Wednesday, March 24, 2010

‘I wanted to continue Clint’s legacy’'

Michelle Stennett looks to step into the ring full time

Express Staff Writer

Michelle Stennett

Michelle Stennett is getting plenty of practical experience in a run-up to her first political campaign.

Stennett has been filling in for her husband, state Sen. Clint Stennett, D-Ketchum, for the entirety of the 2010 Legislature while he recovers from treatment for brain cancer.

Over the course of last week, however, the pair decided that she would throw her own hat into the ring in this year's election and look to keep the Senate seat in the family.

Stennett said the decision for her to run in place of Clint was made after a visit to their doctor in California two weekends ago showed the presence of a tumor "smaller than a dime." Stennett said her husband would undergo three rounds of radiation treatment this week and that she's optimistic about his recovery.

"He had three large tumors walking into this two years ago," Stennett said of her husband. "The radiation worked before and Clint responded very well to it."

Stennett said swelling in Clint's brain, which triggered the visit to the doctor, has disappeared.

"It was with a lot of sadness that I did file (to run)," Stennett said. "It just didn't seem feasible or practical for him to continue, but I wanted to continue Clint's legacy."

In her attempt to win the Senate seat for District 25—which includes Blaine, Camas, Gooding and Lincoln counties—Stennett will have a fair bit of competition, facing off against fellow Democrats David Maestas of Hagerman and Robert Blakeley of Hailey in the primary election on May 25.

If she wins the primary, she will face Republican Jim Donoval of Sun Valley and Carey's Randall Patterson, a member of the Constitution Party.

Stennett is looking to leverage the experience she's gained since the legislative session began in January, as well as the continued mentoring from her husband.

"I didn't want to abandon the seat when I knew I could do a good job," she said. "I have a good working relationship with other members of the Senate and as part of the minority can rattle cages and show the other side of issues."

Stennett said she approaches the Senate responsibilities in a similar manner to Clint, with focus on conservation.

"I think Clint represented the area, not just Ketchum, very well, which is what the person elected by the district has to do," Stennett said. "I feel like I'm qualified to do this and have had a tremendous amount of response, which made me sure that I made the right decision [to run]."

Stennett said the extent of her campaigning will be in part dictated by her husband's recovery, as he will remain her top priority. His political future, she said, remains uncertain.

"He needs to focus on getting better and can choose to come back after he gets well," Stennett said.

Stennett said that the competition in the election should present the electorate with plenty of variety.

"This is a group of folks running with different perspectives, so it should make for interesting debates and discussions," she said.

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