House Speaker Lawerence Denney was defeated in his 57-member Republican caucus Wednesday night, marking the first time in 30 years that a No. 1 legislative leader was deposed by colleagues.
Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke, a quiet but convivial Oakley rancher, capitalized on a caucus wearied by a string of embarrassments and Denney overplaying his hand, most recently by supporting an effort to defeat six GOP lawmakers in the May primary.
The gambit failed and roused resentment against the Midvale lawmaker, who works for a rural phone company.
Bedke will face an interesting dynamic because Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, defeated Rep. Rich Wills, R-Glenns Ferry, retaining the No. 2 post. Moyle was allied with Denney and campaigned on his behalf.
While Bedke wields the institutional power as speaker, Moyle will continue to run the floor as he has for six years. Bedkes first duties include appointing committee chairmen, plums that could cost some who supported Denney their jobs.
Bedke will be formally elected Thursday by the full House when members convene for the biennial organizational session at 9 a.m. House caucus votes were cast by secret ballot at a dinner at Boises Crane Creek Country Club. By custom, the vote counts are not announced and the three counters designated by the caucus are sworn to secrecy.
Denneys ouster was the first such upset since 1982, when Senate Republicans replaced President Pro Tem Reed Budge with Jim Risch, now a U.S. senator.
In the Senates most closely watched race, Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis won a sixth two-year term as the Senate floor leader, besting his senatorial neighbor, Sen. Dean Mortimer. Both men are from Idaho Falls.
Davis re-election suggests the Senate will remain a check on the more conservative House.
The other three Senate GOP leaders also were re-elected. President Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, was unopposed in voting at the Owyhee Plaza Hotel.
Assistant Majority Leader Chuck Winder defeated challenger Sen. Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, and Caucus Chairman Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, survived a bid by Sen. Steve Bair, R-Blackfoot.
Back in the House, Rep. Brent Crane of Nampa was elected assistant majority leader over Reps. Jeff Thompson of Idaho Falls and Lynn Luker of Boise.
Ada County dairy farmer John Vander Woude was elected GOP caucus chairman over Reps. Christy Perry of Nampa and Steve Hartgen of Twin Falls. Vander Woude's responsibilities include dealing with the media.
Among the Democrats, who hold 19 percent of the seats in the third-most Republican legislature in the country, House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, was unopposed. House Democrats selected Assistant Minority Leader Grant Burgoyne of Boise and Caucus Chairwoman Donna Pence of Gooding.
Senate Democrats elected Sen. Michelle Stennett of Ketchum as minority leader, Sen. Elliot Werk of Boise assistant leader and Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb of Boise as caucus chair.
Dan Popkey: 377-6438, Twitter: @IDS_politics