Disagreements playing out behind the scenes in the Idaho State Capitol erupted Thursday as House Republicans ousted House Majority Leader Megan Blanksma from her leadership post.
Effective immediately Blanksma, R-Hammett, will no longer serve as House majority leader, which is considered the No. 2 leadership position in the Idaho House. There was no immediate explanation as to what led to the shakeup, but Blanksma has clashed with other GOP legislative leaders on a number of issues in recent years.
The House majority leader serves as the House’s floor leader and works with the speaker of the House to move legislators through their daily orders of business and call bills to the floor for a vote.
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The Idaho House will vote to install a new majority leader on Monday, Republican leaders said. Blanksma walked off the House floor Thursday without making any announcement or remarks, leaving another legislator to handle the job of adjourning the floor session for the day.
On Thursday afternoon Blanksma issued a statement expressing frustration but vowing to continue working as an elected legislator.
“To say that I am disappointed by today’s outcome would be an understatement; however, I respect the process and accept the decision made by my colleagues in the House Republican Caucus,” Blanksma said in a written statement Thursday afternoon.
“I am honored to have the trust of my constituents from District 8, and I am proud of the work that I have done and will continue to do as an elected state legislator for the people of Idaho,” Blanksma said. “Idaho is my home. I am grateful to have grown up and to have raised my family here. I look forward to continuing to enjoy all Idaho has to offer.”
Rep. Dustin Manwaring, R-Pocatello, confirmed House Republicans voted on whether to retain all four members of the House Republican leadership team Thursday.
House Speaker Mike Moyle, R-Star; Assistant Majority Leader Sage Dixon, R-Ponderay; and Manwaring, the House’s majority caucus chairman, all retained their leadership posts Thursday, Manwaring said.
The vote to oust Blanksma appeared to occur behind closed doors during one of several House Republican caucus meetings Thursday. There was no public vote or announcement on the House floor. House Republicans have not disclosed the vote against Blanksma or the votes to retain Dixon and Manwaring. The Idaho House voted 69-0 on the floor Thursday to retain Moyle before Blanksma was ousted.
“On behalf of my fellow legislators, I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude for Rep. Blanksma’s time as our majority leader,” Manwaring said in a written statement. “Rep. Blanksma is very passionate about the betterment of Idaho and will continue to bring forth important policy for her constituents. Please be assured that the House Republican Caucus is still focused on the needs and concerns of the people of Idaho. We will continue to work collectively to ensure our communities’ best interests are our number one priority.”
Leadership elections are typically held every two years during the Idaho Legislature’s organizational session, which follows the general election. Moyle, Blanksma, Dixon and Manwaring were all elected to their leadership positions during the organizational session prior to the 2023 legislative session.
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Legislative backlash against leadership is rare
It is extremely rare for legislators to take out a member of the majority party’s leadership team during the middle of an ongoing legislative session. The closest comparable leadership fight may have been when then-Rep. Scott Bedke ousted former House Speaker Lawerence Denney before the 2013 legislative session to become House speaker. However, that leadership fight occurred during House Republicans closed-door leadership elections during an organizational session – not during the middle of an ongoing legislative session like Blanksma’s ouster.
At the time Bedke ousted Denney in December 2012, longtime former Idaho journalist Betsy Russell wrote that it “marked the first time in three decades that a top Idaho legislator has been deposed by his own party.”
Rather than voting on any bills or budgets, House Republicans spent most of their time Thursday coming and going between closed-door caucus meetings.
After legislators finally returned to the floor of the Idaho House of Representatives, Blanksma, quietly walked off the floor without explanation after Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, was seen cradling a box labeled “ballots” on the House floor.
A short time after the Idaho House adjourned for the day, Manwaring announced Blanksma’s removal in a news release.
There was no explanation of why Blanksma was removed, and no legislators mentioned Blanksma or removing her from her post during Thursday’s floor session.
However, Blanksma has been on the opposite side of House Speaker Mike Moyle, R-Star, and other Republican leaders on recent high profile issues. For example, on Wednesday, Blanksma broke with Republican leadership and voted against the omnibus budget for the state of Idaho’s judicial branch – breaking ranks with leadership on a key budget dispute.
A year ago, Blanksma was also the House sponsor of House Bill 24, which created Gov. Brad Little’s Idaho Launch grant program. Moyle has been outspoken recently in his criticism of Launch grants, which passed the House by a slim 36-34 vote last year. If one vote had been different, Launch would have failed on a tie vote and been dead.
House Republicans have been arguing in closed-door caucus meetings for much of the past two days, instead of being on the floor longer to vote on the budgets and bills piling up on the Idaho House’s reading calendar.
Before the public vote on Moyle, Rep. Dan Garner, R-Clifton, expressed frustration.
“It’s a sad day for Idaho when we come to this point, wasting time on this motion when we should be doing the business of Idaho,” Garner said on the House floor a moment before the vote on retaining Moyle as speaker. “I urge you to support this motion and our whole leadership and move on.”