BOISE — State Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, announced Wednesday that he won’t seek reelection this year. He endorsed Rep. Van Burtenshaw, R-Terreton, to replace him.
“I have enjoyed serving the people of District 35 as well as the state of Idaho,” Siddoway said in a news release. “It is important we carry on the tradition of making sure our schools are well funded, our agricultural industry is taken care of and our natural resources are managed properly. I am confident the people of District 35 will select a great candidate to fill this seat.”
Siddoway has served 12 years in the Legislature. He is the chairman of the Senate State Affairs Committee, considered the “leadership committee” in the Senate, which often deals with some of the most significant pieces of legislation each year.
A sheep rancher, Siddoway has made a name for himself with staunch support for wolf control efforts, support for agricultural policy and advocacy for low taxes. But he also staked out a strong position advocating increased teacher pay.
He previously served as chairman of the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee, where in 2015 he played a key role in getting raises for teachers.
As the chairman of the tax committee, he had the power to block any tax cut bill from moving through the Legislature. And in 2015, he was dismayed by the state’s education system.
“(Teachers) either leave the state looking for employment in other places, or they stay in the state but leave the occupation,” Siddoway said in an interview. “The ripple effect was that we saw our universities and colleges (had) really low enrollment (of future teachers.)
“We suffered dearly.”
That was particularly true in District 35, which encompasses Jefferson, Fremont, Butte and Clark counties, two of which border Wyoming and Montana. School districts in his area have had trouble retaining qualified teachers given much higher wages a short drive away.
So Siddoway made a controversial stand for a conservative Republican. No tax cut would move through his committee until higher teacher pay was addressed. The news brought a harsh reaction from the state’s top business lobby, the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, but Siddoway stuck to his guns. The “career ladder,” laying out five years of raises for teachers, passed that year, and lawmakers have stuck to their promise of subsequent increases.
“I’m not in a place where I can really move things on education,” Siddoway said. “But then I was in a place where I really thought I could affect the revenues that were available. In that small, small way, I hope I did a good thing for the state.”
Burtenshaw has represented the district since first winning election in 2014. He is currently registered both for the House and Senate race in District 35. He confirmed Wednesday that he will seek the Senate seat. He’s currently unopposed.
Reporter Bryan Clark can be reached at 208-542-6751.