Senator to keep seat after winning northern Idaho mayor race

November 4, 2021 GMT

LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) — A northern Idaho state senator who won the election to become mayor of Lewiston says he’ll do both jobs this year with help from his friends.

Republican Sen. Dan Johnson said that he’ll use substitutes to fill in for him at the Legislature while he’s in his role as mayor, The Lewiston Tribune reported Thursday.

“Every legislator designates three substitutes, so it’s very common for legislators to have assistants sit in for them,” Johnson said. “Every legislator does it, so I plan to use that to help me transition.”

Johnson is in his sixth term in the Senate and said he won’t seek reelection. He won a three-way race in Tuesday’s election for mayor with 52% of the vote.

Johnson’s salary as mayor is $80,000. He gets paid $20,000 as a senator. The part-time Legislature typically meets for about three months starting in January.

Lewiston voters also on Tuesday changed the structure of its city government, going from a city council-city manager form of government to a strong-mayor structure that the city hasn’t had in decades. Most Idaho cities use the strong-mayor form.

The change means that City Manager Alan Nygaard, whose salary with benefits are about $220,000, will see his job eliminated.

Eliminating the city manager position leaves room in the budget for a city administrator, who will assist Johnson. Johnson said he’s looking to the council to decide who hires the assistant.

Meanwhile, he also plans on being at the Statehouse in Boise when the Legislature convenes for its regular session on Jan. 10.

The Idaho Legislature’s website lists the House and Senate reconvening on Nov. 15 in a continuation of the 2021 session. The House never officially adjourned earlier this year, though the Senate did. Republican House Speaker Scott Bedke has said the House will meet Nov. 15.

Republican Senate President Pro Tem Chuck Winder has indicated the Senate will likely meet as well to consider legislation banning COVID-19 vaccine mandates by the federal government and private employers. The legalities of the Senate returning after officially adjourning are unclear.

“The House indicated it will go back, but the Senate hasn’t made the decision,” Johnson said. “There is a good possibility we will be joining them down there yet. But we have immediate things to cover, and I anticipate I will have a lot of discussions with city council members in the next months.”