It had to have been difficult for Sen. John McGee to meet with his colleagues Wednesday. But it could have been even worse.
The Senate Republican caucus met to hear McGee, R-Caldwell, speak to them about what he calls “the worst night of my life:” the night of drinking that landed him in the Ada County Jail last Father’s Day, and resulted in a guilty plea on a DUI charge. Then, Republicans had to decide whether they wanted McGee to remain in leadership, and allow the politically ambitious McGee to serve as the public face of the GOP caucus.
I can’t imagine this was easy on McGee — just as, I’m sure, it was difficult for him to break his seven-month silence and talk to reporters about his arrest. There are still holes in the story, particularly the still unsubstantiated claim that
McGee suffered a concussion that contributed to his erratic Father’s Day behavior. That said, McGee also comes across as genuine and contrite in his media interviews, and I suspect he sounded likewise in Wednesday’s closed caucus meeting.
Ultimately, Senate Republicans opted to keep McGee in leadership, after a meeting that ran beyond the 75 minutes alloted to discuss his fate. Afterwards, at a City Club of Boise forum, Associated Press reporter John Miller quipped that the meeting took a long time because it took time for 27 senators to dispense hugs to their colleague.
But here’s what made McGee’s Wednesday easier, relatively speaking. No other senator actively ran against him for caucus chair. That, in turn, made it an easy default for Senate Republicans to vote to keep McGee in leadership.
I doubt McGee’s next election would be an unopposed election.
On May 15, Republicans will hold a historic closed primary that could tend to favor (or at least embolden) conservative challengers. McGee — a relative moderate, by Canyon County GOP standards — has faced opposition from the right before. Now, in addition to having to answer on the issues, such as borrowing for highway projects and banning texting while driving, McGee would have to answer for his DUI.
In front of voters. And against an opponent.