Governor C. L. “Butch” Otter and Representative Mike Simpson, R-2nd, are staunch, conservative Republicans. Former Governor Cecil D. Andrus was a self-described “lunch bucket” Democrat. The three men, though, had an ability to put the interests of the state ahead of partisanship and work together when necessary.
They held each other in genuine respect and though they could disagree they were rarely disagreeable while dissenting. They had a long history of knowing and working with each other. Andrus couldn’t help liking Butch who worked well with Cece during the 14 years Butch was Lieutenant Governor; and, Mike, whom Cece nicknamed “Driller” because he had a dentistry degree, was also a person of his word.
If asked, Otter and Simpson would tell you that they missed “the Boss.” Both delivered moving heartfelt eulogies on Andrus at services in late August.
While they would not put the others’ bumper stickers on their car, one has to search long and hard to find any record on the campaign trail where they actively worked against one another.
They gave the perfunctory endorsement of their party’s nominee but that was it.
About the only exception for Cece was when Betty Richardson ran against Butch in one of his congressional re-elections. Cece knew Betty’s family were long-time supporters and Betty was also so loyalty may have trumped friendship. Otherwise, there was an unspoken rule between all three of them.
October 24th marked the two month date of Cece’s passing. Like many folks, both Governor Otter and Congressman Simpson are having a hard time believing and adjusting to Andrus’ passing. Cece was such an integral part of the life of Idaho as well as our lives, and not to be able to pick up the phone and talk to him is just hard to believe.
In the two months since Cece passed away there have been a number of suggestions regarding designating an appropriate memorial. None can top the announcement Congressman Simpson made on the two-month anniversary of the governor’s passing: Simpson announced he had introduced a bill, H.R. 4134, which would rename the Boulder/White Clouds Wilderness as the Cecil Andrus White Clouds Wilderness. It was immediately referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources.
In a way it parallels what Republican Senator Jim McClure engineered just before Senator Frank Church died in 1984. McClure introduced and ramrodded through the Congress a bill that renamed Idaho’s Central Idaho Wilderness the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness.
Most folks just call it “the Frank.”
Such bills temporarily suspend requirements of the Geographic Names Act which among other things says there has to be a five year wait after one has passed away before others could go about naming or renaming geographical features.
Congress can do just about anything it wants to do, however, and when someone introduces a special bill and the sponsor happens to be a “Cardinal,” as is Simpson by his chairmanship of the Interior and EPA appropriations subcommittee, another member has to think long and hard before crossing that Cardinal. Thus, odds are high that Simpson’s bill will succeed. Simpson was always a good nose counter and would not introduce a bill unless he knew he had the votes to get it passed.
Undoubtedly, there will be hearings in Idaho and in D.C. for people to express their opinions, but Andrus was phenominally popular and chances are there will be little opposition. Major interest groups such as the Idaho Conservation League and the Idaho Recreation Council are expected to be supportive.
There are several other worthy ideas being batted around Boise and Lewiston, from naming a street after Andrus to naming a city park, to naming a rare plant in the Boise foothills, to naming the Idaho Fish and Game Building. None tops Simpson’s legislation though all the ideas are good and have merit.
There is one crucial vote that supporters hope will weigh in and be supportive of this fine idea. That is Governor Otter, who may not tip his hand until a hearing is held. The governor knows the White Clouds has a special place in the hearts of many Idahoans because the White Clouds’ most majestic mountain, Castle Peak is, as Cece liked to say, the mountain that made a governor.
Butch may not jump on Simpson’s wagon immediately, but by the end of the day he’ll be sitting on the buckboard bench with Mike whipping those horses along for passage.