Egan, Idaho Politics

Clint Stennett

stennettA Nice Guy and Pretty Fair Legislator

I long ago began to apply a simple test to any Idaho Democrat who aspired to statewide office. Could the wanabee candidate walk into the VFW Hall in an Idaho rural community and “work the room” effectively or could they campaign at the Bear Lake County Fair and not look out of place? If you could be authentic and comfortable in those kinds of settings, you might have a future in Idaho politics.

Clint Stennett, who died last week at age 54, was nothing if not authentic. He passed with flying colors the VFW – Bear Lake County Fair test. He wore his cowboy boots naturally and under this Stetson was a sharp mind, a good sense of humor and the rare ability, particularly in today’s political world, to find and keep friends across the aisle.

Stennett was dealt a very, very tough hand when he was diagnosed with cancer early in 2008, but by all accounts he bore the personal and health burdens with grace and determination. His partner in life and politics, Michelle, carried on for him in the State Senate and she now seeks the seat he occupied so well for so long.

I was touched, as many will be I suspect, to read this letter from former Idaho House Speaker Bruce Newcomb, a Republican, endorsing Michelle Stennett. It speaks volumes about Mr. Speaker Newcomb, but also the Stennetts. This, my friends, is decency and substance trumping party and partisanship. We could use a good deal more of that.

Clint Stennett’s passing is a big loss for the Idaho Senate, his central Idaho constituents, his friends, family and, of course, for beleaguered Idaho Democrats, but it is also a cold, hard reminder that life is very short and full of only the sureness of uncertainty.

Stennett toyed more than once with those inevitable statewide ambitions that tend to swirl around a person with smarts, style and charisma. Too bad he didn’t take the plunge and sad for all of us that now we won’t know just how good he might have been on a statewide stage. I suspect very good.

It is too true, the good do die young.