Cecil D. Andrus, Legendary Idaho Political Leader, Dies in Boise
Cecil D. Andrus, a Democrat, and the only Idahoan elected four times as the state's
governor and who also served as secretary of the Interior under President Jimmy
Carter, has died in Boise. He was 85 years old. Andrus' death late Thursday resulted
from complications related to lung cancer and was confirmed by family
spokesperson Tracy Andrus
First elected governor of Idaho in 1970, Andrus was just 39-years old and quickly
drew national attention as one of the first western politicians to seek office as a
champion of conservation. During that campaign he advocated for the protection of
Castle Peak, an iconic 11,815-foot snow capped mountain in central Idaho's White
Cloud Mountains. Asarco, a major mining company, had proposed development of
an open pit molybdenum mine at the base of Castle Peak. Andrus' Republican
opponent supported the mine project. Andrus was also known for his campaigns to
improve Idaho public education, including helping to create kindergarten programs
for the first time. He also diversified the state's natural resource dependent
economy, occasionally taking positions at odds with the national Democratic Party.
Andrus, a strapping 6'2" former "gyppo logger," harbored a deep affection for Idaho,
the West and the nation's public lands. He displayed political and governing skills
rivaling any governor of the last half of the 20 th Century. Idaho has elected only one
statewide Democrat since he left office in 1995. Born in Hood River, Oregon on
August 25, 1931, Andrus studied engineering at Oregon State University before
enlisting in the United States Navy during the Korean War. He served as a
crewmember based in Japan, flying reconnaissance missions over the Korean
Following military service Andrus and his wife Carol moved to Orofino, Idaho where
he worked as a lumberjack and sawmill worker. Inspired in part by hearing a speech
in Lewiston, Idaho by then Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy, Andrus
successfully challenged an incumbent Republican in a state senate race in 1960. The
issue in the election was education, a cause Andrus championed for the rest of his
career. At age 29 he became the youngest Idaho legislator in the 1961 session.
Andrus lost the 1966 Democratic primary race for governor to a fellow state senator
Charles Herndon, who was then killed in a plane crash six weeks before the general
election. The party's state central committee, with the strong support of then-
Senator Frank Church, selected Andrus to replace Herndon. Andrus subsequently
lost the general election to Republican Don Samuelson. He often quipped that he had
the rare distinction of losing the governorship twice in the same year. Andrus and
Church would go on to form a potent political partnership that dominated Idaho
politics for a generation.
In a rematch with Samuelson in 1970, Andrus was elected by a 10,000-vote margin.
He successfully set about to reorganize state government, enhance the economy and
erase a budget deficit without increasing taxes. He won a second term in a landslide
in 1974 after championing educational improvements and environmental policies,
including stream channel protection and the development of a state water plan.
During this period Andrus became friends with another young and often
unconventional Democrat, then-Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter. Carter, who
selected Andrus to run the Interior Department during his presidency, said he never
considered anyone else for the job.
Andrus served four years as secretary of the Interior and had declared his intention
to return to Idaho regardless of the outcome of the 1980 presidential election. The
highlight of his Interior tenure was the landmark Alaska Lands legislation, finally
passed during the lame duck session of Congress in1980. The legislation added to or
created 13 national parks, 16 wildlife refuges, 2 national forests, 2 national
monuments, 2 conservation areas, and 26 wild and scenic rivers. The legislation
protected more than 104 million acres in Alaska for future generations.
As the Carter Administration's architect of the conservation legislation, Andrus
convinced Carter to invoke the authority of the 1906 Antiquities Act in order to
conserve vast stretches of wild Alaska as national monuments and wildlife refuges.
Andrus always claimed the use of the controversial law was merely a strategy to
force recalcitrant Alaska lawmakers to settle claims over management of the state's
lands that dated to statehood. Alaska Republican Senator Ted Stevens initially
resisted the scale of the conservation effort in his energy rich state, but came to
regard Andrus as an astute political operator and honest broker. Andrus in turn
praised Stevens as a tough, but honest opponent whose word was good.
After returning to Idaho in 1981, Andrus operated his own consulting business in
Boise and served on various corporate boards. In 1986 he sought the governorship
for a third time and prevailed by a razor thin margin in a hard fought race against
incumbent lieutenant governor, David H. Leroy. Andrus followed through on
campaign pledges to enhance the state's economic development efforts - he
appointed a prominent Republican businessman to head the state's Commerce
Department - and, while he was often at odds with the GOP dominated state
legislature he forced through increased appropriations for Idaho schools. During his
entire time as governor Andrus never enjoyed a Democratic majority in either house
of the state legislature, but still had only one veto overturned during his tenure.
