legislative process. Some have thought about not running again.
New leadership elections in December saw the conservative Denney, R-Midvale, beat moderate Bill Deal, R-Nampa, and select the committee chairmen. Because many moderates supported Deal, they didn't gain any new chairmanships. All four leadership seats are now held by more conservative lawmakers.
On top of that, last year's elections turned six Republican seats — many of them held by moderates — over to Democrats. And the House has seven new Treasure Valley Republicans, all of them conservative, said House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star.
House leaders say they have not tried to force moderates to vote their way and have worked hard to include moderates in high-ranking committee roles, despite pressure from some conservative lawmakers to oust them.
"We've gotten more heat over that than anything else because all the conservatives came down on us and said we weren't strong-arming them enough," Moyle said. "All these new guys, they're conservative, and they have influence."
But some lawmakers say the new leaders are pressuring lawmakers to vote for or against certain bills.
Ring did see success in a bill to make bowling alleys smoke-free this session, but he said that was only because the
Senate pressured House leaders to let it be introduced. But Rep. Leon Smith, R-Twin Falls, said he hasn’t been able to get any bills through this year.
“Anything my name is on has either been rerouted or pulled,” Smith said. “When I asked (Denney) why, he said “You didn’t support me.’ ”
Smith said the new House leaders hope moderates will get discouraged and leave their seats. He might succumb. He said he plans to see how it goes next year and then decide what to do.
“They’re in a tough spot,” said retired Boise State University political scientist Jim Weatherby. “Their ranks have dwindled, thanks to the Democrats picking up some seats. All of this happens to one degree or another in any contest when the winners deal out what’s perceived as punishment.”
Typically, the punishment is a loss of a chairmanship that seniority and rank might otherwise earn, Weatherby said. The speaker chooses all chairmen.
In the House Judiciary and Rules Committee, lawyer Smith held his seat as vice chairman, while Rep. Jim Clark, Smith’s senior by one term, got the top seat. Smith, former chairman of the Idaho Transportation Board, had a highways bill that wasn’t even introduced, despite support from the Transportation Department.
In the House Education Committee, financial consultant Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, now in his second term, was named chairman over vice chairman and retired college Professor Mack Shirley, a three-term lawmaker from Rexburg who gave Deal’s nominating speech.
Shirley said the year has gone better than he expected, given his visible role as a Deal supporter.
“I haven’t noticed any rejection or any lack of opposition directed at me since the restructuring of committees,” Shirley said. “I’ve been trying to let that heal. It does force one to be a little more careful.”
Deal himself left the House. Though House leaders kept him in his position of State Affairs Committee chairman, Gov. Butch Otter appointed him director of the state Insurance Department.
‘A COLD RELATIONSHIP’
Shirley said there haven’t been many controversial bills this session to divide moderates from conservatives, so it has been easier for them to work together. But he said he has been cautious about discussing his support of more early childhood education.
Boise Rep. Max Black said he, too, has been cautious since Deal’s defeat. Black is in his 15th year representing West Boise and was a trusted adviser to former longtime Speaker Bruce Newcomb. An insurance salesman and chairman of the Business Committee, Black has written and sponsored about 100 business and insurance bills over the years.
Black kept his committee chairmanship. But this year, Black said he passed off his bills to others to sponsor.
“I have been very low-key this year and perhaps it was because of that,” Black said. “It started out kind of a cold relationship.”
But Black said his relationships with new leaders have gotten better, and he is optimistic about next year.
Some say the new leaders have been heavy-handed in pressuring lawmakers to vote for or against certain bills.
‘SORRY FOR MODERATES’
“I feel sorry for the moderates in the majority party of the House that they’re having to vote the way they don’t want to,” said Minority Leader Wendy Jaquet of Ketchum. “At some point, the folks that are moderates are going to have to stand up and say, ‘We won’t support that.’ ”
Jaquet said there have been far more party-line votes this year, but not by choice. One example of that was when Rep. Tom Trail, R-Moscow, first voted with the Democrats to revive a community college bill by adding it to an unrelated bill. Jaquet said Trail switched his vote after receiving a call on the floor from House leaders and turning “10 shades of purple.”
Trail said he did change his vote after a call by House leaders, but said it was because the amendment was being rejected for “procedural” reasons, and committee chairmen are supposed to fall in line on procedural issues. He said he has had a good year overall.
“Without a doubt, this is the most conservative Legislature I’ve worked with,” Trail said. “On the other hand, I’ve never been asked to vote for a particular bill.”
‘CLOSED PRIMARIES BILL’
House leaders played a role in getting a “closed primaries” bill introduced in the House State Affairs Committee. House leaders sponsored a bill to restrict Idaho primaries by party, an idea that came up at last year’s Republican convention. When it was first introduced and presented in committee by freshman Rep. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, committee members voted against even printing the bill, a prerequisite for a hearing.
Denney said he spoke to several members of the committee about their objections. They were concerned the bill would disenfranchise independent voters.
“We did not call anybody to task,” Denney said. “The only thing that was said about that was I was disappointed that they didn’t have the courtesy to print the bill that had my name on it.”
The bill was rewritten to let parties include independents and won the committee’s approval for printing when Hagedorn again presented it. But the bill got stuck in committee again after Secretary of State Ben Ysursa testified it was unclear how party registration would work and how much it would cost.
“If we’d strong-armed it, there would have been a vote on the floor,” Moyle said. “It’s the process. You win some, you lose some.”
‘I HAVEN’T FELT PRESSURED’
Some lawmakers suspect GOP leaders are behind maneuvers to kill a vote-by-mail effort that passed the State Affairs Committee, only to be pulled off the floor. Chairman and conservative Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone, said there were concerns over the bill’s constitutionality. He told reporters more than a month ago the bill would have another hearing.
“I was sorry to see it didn’t get a hearing again,” said Rep. Clete Edmunson, R-Fruitland, who spoke passionately in committee in favor of voting by mail.
But Edmunson, a moderate Deal supporter who also voted against the closed primaries bill, said he has not been pressured to vote a certain way.
“I haven’t felt pressured to vote any differently than I always have, but I’ve got big arms to twist,” he said. Newcomb said the new leaders are still learning how to pick their battles.
“You’ve got to remember that someone who votes with you 70 percent of the time is your friend,” said Newcomb, R-Burley, now teaching political science at Boise State University. “You’ve always got to remember that you’ll need them on other issues, so you don’t want to alienate people.”
Contact reporter Shawna Gamache at email@example.com or 377-6416.