Idaho speaker has deep roots
Pioneer legacy helps ground politician
A trampled fence? "Cows just jump over the moon in nursery rhymes." Four dead cattle? "Dog food."
On his first day in the Legislature — he was appointed to fill a vacancy just before the opening of the 2001 session — Bedke's wit got the better of him. The last person to speak in the Education Committee, he'd grown weary of what he considered unwarranted trashing of the K-12 system that had produced him and most of his colleagues.
"So, I introduced myself as a 'survivor' of the public school system, in a smart-aleck way," Bedke recalled. "I was immediately stereotyped: 'Who is this idiot cowboy you've sent us?' "
The Idaho Education Association targeted him for defeat in 2002 and 2004, unsuccessfully. He's still torqued about the incident, which prompted a 20-minute soliloquy in the cab of his pickup.
"I am a lot of things, but anti-education is not one of them," Bedke said. "No one has led their life, or tried to influence the lives of their kids, in a more pro-education way than I have mine."
At the time, Bedke responded by making himself an expert on No Child Left Behind, tangling with the Bush administration over Idaho's tweaking of the law and leading the budget committee's move to split the K-12 budget into five parts.
One bad experience didn't blunt his humor. "It's what I call the Bedke twinkle," said former Speaker Bruce Newcomb, a close friend who's also from Cassia County. "He's one of the brightest guys around, very compassionate and complex. In the back of his mind, he's got a puzzle and he's trying to figure out the solution."
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