Idaho Democrats elect Wintrow to top Senate minority leadership post

Rep. Ilana Rubel retains her spot as House minority leader

By: - November 30, 2022 2:40 pm
Sen. Melissa Wintrow

Sen. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, works from the Senate floor at the Idaho Capitol on Jan. 17, 2022. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

Idaho Democrats elected Sen. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, as their new Idaho Senate minority leader on Tuesday, according to a press release issued by the Idaho Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.

The Democratic caucus leadership elections took place in private Tuesday and were the first round of leadership elections taking place this week that will greatly influence the upcoming 2023 legislative session. 

Republicans will meet behind closed doors Wednesday night to elect their leadership teams.

Wintrow, who begins her second term in the Idaho Senate this week, succeeds retiring Sen. Michelle Stennett, a Ketchum Democrat who did not run for re-election this year. 

Wintrow previously served three terms in the Idaho House of Representatives from 2014 to 2020. 

“I’m honored to serve as the Senate Democratic leader,” Wintrow said in a written statement. “It’s a responsibility I take seriously. I will continue to work hard to collaborate on meaningful solutions that address the needs of the people of Idaho such as quality public education, lowering property taxes and protecting access to public lands.”

In other action from Democratic caucus leadership elections, Sen.-elect James Ruchti, D-Pocatello, was elected Senate assistant minority leader and Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise, retained her post as Senate minority caucus chairwoman, which she has held since 2020. 

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In the Idaho House, House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel and House Assistant Minority Leader Lauren Necochea, both D-Boise, retained their leadership posts, Idaho Democrats announced. Rep. Ned Burns, D-Bellevue, was elected minority caucus chairman, replacing Rep. Sally Toone, D-Gooding, who did not run for re-election this year. 

Idaho Republicans to name new speaker of the House

Legislators hold caucus leadership elections every two years in December — between the general election and the new legislative session that begins in January. 

Republicans must fill the top leadership spot in the Idaho House on Wednesday night to choose a successor for Lt. Gov.-elect Scott Bedke, the longest-serving speaker of the House in state history. House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, and House Assistant Majority Leader Jason Monks, R-Meridian, are running for House speaker. The speaker’s vacancy and race also sets up a series of other contested leadership races for House Republicans that will result in a full new slate of caucus leadership for the GOP. 

In the Idaho Senate, Sen. Lori Den Hartog, R-Meridian, is challenging Senate President Pro Tem Chuck Winder, R-Boise, for the Senate majority leader position. Meanwhile, Sen.-elect Ben Adams, R-Nampa, is also challenging Senate Assistant Majority Leader Abby Lee, R-Fruitland, for her position. 

The full Idaho House and Idaho Senate will then vote publicly on their chamber’s top leadership position Thursday during the organizational session of the Idaho Legislature. 

Leadership positions are important because of the clout, responsibilities and influence that come with them. The speaker is the top ranking leadership position in the Idaho House, and presides over the House. Members of leadership also earn slightly higher pay than rank-and-file legislators. 

The president pro tem is the highest ranking position in the Idaho Senate, and presides over the Senate when the lieutenant governor is absent. By law, the Senate president pro tem becomes acting lieutenant governor any time the lieutenant governor succeeds to the office of governor. The Senate president pro tem is also in the line of succession to become governor, and it is not uncommon for the Senate president pro tem to serve as acting governor when the governor and lieutenant governor are out of the state and unable to perform their duties. 

The 2023 legislative session gavels in Jan. 9 at the Idaho State Capitol in Boise, with Gov. Brad Little’s State of the State address highlighting the first day in session.

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Clark Corbin
Clark Corbin

Clark Corbin has more than a decade of experience covering Idaho government and politics. He has covered every Idaho legislative session since 2011 gavel-to-gavel. Prior to joining the Idaho Capital Sun he reported for the Idaho Falls Post Register and Idaho Education News. His reporting in Idaho has helped uncover a multimillion-dollar investment scam and exposed inaccurate data that school districts submitted to the state.

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