In June, political blogger Adam Graham wrote in a post for the Idaho Press Tribune that he thought Sen. Joe Stegner, R-Lewiston, might switch parties before the next legislative session, which begins in January of 2011. Stegner, in an interview with IdahoReporter.com, said that Graham's words aren't based on reality and that he plans to remain in the Republican Party.
Graham's post, dated June 7, 2010, addresses possible changes to Republican Party leadership in the Idaho Senate. Graham suggests a few scenarios for a leadership shakeup, including one that has Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, a man who Graham believes to be more conservative than Stegner, moving up from the caucus chair position to take Stegner's spot as the assistant majority leader. He also speculates that Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur D'Alene, or Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, could challenge Stegner outright and best him when Republicans in the Senate choose their leadership in December. If Stegner is ousted from his post, Graham predicts, he would switch parties and join the Democrats on the other side of the aisle and become their minority leader, a post being vacated by the retiring Sen. Kate Kelly, D-Boise.
Stegner said that Graham's assertions are "Based on nothing but conjecture," and that "It's a ridiculous speculation" by the blogger. He said that Graham had no evidence when he posted his speculation and that no evidence actually exists to suggest a party-swap on his part. "I have no intention of changing parties and leaving the Republican Party," concluded Stegner.
The post by Graham ties in the writings of Sen. Nichole LeFavour, D-Boise, who also says that some Republicans could switch parties in the near future. Here's what LeFavour says about the future of the Idaho Senate:
Some (moderate Republicans) have suggested that if it gets much meaner they will be joining us on the "D" side. If enough came over, and the House or Senate were then fairly evenly split, they'd have a good chance at more power and at not being marginalized as they are by more conservative leadership.
LeFavour offered no specifics on which Republican senators she thought might try and jump the aisle. She was not available for comment.
One member of Stegner's hometown state legislative delegation thinks a switch by the senator is highly unlikely. Rep. Liz Chavez, D-Lewiston, told IdahoReporter.com that Stegner is a Republican who knows how to work in a bipartisan manner. "I have the highest respect for Sen. Stegner," Chavez said. "He takes more -moderate and more-mainstream stands than other members of his party." When asked if she believed Stegner was planning a party switch, Chavez said she would be “incredibly surprised" if it actually happened.