People and Politics: February 2013 | STATE LEGISLATURES MAGAZINE
IDAHO REPUBLICANS OUSTED THEIR POWERFUL THREE-TERM SPEAKER during a closed caucus meeting in December. Representative Lawrence Denney became the first leader in 30 years to be unseated by his own party. The caucus elected Representative Scott Bedke, who was assistant majority leader. Denney wielded his power to try defeat six caucus incumbents with PAC money contributed by his members, including caucus chair Ken Roberts. In one case, he stripped a GOP colleague from his committee vice chairmanship after he filed an ethics complaint about another member. Two other members were removed as committee chairs for reportedly voting too independently.
VERMONT REPRESENTATIVE GREG CLARK (R), praised for his passion for education, politics and his sense of humor, was struck and killed by a passing car after he stopped to clear his windshield. He was 65, and had just been re-elected to his sixth term in the House. Clark taught high school social studies and was on his way to school when the accident occurred. Clark had a long career as a public servant, serving on the school board and as deputy mayor of his hometown, in addition to his legislative service and teaching occupation. “He will be missed, especially his humor, which he used adroitly to diffuse difficult situations, but also to heap coals of fire on fools,” said his colleague on the Education Committee, Representative Duncan Kilmartin (R). Flags flew at half mast at his high school.
MICHIGAN REPRESENTATIVE FRED DURHAL (D), a member of the House Appropriations Committee, became the second legislator to announce a run for mayor of Detroit. Representative Lisa Howze (D) declared her intentions earlier last year. Durhal was an aide to former Detroit Mayor Coleman Young and U.S. Representative Barbara Rose Collins, who also served in the Michigan House. The two lawmakers join a field of five people hoping to unseat former NBA legend Dave Bing.
IT’S A COUP OR A COALITION, depending on your perspective, but New York’s new Senate leadership arrangement has taken a surprising turn. Democrats won control of the Senate in November by a three-seat margin, but they’re in a functional minority. Six Democrats aligned with the Republicans in a power-sharing agreement that makes GOP Senator Dean Skelos and Democratic Senator Jeffrey Klein joint leaders, alternating as Senate president every two weeks. Klein was the second in command in his Democratic caucus before he left to form the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference two years ago. The Republicans got the agreement rolling when they convinced newly elected Democrat Representative Simcha Felder to side with them.
REPRESENTATIVE WILL WEATHERFORD (R) was sworn in as the youngest speaker of the House in recent Florida history. The 33-year-old new speaker is the son-in-law of former Speaker Allan Bense, and will preside over a chamber where the GOP dominates 76-44. But Republicans lost five seats and with them their veto-proof majority and the man chosen to succeed Weatherford in 2014, Representative Chris Dorworth. Weatherford is a former defensive end at Jacksonville University with a reputation for bipartisanship.
TWO OPENLY GAY LAWMAKERS HAVE BEEN ELECTED SPEAKERS. Both are Democrats. Oregon Representative Tina Kotek and Colorado Representative Mark Ferrandino will wield the speakers’ gavels in their states. Democrats won the previously tied Oregon chamber, and Kotek is the first openly lesbian lawmaker to lead any chamber, according to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund. Rhode Island Speaker Gordon Fox and California Speaker John Perez are also openly gay.
REPRESENTATIVE PAUL THISSEN (DFL) IS THE NEW SPEAKER of the House in Minnesota. First elected in 2002, Thissen served as minority leader before the DLF won back the House from Republicans in November.