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Otter to Risch: You Take It

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It's time for a little governmental musical chairs, as Idaho's new leaders start to hire staff for their various offices. Such shuffles are part of the norm when it comes to administration changeovers, but each vacancy presents an opportunity for the new leader.

Which is what befuddled some members of Governor Jim Risch's staff when they heard from Governor-elect Butch Otter that Risch should go ahead and name a replacement for State Senator Gerry Sweet. Sweet, a Republican from Meridian, notified Risch last week he was stepping down to become Congressman-elect Bill Sali's office director here in Boise. Once he gets a trio of names from the legislative district's central committee, Risch will have 15 days to name a replacement.

"I will choose the replacement for Senator Sweet," Risch said this week. "As with any political race, there is a lot of discussion about this."

Because of the timing (Sweet resigned on December 14th) the job of finding a replacement could well have gone to Otter. But Idaho's next governor passed on the opportunity to name a hand-picked successor, someone who might forever be indebted to Otter for his position and, one may presume, his votes in the Senate.

"Butch didn't have any problem with Risch filling that," said Otter spokesman Jon Hanian.

Otter isn't wanting for friends in the Senate (BW, News, "Otter Cashes Out," 12/13/2006) but he just lost the opportunity to name a new one.

But Boise State retired political scientist Jim Weatherby said it makes sense to get the replacement named, so they're ready to start when the Legislature begins January 9.

As doors open and close, many of Risch's staff won't be joining Otter. Risch's chief of staff John Sandy tells BW he was semi-retired before Risch tapped him to come back to work, and he'll go back to that life soon. Risch spokesman Brad Hoaglun will become the new chief of staff for State Controller-elect Donna Jones, Hoaglun said. As we approach the new year, sources say to look for more departures from the Risch administration.

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