Though Tom Luna had plenty of partners in passing the ill-fated Students Come First reforms in 2011 including Gov. Butch Otter hes the one whose brand suffered badly as voters rejected the package in 2012.
With polls showing Luna remained damaged goods, he gracefully exited Monday after months of saying he planned to run for a third term as super-intendent.
Lunas news conference came with less than three hours notice and caught plenty of people by surprise.
Senate Education Committee Chairman John Goedde, R-Coeur dAlene, one of Lunas closest allies, said he had a little hint on Friday and then got the news from Luna in a Sunday night phone call.
I knew he was weighing his options and taking into consideration not only whats right for him and his family, but whats best for the future of education in the state, Goedde said.
Luna told reporters his decision frees him to press the Legislature to adopt reforms recommended by a bipartisan task force without the baggage of a campaign.
Fair point. But it also frees the GOP to find a successor with a better chance of defeating Democrat Jana Jones, who lost a 51 percent to 49 percent race to Luna in 2006.
Democratic Chairman Larry Kenck had predicted Luna would drag down the entire GOP ticket, and Jones wanted a rematch with the author of the Luna Laws.
Jones failed to mask her disappointment Monday, writing on Facebook, While this is good news for Idahos kids, I fear his ideas and policies returning in the form of another candidate. Whoever it is, we cant let it happen.
The early signals suggest that the other candidate will be former Sen. Melinda Smyser, a former teacher, school counselor, longtime member of the Parma School Board and as stalwart a Republican as you can find in any corner of Idaho.
Ill see who gets in, but shes a candidate that brings a lot to the table, said House Education Committee Chairman Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle. There are very few candidates that could equal her credentials.
Two Republicans have announced in recent weeks: Randy Jensen, a principal in American Falls, and John Eynon, a music teacher in Cottonwood.
Neither can touch Smysers street cred among loyal Republicans who will decide the May 20 primary: Republican of the Year, Outstanding Republican Woman, Outstanding Precinct Person, Outstanding District Chair, presidential elector and lifetime NRA member. Currently, she chairs the Canyon County GOP.
Her husband, Skip, also a former senator, is a top-tier lobbyist who co-hosted a campaign school for about 50 GOP incumbents Jan. 10. Melinda Smyser would have no trouble raising oodles of money in short order. Her husbands client list is another gravy boat.
But Skip Smysers client list also presents conflicts: Education Networks of America, Idaho Business for Education, Microsoft and Think Through Learning Inc. Some decoupling would likely be necessary if Melinda Smyser were to run for the top education job in the state.
Shed also have to quit her job as a regional director for U.S. Sen. Jim Risch. The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from running for partisan office.
When I reached Smyser, she was polite but firm about not discussing a possible campaign. I just wish you wouldnt say anything, she said. And Ive been very careful about not saying anything to anybody for a long time.
One signal that establishment GOP support may already be coalescing around Smyser is several possible challengers who might have changed their minds with news of Lunas withdrawal Monday didnt.
Those include three who said they would not seek the job: DeMordaunt, Sen. Steve Thayn of Emmett and New Plymouth School Superintendent Ryan Kerby. Two others Lunas Chief Deputy Superintendent Roger Quarles and former Rep. Steve Smylie of Boise held the door ajar, but barely.
Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, and Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, were among many GOP lawmakers who attended Lunas announcement to support a friend.
A few hours later, both sang praise for Smyser.
I think a lot of Melinda Smyser, said Hill. Shes a smart woman, shes capable, shes conservative, shes interested in education.
Bedke interrupted to complete the list: And shes a teacher and counselor.
That doesnt guarantee Smyser will run or that the race wont attract more hopefuls.
But with an election in 16 weeks, her advantages are considerable.
Dan Popkey: 377-6438, Twitter: @IDS_politics