Andrus often made the point that economic development and respect for the
environment were not mutually exclusive goals. "First, you must make a living, but
you must have a living that is worthwhile," summed up much of his bipartisan
political appeal, as did his personal connection with the state's thousands of hunters
and anglers. He rarely missed an October elk hunt and was instrumental in
convincing Carter to take up fly-fishing. His well-known love of hunting and
ownership of many firearms did not prevent the National Rifle Association (NRA)
from targeting Andrus for defeat in 1986. He responded by labeling the NRA "the
gun nuts of the world" and labeled the group as little more than a partisan front to
promote Republican candidates. When asked why he supported a ban on so called
"cop killer bullets," Andrus said he had "never seen an elk wearing a bullet proof
Elected for an unprecedented fourth time in 1990 - he won with nearly 70 percent
of the vote - Andrus continued to champion environmental protections and
successfully challenged the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) over storage of nuclear
waste in Idaho. At the height of his confrontation with DOE Andrus ordered the
Idaho State Police to impound and turn back a rail car carrying waste material.
Federal officials backed down, removed the rail car and ceased further shipments
from the DOE's Colorado facility at Rocky Flats. Andrus then took DOE to court and
ultimately forced federal agencies to observe the same environmental laws that
private businesses must comply with. Andrus ultimately worked with his successor
Republican Phil Batt to enforce Batt's historic agreement on nuclear waste storage
and environmental clean up.
During the 1990 legislative session Andrus, who had long opposed abortion with the
exception of cases of rape, incest and when the life of the mother was threatened,
vetoed what would have been the nation's most restrictive anti-abortion legislation.
The legislation was pushed by national anti-abortion groups as a test case to
challenge the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. "When I consider what
is best for Idaho, I must consider my own views and the needs of Idaho," Andrus
said in vetoing the legislation. "This bill satisfies neither. I did not take the oath of
office to put my name on bad legislation."
During the course of his career Andrus served as chairman of both the Western and
National Governors Associations. He left office in January 1995 having served more
than 14 years as the Democratic governor of one of the most Republican states in
the nation. Andrus' tenure ranks him as the 11 th longest serving governor in United
States history. Public opinion polls have consistently shown him to be the most
popular public figure in Idaho. He continued until his death to serve as chairman of
the Andrus Center for Public Policy at Boise State University.
In 2008, long in political retirement, Andrus introduced then Senator Barack Obama
before 14,000 Idahoans at a raucous rally at Boise State University. He called the
young Illinois senator "the real thing." Andrus was not always as generous with
national Democrats or the party who he believed often did not understand or
appreciate the rural West and took positions that western Democrats found difficult
While nearly always a loyal Democrat, Andrus developed many enduring
relationships with Republicans, including Dan Evans, a Washington state governor
and senator, and Tom McCall, an outspoken liberal Republican from Oregon. The
trio crossed party lines to cooperate on regional policy and exchanged personal
endorsements. Andrus endorsed Evans' run for the U.S. Senate in 1983, as McCall
had done for him in 1974. Evans in turn endorsed Andrus during his 1986 run.
Andrus - Cece to many Idahoans - also maintained close friendships with the
Republican who succeeded him as governor, Phil Batt, and with Wyoming GOP
Senator Alan Simpson.
Andrus is survived by his wife Carol - they were married in 1949 - and by
daughters Tana, Tracy and Kelly and grandchildren Monica, Morgan and Andrew
and great granddaughter Casey.
Andrus often referred to himself as "a political accident," but engendered
widespread support across the political spectrum thanks to a warm personality, a
candid, outspoken style and an infectious sense of humor. He never met a stranger
and worked every room with a firm handshake and self-deprecating jokes.
His sense of humor, occasionally including a piercing barb directed at a political
opponent, was frequently on display in his dealing with Republican state legislators.
On one such occasion, while locked in a budget disagreement with the majority GOP
legislature, Andrus was asked by a reporter if GOP legislators could be trusted to do
right by the state's public schools. He replied with a smile and a quip, telling
reporters if they believed Republican claims he had "a deal for them at Fairly
Reliable Bob's," a well-known Boise used car lot. Following press reports of the
comment the owner of the car lot placed a message on his reader board - it read
simply "Thanks Cece!"
Funeral arrangements, which will be private, are planned for Wednesday, August 30
in Boise. A public lying in state ceremony will follow at noon on Wednesday in the
Idaho Capitol rotunda and continue until noon on August 31. A public memorial
service is planned for 2:00 pm Thursday, August 31 in the Jordan Ballroom of the
Boise State University Student Union.
In lieu of flowers the Andrus family suggests memorial gifts to the Andrus Center for
Public Policy at Boise State University, which is dedicated to furthering his life's
work and legacy. The family warmly thanks each and every individual who has sent
cards, letters and flowers and wishes it were possible to personally acknowledge
each expression of concern and caring. Please know that your well wishes have
meant so much to the entire family as they attempt to deal with the loss of our
husband, father, grandfather, and great grandfather.
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Marc C. Johnson - 208-866- 6864