Attack by Denney & Semanko cemented bipartisan resolve of Idaho redistricting commission

The effort by House Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, and Idaho Republican Chairman Norm Semanko to remove their appointees to the redistricting commission for an alleged lack of partisan fealty backfired, says Republican Commissioner Sheila Olsen.

“The adversity that we had bound us together even more so,” Olsen told the City Club of Boise as the six redistricting commissioners received the Dottie and Ed Stimpson Award for Civic Engagement at a reception Wednesday night.

Olsen and other commissioners offered a frank post-mortem during the award ceremony at the Esther Simplot Performing Arts Academy, which included a standing ovation honoring GOP Commissioners Dolores Crow and Randy Hansen, the targets of Denney and Semanko.

In January, Denney and Semanko tried to fire Commission Co-Chairwoman Crow, of Nampa, and Hansen, of Twin Falls. Both Crow and Hansen are former GOP lawmakers. The Denney-Semanko gambit was rebuffed by Republican Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and the Idaho Supreme Court.

The commission then swiftly approved a plan redrawing Idaho’s 35 legislative districts to reflect population growth, after the Supreme Court rejected their first plan because it split too many counties. The second plan, now in place, will stand through the 2020 election, barring a subsequent legal challenge.

Democratic Co-Chairman Ron Beitelspacher of Grangeville prompted the ovation for Crow and Hansen as he reflected on the attack on their party loyalty.

“You can’t give what they had given in their lives to the Republican Party…and not feel shaken a little bit by a challenge that threatens and demeans who they are inside,” Beitelspacher said. “And they stood up with an incredible amount of integrity. They are great Americans.”

Olsen, of Idaho Falls, is among the state’s most respected GOP activists, having held leadership posts in the campaigns of Gov. Butch Otter, Sen. Mike Crapo, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna and many others. Her late husband, Dennis, was Idaho GOP Chairman from 1977-85.

Olsen recounted a meeting with Republicans on the first commission, which fractured in the summer of 2011 along partisan lines and failed to meet its deadline to write a plan last September. Olsen said she met with the former commissioners the night before the second commission convened.

“I realized the atmosphere and cantankerous things that were going on,” Olsen said. “I woke up at four in the morning and wondered what I’d gotten myself into.”

Olsen said she waited until 7 a.m. to call Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, for counsel. Olsen was appointed by Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, but Hill was in Turkey, prompting the call to the Senate's No. 2 leader.

Recalling her conversation with Davis, Olsen said, “I said, ‘I’m in this. What do I do?’ You know what he said? He said, ‘Let Sheila be Sheila.’ So, that’s the kind of support that I had.”

Olsen also spoke of an early map-drawing session with Democratic Commissioner Shauneen Grange of Boise, who was working on Ada County, one of the few places where Democrats are competitive with the GOP.

“I realized what she was doing, paying no attention to the political dynamics,” Olsen said. “And I complimented her for not being partisan.

“And this is what she said, ‘It’s easy to be non-partisan when you’re following the law.’ And truly, that’s what we did,” Olsen continued. “None of us are changing our party or any of that. But what a concept: We followed the law.”

Said Crow: “We only did what we were asked to do and what we’d sworn we would do.”

Beitelspacher credited the late-Senate President Pro Tem Jerry Twiggs of Blackfoot, former House Speaker and now-Congressman Mike Simpson and former Democratic Rep. Jim Hansen of Boise for convincing the Legislature to amend the Idaho Constitution in 1994 to create an evenly balanced commission — three Democrats and three Republicans — to redraw political maps every 10 years to reflect population shifts documented by the census.

Democratic Commissioner Elmer Martinez, a former lawmaker from Pocatello, offered a nod to the foundational work of the first commission, which held 14 public hearings across the state and drew maps that assisted the second group.

Martinez noted that the first commission's Democratic Co-Chairman, Allen Andersen of Pocatello, died in November of a heart attack at age 67, about two months after the first commission was disbanded.

"Who can say what level of stress and work contributed to that?" Martinez said. "But I just want to honor the work the past commission did, especially Allen Andersen."

Martinez noted that he has a 14-year-old son, and expressed hope that his generation and other Idahoans will find a model in the bipartisan success of the commission.

“I think it’s important that people have faith in our government,” Martinez said. “I think that in some small way that people who paid attention, such as your group, and all the people out there in the state recognize that people can work together. The processes of government can work if people make the effort.”

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Our "baby steps to ethics" politicians......

Our “baby steps to ethics” politicians Denney, Semanko, Nonini, and Labrador are an embarrassment to Idaho Citizens. Inadequate leaders. Poor managers….if managers at all. They damaged the Republican Party; they hurt the State of Idaho, they broke the trust of Idaho Citizens.

Well Done

We Republicans do not need to resort to Democrat tactics to defeat them. We have the better ideas and that alone makes us stronger. Democrats don't and so we see them stifling dissent and trying to shut the opposition out of the debate ala the climate change myth. If anything proves that those who go too far will loose, it was the Wisconsin recall election Tuesday. The unions went too far and got their heads handed to them. We don't have to agree with Democrats in order to allow them to have their say. Fair is fair. Americans cringe when one party goes too far and, just as in 2008, will reward the opposition. The battleground of ideas makes this nation strong and keeps us free just as the over-reaching Barack Obama will find out come November.


That's an interesting, and somewhat arrogant, take on the situation.

I think you might find that the Democrats have DIFFERENT ideas than the GOP. In some cases better, in some cases worse and most often just different.

I don't think either party can really say they're better or smarter than the other side. I think we can all agree that the attitude you display, stating that "we're better and they're stupid" is what is hurting this country. The fact that people are unwilling to even consider what the other side has to offer is the real and true problem we face as a society.

