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Posts published in “Day: June 15, 2006”

The Ricks choice: History repeats

Go back 23 and a half years, to an episode out of Idaho Senate history.

In December 1982, Boise Republican Senator Jim Risch had served four terms in the Senate, three of those as majority leader - the number two spot in Senate leadership. The previous two terms he had been in many senses the main manager of the Senate, while the top Senate floor leader - President pro tem Reed Budge - took a more laid back approach. Heading into the organizational session that winter, quite a few people thought, since the membership of the Senate had not drastically changed in the previous election, they would repeat those positions.

At the dinner meeting when the caucus leadership decison was made, though, it became apparent Risch had other ideas. He had quietly, efficiently pried votes away from Budge - who had assurances from some of the senators involved that they would stay loyal to him - and won the pro tem job. He would keep that top post until he was defeated for re-election to his Senate seat six years later.

Doubtless well aware of the precedent and unwilling to get his old majority leader post go to a prospective rival, Risch ensured - as it was read at the time - that it would instead go to one of his closest allies, a helper in his campaign for leadership: Senator Mark Ricks of Rexburg. Ricks too would keep that majority leader spot for the next six years, and he and Risch worked tightly together throughout that time. Ricks was an energetic senator and you couldn't call him a Risch clone, but he knew where his loyalty lay. He was also a key figure in the Mormon delegation at the statehouse (an ancestor of his provided the names of both Rexburg and Ricks College), and their alliance was one of the reasons for Risch's political strength in eastern Idaho.

Risch had available a number of realistic possibilities for lieutenant governor, but of them all Ricks may have themost historical resonance. Out of the Senate now for a good many years, and coming up on 82 years of age on Independence Day, Ricks will let Risch be Risch. As it was in the decade before the last one.