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Madame lieutenant governor

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For the life of me, I can’t figure why someone would work their tail off for nine months to get a part-time umpire job that makes you live in Boise.

Because, besides the rare occurrence of filling in for the governor, the Lieutenant Governor has the thankless job of umpiring the Idaho Senate when it’s in session January to maybe April. And that’s about it. Take my word for it, it’s not glamorous, powerful, or fulfilling.

It can’t be the money: an annual salary of $37,000 with benefits would mean you couldn’t afford to buy a house in the booming Boise real estate market. It has been a boon to the Idaho taxpayers that Brad Little, our current excellent Lieutenant Governor, lived in Emmett, close enough that all he had to invest in Boise real estate was a modest condo.

It can’t be the power. If slamming the gavel down on misbehaving Senators brings a warm feeling to your heart, maybe a little smile to your countenance, that will fade if you’re doing your job right. No good umpire enjoys calling a strike more than a ball. No, there’s only one reason besides a pure sense of public service that one might fight and work so hard for such a thankless job. It might just be what the job has become in this one-party state: a spring board to higher partisan office.

Our 34th lieutenant governor, Phil Batt made this a reality, but only because he saw the need to revive the Idaho Republican Party back in 1984. Idaho had suffered under Democrats in the executive offices for 30 years then. He did a great job of it too; Idaho has been dominated by Republicans now for thirty years, thanks in part to his efforts.

Since Phil, the part-time office has served as a farm team job for Idaho Republicans: Butch Otter (36th Lt. Gov.) went on to serve Idaho in congress, then 12 years as Governor. Jim Risch (38th and 40th) took a swan dive off the spring board into the US Senate. And David Leroy (35th) sat in the office while looking around for any available opening (congress twice, governor twice). And we are about to elect a reluctant Lieutenant Governor (Brad Little, 41st) to our states highest office. It’s like Brad got caught on the assembly line Phil created.

When partisan politics is the game you play, constitutional office is just a position on the field, or even on the bench. Lieutenant Governor in Idaho is now the back-up quarterback position for the party in power. Our founders knew politics could be a profession for those so inclined, and such an inclination does not serve the public good. The office was constitutionally kept so nominal in an effort to discourage its use as such. But our founders probably didn’t imagine how partisan politics could be amplified by Facebook or Russian troll bots.

Does any of this tell you who might best serve us in this position? Do you want to elect a good umpire or a back-up quarterback? Do you want your vote to serve the public good, or your partisan persuasion? I’m voting for Kristin Collum. Not because she’s a veteran, or a woman, or a Democrat. She’d be a good umpire. I’m not looking for a back-up quarterback.
 

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