House Majority Leader Mike Moyle of Star has been in his party’s leadership in the Legislature for almost as long as Tom Brady has been slinging touchdown passes for the New England Patriots.
That’s a long time for anyone to be serving in a leadership position — a life that sees friends come and go and enemies accumulate. At 54, Moyle is in no hurry to leave, or seek other offices — including speaker of the House. Moyle thrives on the political give-and-take in the Legislature, and majority leader is where the action is. He’s not bored with the job.
“I love this place and I love the politics,” he says. “You know, politics is a game … and I like helping people. The things you think about when you go home at night are the little things that help someone get through the problems they’ve had. It’s not the money (a shade more than $17,000 a year); it costs me money to be here.”
But hold off on the nominations for humanitarian awards. As majority leader since the 2007 session, Moyle has stepped on at least a few toes along the way — sometimes alienating himself from the governor, senators from both parties and Democrats.
“The Senate probably still has caucus sessions to talk about what a SOB Mike Moyle is. A friend shared some of the things said about me, and it’s no wonder that the folks over there think I have devil horns and a spear,” Moyle said.
Some of his fellow Republicans think he has been in power for too long. If December’s pre-session legislative race was based solely on popularity, John Vander Woude of Nampa — who has a calmer nature and is generally well liked — probably would be the House floor leader. But in the end, most of the GOP House members stuck with Moyle.
“I know there are people who voted for me even if they do not like me,” he said. “Almost everybody has a story where I made them mad at some point, but I guarantee that almost all have a story where I helped save their bacon.”
Moyle is an old-school politician who will engage in tough floor fights, and sometimes in shouting matches behind closed doors. And that’s just how he treats his friends. His enemies tend to keep their distance.
With reporters covering the Legislature, Moyle will speak his mind without mincing words. “I’m a bulldog, and I’ll get in the middle of things,” he said. “I’ve prided myself as being a straight shooter.”
Away from the Legislature, he says, “I love my life, my family and my wife (former Rep. Janet Trujilo, who is now a state tax commissioner) is awesome. If I take the next step in politics, it could take time away from my grandkids, my farming, my hunting and fishing and all the fun things I do with my life.”
Moyle seems to have a safe seat in the Legislature and, at least for now, he’s secure in his leadership position. But he sees a meaner spirit seeping into Idaho politics. Moyle has been a frequent target of Redoubt News, which has a strong conservative following. He’s been accused, among other things, of being part of the political “swamp” that needs to be drained.
“The news is not what it used to be, and the people who are in the center don’t know who to believe,” he said. “The fringes control the media in all aspects. I read some of this stuff on Redoubt News, and say to myself ‘that never happened … I never said that, or did that.’ But how do you combat that? Do you get in a fight with them and call them a bunch of damn liars? Or do you suck it up and move on?
“It’s frustrating, especially the things that have been said about me and my wife,” Moyle said. “The ones who put out these things are the same ones who talk about draining the swamp and the lying media.”
Of course, that’s all part of the political game that Moyle has played so well over the last 20 years. The big difference is the expanded media, as flawed as it might be, provides a new set of rules — especially to those on the top of the leadership chain.
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Chuck Malloy, a Silver Valley native and longtime Idaho journalist, is a columnist with Idaho Politics Weekly. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.