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Political Dominoes

One good turn in the Idaho Legislature deserves another in the Senate.


It wasn't even Christmas and Janie Ward-Engelking was already exchanging something new for something newer. Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter announced Dec. 20 that Ward-Engelking, fresh from her first year in the Idaho House, would be moving over to the Idaho Senate for the 2014 legislative session.

"I have absolutely loved the House; coming in with a whole new group of freshmen was pretty fun. We had a lot of camaraderie," Ward-Engelking told Boise Weekly. "I will definitely be the newbie on the Senate side."

Ward-Engelking will be sliding into the seat vacated by District 18 Sen. Branden Durst, who resigned due to "family needs."

Ward-Engelking will become one of only five women in the Idaho Senate and one of only seven Democrats, including Boise Democratic Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb.

"She's amazing," Buckner-Webb said of Ward-Engelking, ahead of the announcement.

District 18 Democratic precinct committee members will have to huddle again to offer to Otter a list of three more candidates to replace Ward-Engelking on the House side. Two of those three names are expected to be persons who were on the short list for the Senate seat: Lawrence Crowley, director of the Energy Strategies Group, and Beth Oppenheimer, executive director of the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children.

That isn't the only change to the Boise legislative delegation in 2014. Following a year in which he struggled with the truth, District 15 GOP Rep. Mark Patterson succumbed to inner-party pressure to give up his seat in the Idaho House, sending his resignation to the governor Dec. 20. Among his problems, Patterson's resume stretched the truth about where he went to college (he wrongly claimed he was a graduate of the University of Southern California) and whether he was a "professional road-racing cyclist." But when it was revealed that Patterson had been arrested in Florida during the 1970s and pleaded guilty to a charge of "assault with intent to rape," Patterson's short-lived political career was doomed.

"The citizens of District 15 and Idaho need lawmakers who have their full ability to represent the people," Patterson wrote in an email announcing his intention to quit.

But in a bizarre twist, Patterson said his resignation wouldn't be effective until midnight Jan. 5, mere hours before Otter's State of the State address launching the 2014 Idaho Legislature, and giving Otter very little time to name a replacement before the session begins.

When BW asked Ward-Engelking about her expectations for 2014, she said, "We're picking our battles this year."