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Bedke seeks political career change

by CHUCK MALLOY
| June 28, 2021 12:20 PM

House Speaker Scott Bedke of Oakley, a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, easily checks off the boxes for that office.

He would have no trouble presiding over the Senate during legislative sessions and he could serve as acting governor — without political drama — when the boss is out of town.

As for the rest of his job, Bedke’s role would depend on who is sitting in the governor’s chair. He’d be an outstanding partner (and welcome relief) to Gov. Brad Little, with his deep background on policy issues. If Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin becomes governor, Bedke would have plenty of time to tend to his family’s ranch or sharpen his golf game when the Legislature is not in session. There would not be much for him to do at the Statehouse.

Bedke says he’s not certain if he will take an active role in the governor’s race. My thought is that unless he likes the idea of playing computer solitaire at his desk in the lieutenant governor’s office, he should take a stand in the gubernatorial campaign. If it causes him to lose, then at least he’d have the satisfaction of telling voters what’s at stake in Idaho’s top two races.

In 2018, Little declined to say who he favored for lieutenant governor in the primary campaign and paid the price. He ended up getting stuck with McGeachin, who has gone rogue more times than Sarah Palin. This time, Little has two candidates he could easily work with — Bedke and former Rep. Luke Malek of Coeur d’Alene, who are battling for the “establishment” vote. Rep. Priscilla Giddings of White Bird would cause more headaches in a Little administration — but would work marvelously well with McGeachin.

Bedke offers a long list of selling points for the lieutenant governor’s job. He has served 11 terms in the Legislature and the last five as House speaker. “I have been in the middle of every major decision in the state — whether it’s economic policy, transportation policy, education policy, tax policy or natural resources.”

Bedke knows all about budgeting and how state government works and has some thoughts about the future.

“I don’t want to wake up 10 years from now and wonder where did our Idaho go,” he said. “We’re the fastest growing state in the union, and with that growth comes growing pains. It will come in the form of education, transportation, roads, the court system, prisons and natural resources.”

The lieutenant governor’s office does not make policy, but Bedke could provide a sound voice on a host of issues — again, depending on who is governor.

“I have a track record of bringing people together and crafting solutions,” he said. “That’s not easy, but I think I’m pretty good at it.”

Bedke won’t talk about how McGeachin has handled the job, other than to say, “I will be completely different. I’ll be one who will be looking for solutions and trying to conduct business cordially and with civility and respect.”

How’s that for making “no comment” about McGeachin?

Over the years, lieutenant governor has been a nice “waiting area” for those with higher political ambitions. Phil Batt eventually became governor … Butch Otter went to Congress, and later governor … Jim Risch became a U.S. senator … and Little is the sitting governor. So, where is Bedke looking?

As House Speaker, Bedke already is one of the most powerful figures in Idaho politics, but officially it’s a part-time position. He could do well as a congressman or U.S. senator, but it doesn’t appear that members of Idaho’s delegation will be leaving anytime soon. Being a lieutenant governor could put him in line for governor, assuming that Little wins re-election and would serve no more than two terms.

Bedke’s priority at the moment is winning the lieutenant governor’s race and at least one candidate (Giddings) isn’t going to make it easy.

“I welcome Scott Bedke to the race,” Giddings said after Bedke announced. “As House speaker, he has single-handedly kept the grocery tax alive. With his departure from the House, Idahoans may finally get grocery tax relief. Sadly, both Speaker Bedke and lawyer Luke Malek have a long track record of championing policies which harm small businesses, damage our schools, and which can hurt real people.”

The fireworks are under way, just in time for the Fourth of July.

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Chuck Malloy, a longtime Idaho journalist and Silver Valley native, is a columnist with Idaho Politics Weekly. He may be reached at ctmalloy@outlook.com.