As a kid, Idahos new House Speaker Scott Bedke didnt much like it when his parents wouldnt explain themselves.
I never want to say, Because Im the speaker, thats why, Bedke said in answer to one of dozens of questions he fielded Thursday about the import of his upsetting three-term Speaker Lawerence Denney.
Bedke, 54, is the oldest of Ray and Nedra Bedkes five children. His ancestors settled in Oakley in 1878, and Bedke and his brother Eric run cattle on a sprawling ranch that straddles the Idaho-Nevada line. He grew up reading the dictionary and has a bookworms disposition. With a finance degree from BYU, hes particular to facts, not ideology.
Bedke had what turned out to be a lucky break in May, when he fractured his ankle. Freed from ranch duties, he traveled the state and won over colleagues.
Each of these people bear acquaintance, in the old-fashioned sense, Bedke said. Ive cautioned everyone to avoid the tendency to label and stereotype. Because when we do that we tend not to deal with them on an intellectual basis.
Each one of these people are their districts first choice, they have something meaningful to offer. My tenure will be one of trying to create an atmosphere where we extract that talent.
Bedke spent Thursday making committee assignments and picking chairmen, saying he seeks both regional and philosophical balance and an end to stacked committees.
He said he wouldnt strip Denneys allies of power, though some feared it.
Time for the sword of Damocles, quipped Local Government Committee Chairwoman Lenore Barrett, R-Challis, as Majority Leader Mike Moyle led her to meet Bedke.
When Barrett emerged, her chairmanship intact, she said, You always wonder if youre OK.
Another Denney loyalist, House State Affairs Chairman Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, kept his spot. You need to have your experienced people doing what theyre good at, Loertscher grumbled, not quite ready to concede Bedkes evenhandedness.
Loertscher complained about Bedkes reworking the schedule to give every member a morning committee, which will force him off the Health & Welfare panel hes sat on an unprecedented 24 years.
Bedke said spreading plum assignments is necessary with a record-breaking freshman class holding 31 of 70 seats. Its absolutely imperative that we plug them in.
Bedke said he wanted a substantive role for Denney, R-Midvale, who accepted the Resources Committee chairmanship.
We do not have the luxury to overlook experience, Bedke said.
One old hand Bedke must contend with is Moyle, R-Star, who he jumped over to win the top spot. Both men said they have a history of working well together and expect it to continue, despite Moyles campaigning for Denney.
Still, they looked like two stallions in too small a corral, passing within inches with chests out and nary a word. Not that they werent talking they worked together on committee assignments. But Moyles body language hadnt yet adapted to the reality that his power has waned.
Unshaven Thursday morning after a long, anxious night, Moyle choked out the right words: Hes the speaker. By afternoon his beard was longer but his tone warmer: The relationship will be fine. Scott and I have always gotten along.
Moyle still has cards to play. He and the other two new members of GOP leadership Assistant Majority Leader Brent Crane of Nampa and Caucus Chairman John Vander Woude of rural Ada County joined Moyle on the list of Denney supporters.
Denney, 64, who last year killed consideration of adopting a state-run health insurance exchange, noted that Bedke must bring his caucus along should Gov. Butch Otter endorse the plan.
Some exchange foes read Otters comments in a speech Wednesday as signaling just that. If so, Bedkes role will be making a conversation possible, rather than blocking the option as Denney would have.
Even with three Denney loyalists below him, The speakers still the speaker, said Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake. He pulls the strings.
Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry President Alex LaBeau made the motion on a panel that recommended the state plan to Otter.
LaBeau tested legislative waters Thursday, but said Bedkes rise in no way seals the deal.
The ideological side of the philosophy has changed a bit, LaBeau said, saying he hoped to see the process work. I think people are more willing to talk about the hows and whys of the law of the land. But youve got a leadership team, committee chairmen, individual legislators. At least were talking to people now.
Dan Popkey: 377-6438, Twitter: @IDS_politics