Idaho’s 26th Secretary of State, the talented and well-liked Ben Ysursa, when campaigning to succeed his old boss and fellow Basque, the long-serving and never beaten Pete T. Cenarrusa, would often look an audience straight in the eye and without blinking in a perfect dead-pan manner say that a little known clause in Idaho’s Constitution required the office of Secretary of State be held by a person of Basque origin.
One can forgive any Idahoan for thinking that must be true since between Cenarrusa (36 years) and Ysursa (12 years) the office has been held by men of Basque origin and heritage for almost 50 years. Like Cenarrusa, Ysursa could hold the office for as long as he wants.
He is a young 64 years of age and he draws support not just from Republicans but also independents and Democrats. When running for his third term in 2010, even former four-term Democratic Governor Cecil Andrus’ SUV sported a Ysursa bumper sticker.
Ysursa, though, is rumored to be giving serious thought to retiring. When asked by supporters, friends and reporters, Ysursa gives the same answer—-he’ll announce his intentions at the end of this year.
A native of Boise and a 1967 graduate of Bishop Kelly, he obtained his B.A. from Gonzaga University (Yes, Ben is true Zagnaut and follows the Zag basketball team religiously), then went on to St. Louis University where he received his law degree in 1974 and was admitted to the Idaho bar the same year.
He joined Cenarrusa’s staff in 1974 and quickly rose to the position of chief deputy and heir apparent. Thus, by the end of 2014 he will have spent almost 40 years serving the people of Idaho. No one could blame him for retiring to enjoy his “golden years” with wife Penny, their three children and their grandchildren.
Idaho Republicans of course want him to run again because he’s a sure winner and he helps the GOP to keep control of Idaho’s important Land Board. Additionally, there is no obvious heir apparent inside the office like Ysursa was inside Cenarrusa’s office.
If Ysursa does retire, the smartest move Idaho’s Democrats could make would be to recruit the best known Basque in their ranks—Boise Mayor Dave Bieter.
The popular Boise mayor has of course generated speculation he might be seeing a future governor when he looks in the mirror during his morning shave. Thus, his name is prominent when folks play the parlor game of who could the Democrats run for governor in 2014 and who could beat Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter, or whomever emerges from the GOP’s closed primary.
Bieter, though, is reportedly leaning towards seeking another term as mayor. His wife is also supposed to be opposed to his seeking the governorship, and there are some Democrats who seriously question whether the mayor has the fire in his belly to run for governor.
A clear indication that he’s looking more towards running for mayor again was his attempt earlier this year to woo talented Coeur d’Alene City Councilman Mike Kennedy away from north Idaho to come to Boise and be his chief of staff.
Kennedy was reportedly intrigued by the offer but decided his family obligations and his commitment to business partner, Coeur d’Alene investor and real estate magnate, Steve Meyer, dictated he remain in the north.
Kennedy is a veteran of several Democratic statewide campaigns, however, and would be an invaluable asset in any statewide race Bieter might make. One suspects though that Kennedy, like Bieter and other political pundits, questions whether Bieter could win a race for governor.
In fact, Kennedy announced this past week he was bowing out of politics for awhile and would neither run for a third-term as a City Councilman nor seek the mayorship of Coeur d’Alene.Share on Facebook