If you look back to history you'll see that the United States fared best when the two sides shared in leadership and worked together. The most recent example would be the Clinton era in which the Democratic president worked with a mostly Republican Congress. The two sides met in the middle and somehow we had a balanced budget with a surplus that could be used to pay down the national debt. They were able to work towards the common good of the country.

Historically, you'll also see that the country fared the worst when one of two scenarios occurred: 1. When one party had majority control in all areas and was able to marginalize the minority party. Most recently this was seen during the Bush Jr. era in which the GOP had majority control and was able to ignore the Democratic party's wishes. (Note: this is not an indictment of the Bush presidency but a statement of historical fact and the GOP's behavior during this period.) 2. When the two parties have mostly equal representation and absolutely refuse to work together and fight incessantly about growing their own power base instead of working towards the country's better good. Most recently this can be seen in our current political structure. (Again, not an indictment of the president but rather one of the two party's inability to shut up, sit down and act like adults.)

So, to say that one party is simply better and the other is stupid is mostly just a furtherance of what we're seeing right now which we can categorically prove to be detrimental to the United State's future.


You're trying to rationalize to an emotional'll never work. People with emotional attachments to ideas can't be swayed with logic. For the record though...GREAT POST!


Thank-You Mr. Skippy, You mirror my feelings exactly and many of the people that I listen to every day. God bless you.

Interesting take on this Idaho story

Interesting how you take an Idaho redistricting commission story and apply it to climate change, Wisconsis, Obama, etc.

If one party going too far results in voters rewarding the opposition, the GOP should be in big trouble in November. However, they won't be. Idaho will continue to support one party rule.

I'll give you that, you can mess it up your way!


You fry wants with that?

"Climate Change Myth"

I bet JLF still believes the earth is flat. No wonder the Republicans are still promoting their old failed ideas as they seem to always avoid paying attention to facts and scientific reality.

it's $.75 to use the air pump and nobody has quarters.


You fry wants with that?

Savor the taste of rat meat.


Mesquite rat, amateur.


You fry wants with that?

JLF...........low information tater

Suggestive fear-mongering seems almost quaint, by ignorant taters like JLF.

Republicans and their low information supporters are dangerous to the American democracy and personal freedom.

Conservative fantasy-land is absent of ideas founded in a democratic nation as they are substituted with authoritarian fear mongering and revisionist facts………… cultivated a fake conservative moral high ground.……

Real word facts are your enemy.

Let us remember the facts of history as they are very clear the economy didn't just crash under a Republican president, it crashed under the Republican policies you seek to reelect.

Self-serving, self-righteous fear-mongering republicans certainly can't admit the truth about the economy.

They can't admit that they did it….they own it.

Republican policies directly caused the worst economic failure in American history…………real world fact!!!!!

The truth is that the Republicans and their authoritarian governing philosophy have nothing to offer, to the American democracy………..

Conservatism has moved out of the ranks of political theories and become a cult; one that requires that certain phrases be mouthed, that certain hatreds be nourished, and that purity be maintained regardless of cost.

Nice to know low information Idahoans propagate ignorance with blind faith.............

smoke and mirrors

Jlf's comments are typical, deflect legitimate criticism rather than ackowledging wrong-doing. Semanko and Denney are scary, they'd welcome the absence of dissent. Worse, they seem willing to punish dissenters. To what extent might they punish? If unchecked, who knows!
Oh yeah, the take-away from Wisconsin has little to do with Obama; rather that nearly half the voters dislike their governor enough to actively seek his impeachment. Absent a 3 to 1 funding advantage, he'd be a goner by a large margin.


Politicians like Denny and Semanko make it increasingly difficult to be a Republican in Idaho. This last session of the legislature was a total embarrassment to the State, the Republican voters and the public in general.

But then I remember MIDVALE brought us Larry(Wide Stance)Craig.

Enjoy the Ride...there is no return ticket.

Oh, such fluff! the proof is in the pudding (i.e. districts)

Popkey's behind-the-scenes gossip is good filler. But if the Idaho Legislature continues to be dominated by rural, wingnuts who have essentially no political competition, in a state now well past 75% urban....THEN WE GOT SCREWED.

You got it, Paine, gonna send the harem on tour?


You fry wants with that?

Back to Redistricting...

my compliments to all 6 Commissioners of the 2nd round, who are first-rate citizens. Their work was exemplary and courageous.

Thank you for your service to Idaho.

I'll second that excellent

I'll second that excellent comment. The 2nd Commission was exemplary.

So true.

These are the folks that, together, do the hard work that help make the Idaho government function. Denney and Semanko will fade into the sunset, remembered only by the disruptions and havoc that they created.


I couldn't agree more. I wish some of our other leaders would follow their example of working together to do what is right, regardless of party affiliation.

I agree

It can be tough to be courageous when being bullied. Crow has always been about working for the people...even when I disagreed with her ideals, I have always had respect for her, because she has always made it clear that she knows she works for the taxpayer. And she has been a woman in the 'boys club' for a long time now, for years she was one of the few women in our a women I can imagine it would give you a thick skin. Plenty thick enough to deal with yahoo Denny, who needs to stop trying to be King/bully, go home and play with toys. He gives our government a bad name. A bully is a bully, no matter what they do or who they work for....oh and his buddy...Sem...whatever...he needs to retire and do something that isn't being in our government....GO HOME.

The point was missed!

All of these bozos were getting NOWHERE until the key bozos gave them a verbal butt kicking...

Now they win awards for normal behavior.

Tony winner 2012.


You fry wants with that?