House Speaker Scott Bedke of Oakley will be doing more than watching the Election Day results in November. He’ll be keeping an eye on Republican winners, because his job depends on it.
Perhaps even more than the governor’s race, the state’s direction hinges on the outcome of the legislative races. Bedke, who won by a narrow margin in 2012, is no lock to win re-election. Critics – and there are plenty of them within the conservative wing of the GOP caucus – say he hasn’t done enough to bring opponents to his side.
“He’s leading with the D’s, and that’s no way to lead,” said one Republican House member.
For certain, Bedke could not have gotten through the implementation of a state-run health exchange without the help of Democrats.
“A majority of the Republican caucus voted against the exchange and the only way it passed was with the help of Democrats,” said Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens (Kootenai County). “That would not have happened under the previous speaker.”
Barbieri also opposes Bedke on Common Core education standards and fears that the speaker could push for Medicaid expansion. Barbieri isn’t alone with in his complaints about Bedke’s leadership. Earlier this month, the Idaho Statesman’s Dan Popkey wrote an excellent piece, talking to two of Bedke’s leading critics from the conservative side – Assistant Majority Leader Brent Crane of Nampa and Caucus Chairman John Vander Woude of rural Ada County.
But complaints against Bedke and the more moderate “Otter” Republicans are empty without a viable conservative alternative, and that’s a problem. The bench is thin. Majority Leader Mike Moyle of Star has the resume, but he has told others that he is not interested in the speaker’s job because it would signify the beginning of the end of his legislative career. Rep. Tom Loertscher of Bone, the longtime chairman of the State Affairs Committee, also has the qualification. The question is whether he wants to stay on for another term or two. In Popkey’s article, Crane offered himself as a potential candidate for speaker. The question is whether he is ready for such an assignment. My guess is he is not.
Bedke, in many ways, has done a good job leading the House and a divided GOP caucus. He’s highly intelligent, engaged in the issues and has superior knowledge about budgeting. He’s also a superb communicator with the media, a trait not often found with Republicans.
Conservative members have a different view, as Popkey’s article outlined. Crane says that Bedke’s style has made the GOP divisions worse. (more…)