The top Democrat in the Idaho Senate, Edgar Malepeai of Pocatello, said he thinks his party can be successful by working with Republicans, who hold a large majority.
“We’re going to try and weigh in and collaborate on those issues,” Malepeai said. “I think this year is going to require us to work together more than we ever have.”
Democrats held onto seven of the 35 seats in the state Senate, losing in a Boise district but winning a seat serving Moscow and Latah County. They will still have slim representation on Senate committees, holding two seats.
Malepeai said that Democrats still have a seat at the table to shape public policy. “Obviously, we don’t have the numbers, so we really do depend on relationships that we develop with other members of the Senate and try to see if we can work towards a position that is fair and equitable for everybody,” he told IdahoReporter.com.
The caucus made some changes on committees, but kept Sens. Diane Bilyeu of Pocatello and Nicole LeFavour of Boise on the budget-writing Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. LeFavour will move from the Senate Health and Welfare Committee to the Senate Education Committee, with Sen. Dan Schmidt of Moscow, a doctor, taking her place in the committee dealing with medical and social service issues.
Senate Democrats have yet to discuss any specific policy goals for the coming legislative session, according to Malepeai, but he said the level of funding for government services will be a key factor.
Malepeai was first elected to the Senate in 2002. He did not serve during the 2008 and 2009 session to care for his wife, who died of cancer. He was born in American Samoa, and has served as a city councilman in Pocatello and worked as a teacher and football referee.