Idaho lawmakers vying for legislative leadership positions

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BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Republican Rep. Greg Chaney says he is challenging House Majority Caucus Chairman John Vander Woude for his legislative leadership position.

Chaney's Friday announcement is the first of several internal races beginning to become public as lawmakers prepare to determine who will run both the House and Senate in December.

Every two years, votes are cast the night before settling on legislative committee assignments in December. Because the meetings are behind closed doors, exact voting results aren't released to the public or to the lawmakers who voted.

The decision is crucial in setting the tone on what will or will not be accomplished over the next two legislative sessions. With a Republican-supermajority in both chambers, the GOP leadership races have the biggest impact.

"I think if there's going to be a discussion about how a job should be done and who is doing the job, we need to have that conversation within our caucus and not in our press," said Chaney, R-Caldwell, declining to comment further about why he chose Vander Woude to run against.

Chaney added that he was approached earlier this year to run for the leadership seat, but wouldn't name who asked him to run.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Scott Bedke and House Majority Leader Mike Moyle currently remain unopposed.

That leaves the only other House GOP leadership race between Rep. Tom Loertscher, a Republican from Iona, and House Assistant Minority Leader Brent Crane. Loertscher announced he was throwing his name against Crane earlier this week during a northern Idaho legislative tour.

Loertscher has served 14 terms in the Idaho Legislature and currently chairs the House State Affairs Committee —which is one of the most high-profile legislative panels because it is assigned the most contentious legislation. If he wins, that will open up the powerful panel chairmanship.

Loertscher did not immediately return calls for comment on Friday.

After House Minority Leader John Rusche lost his re-election bid on Election Day, Rep. Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, says he is the only candidate running inside his 11-member caucus to take over the position. That will open up the House assistant minority leadership position, which Rep. Illan Rubel is expected to fill.

Democratic Reps. Elaine Smith, of Pocatello, and Hy Kloc, of Boise, are both vying for House minority caucus chair after Rep. Donna Pence decided not to run for re-election.

Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett says her six-member caucus is still determining the best positions to seat everyone and no one has publicly announced if they are running against current leadership.

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