BOISE -- The November elections are over, but big battles for leadership positions in the Idaho statehouse are underway, and the results of those battles could shape the agenda of next year's legislative session.

The biggest battle is for Speaker of the House. Experts say that position is one of the most powerful in the Statehouse, because the Speaker assigns lawmakers to committees, assigns those chairs, and has a lot to say about every bill entering the House.

This isn't just a little intramural squabble among the House of Representatives. This has a significant impact on the flow and direction of legislation, said Jim Weatherby, KTVB political analyst.

Speaker of the House for the last six years, Lawerence Denney, is being challenged for his speaker position by seven term Representative Scott Bedke.

KTVB political analyst Dr. Jim Weatherby says he cannot remember when a speaker lost a bid to retain that position. There's been a lot of speculation that Scott Bedke will be next Speaker of the House. Indeed, if that were true, that would be historic.

Denney has faced criticism for spending to unseat GOP incumbents in the primary, trying to remove GOP members from the redistricting commission, and removing two GOP chairs of committees for not voting the way he wanted.

Some of this is a function of leadership, in terms of wanting people to tow the line, said Weatherby.

He also says the choice GOP lawmakers will make in a week is not one of ideology, because there is little difference between Denney and Bedke. Rather, it is a choice of leadership style. He says it is tough to say what decision they'll make. 40% of the House is going to be new, a huge turnout. It's not easy to predict what these new people will do.

Over in the Senate, Dean Mortimer is challenging Bart Davis for the Majority Leader, the number two spot in the Senate. Weatherby says Davis is more of a centrist, which is rarer in the new Senate. Bart Davis is being seriously challenged, I think, because the Senate is becoming more conservative... This might not bode well for Senator Davis.

Weatherby says even more leadership spots in the Senate will come down to a decision between a moderate Republican and Conservative Republican, as he sees that body shift further to the right.

As far as Democratic leadership, Representative Rusche will remain the minority leader in the House. Weatherby sees Michelle Stennett or Les Bock taking over for the retired Edgar Malepeai in the Senate.

The decisions on those leadership positions will happen behind closed doors next Wednesday night.

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