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OPINION: Bedke seeks traditional role for lieutenant governor

by CHUCK MALLOY
| October 5, 2022 1:00 AM

House Speaker Scott Bedke of Oakley, Idaho, once viewed as one of the bright young stars in the Republican Party, is now an aging political figure who has yet to have “his turn” for a higher office.

The 64-year-old Bedke hasn’t done badly for himself, serving 10 years in one of the two most powerful positions in the Idaho Legislature. He has an impressive 22-year career in the Legislature, serving at one time or another on the Budget, Revenue & Taxation, Resources & Conservation and Transportation Committees. There’s no serious question about his intelligence and overall knowledge of state government.

Under normal circumstances, Bedke would be a natural fit for Congress in the second district. And running for a U.S. Senate seat would not be out of the realm of possibility for someone of Bedke’s stature. But those jobs have been locked down by Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, and Congressman Mike Simpson, and they show no signs of slowing down.

So, what’s left? Well, governor. As a candidate for lieutenant governor, and favorite to win over Democrat Terri Pickens Manweiler (more about her later), Bedke is putting himself into a position of getting that job in four years.

If Bedke wins, don’t expect him to spend the next four years campaigning for governor. His approach is more low-key than what we’ve seen from Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, who was trounced by Little in May’s GOP primary election.

“As lieutenant governor, I will work for Idaho and not my own political aspirations,” Bedke said.

This means that Gov. Brad Little could leave the state without worrying about the “acting governor” imposing executive orders that would need to be reversed upon the governor’s return.

A lieutenant governor has no policy-making authority, except for breaking tie votes in the Idaho Senate. But as other lieutenant governors have done over the years — including Little, former Gov. Butch Otter and Risch — Bedke intends to be an effective working partner with the governor.

“The smart money is on Gov. Little’s re-election, and I have worked well with him over the years,” Bedke says. “I can extend the governor’s reach and be a sounding board on policy issues. He can’t be everywhere at once and I can help on that. I’ve worked with four governors, and more extensively with Otter and Brad. I’m a known quality to them and they trust me.”

One of Bedke’s last duties as speaker was presiding over the special session called by the governor. While there was criticism about the session on several fronts, including McGeachin’s office, Bedke said the session served its purpose.

“People in Idaho and the United States have experienced record inflation, numbers we haven’t seen since the Carter administration,” Bedke said. “We had more money than we needed to meet the budget, so it was proper to send some of it back to the people. In retrospect, the rebate part of the session was a no-brainer.”

The other two parts of the session — flattening the income tax and pouring money into the schools was part of improving the Gem State’s business climate, he said.

“When people move to Idaho, jobs usually are a secondary issue. People are concerned about where their kids go to school and worried about the quality of that education,” Bedke says. “Inflation is also affecting schools. Dollars don’t go as far, but you still need to have competitive wages to keep up. You need to pay a competitive salary, and everyone knows that a quality education starts with a good teacher in every classroom.”

Lieutenant governor may not be where Bedke wants to end up in his career, but he sees an opportunity to do some retail politics, opposed to the grind of making public policy.

“I will be promoting Idaho,” he said. “For me, I want opportunities for my kids and my grandkids. I want a stable tax structure that is predictable and fair. I want my grandkids to get a quality education and to live in Idaho, if they choose. I tour the state and talk with a lot of people. What sums up the collective mentality is that no one, including me, wants to wake up 10 years from now and wonder where our Idaho went.”

If things work out right for Bedke, he could be the lead figure in shaping policy 10 years into the future.

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Chuck Malloy is a longtime Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at ctmalloy@outlook.com.

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