When Boise Democratic Rep. Brian Cronin said he was stepping away from the Idaho Legislature, the announcement was a surprise—even a shock—to some fellow lawmakers. But the reaction of his 9-year-old twin daughters was more matter-of-fact.
"They greeted the news with a collective shrug," said Cronin. "They wanted to talk about their day at school. I think they'll appreciate it in the months to come when Dad's home a bit more."
Cronin will be home soon enough. As the 2012 Legislature wraps up its business in the coming weeks, Cronin is already looking to a future away from politics, at least for now.
Do you think people who know you quite well were surprised by your announcement?
Did you keep this pretty close to the vest?
This isn't what I anticipated going into this year's session. It just became increasingly clear that trying to do it became impossible. Trying to juggle two businesses--our marketing firm and our bilingual pre-school--along with this job was really creating an unsustainable lifestyle.
Was it a series of events that led to your decision or a particular incident?
It was the realization that while I love doing this, it was severely eroding my quality of life. I want to get more than six hours of sleep at night.
And has that been the case through much of the past four years?
Coming out of each legislative session, it was always a scramble to put together my business again--rounding up clients and projects takes a couple of months. Additionally, I had a business partner that left last fall.
Was that unexpected?
Not necessarily. Part of it was the result of a lack of business. It was entirely amicable, but he had to do what he had to do.
Do you know what you want to do when the session is over?
But after you're rested.
I will likely be using my skills in marketing and communications.
Does that mean building your business back up or something different?
It's no secret that I've put my resume out.
Have you had formal conversations with a potential employer?
There's a rumor floating about that you'll be returning to the Statehouse as a lobbyist.
It's not my intention of getting a green tag and start lobbying. But as with my previous work, a lot of what I do has a public dimension to it, and I suspect that it's going to continue.
Because you're a legislator, you certainly couldn't bid on a number of clients or projects. That must have had an adverse impact on your business.
It's well known that I found myself in the midst of some allegation when I bid on a project with the City of Boise. That was a transparent bidding process and it was all part of the public record. [In 2009 Cronin had bid for a public relations contract to help Boise Mayor Dave Bieter's administration promote a possible streetcar project. After some pushback,
Cronin opted to withdraw his bid the City Council opted not to fund the project and no work was ever performed as a consequence. A special sub-committee studied the bidding process but found no wrongdoing or impropriety.]
Do you feel as if you were tossed under the bus in that incident?
I did feel that I had been wronged, and there wasn't anyone coming to my defense. And I didn't do a really good job in defending myself. I mention that incident because it really made me gun-shy about going anywhere near public projects, even when there was absolutely no conflict of interest.
Do you like being self-employed or are your ready to work for someone else?
Being self-employed has ups and downs.
Will you make an employment decision in the next few weeks?
I really don't have the luxury of sitting around for a month, thinking about what I'm going to do. I'm thinking through all of those scenarios, and it should be relatively clear before we adjourn.
Have you found any relief in the wake of your announcement?
I haven't felt it yet. It has been rather heart wrenching, and people have been incredibly kind and gracious. I became fairly emotional reading some of the emails and Facebook messages. Sometimes you wonder if anyone is paying attention to what we're doing in this building.
Did any of those messages urge you to consider returning to public office sooner than later?
There were some of those.
Is that possible or probable?
I, like many of the people around here, have a certain affliction that is hard to explain. It's something that most have a hard time fathoming, let alone identifying with. I guess what I'm saying is that I'm not walking away from this altogether.
Reapportionment usually alters the state Legislature by 30 to 40 percent, but it appears as if we're on the path to record-setting turnover this year.
I think you're right. And we're certainly not moving in the direction of moderation. My friends across the aisle have made a few decisions in the last couple of years that will come back to bite them. In fact, if you talk to them privately, they'll tell you just that. Moving to those extremes will undoubtedly alienate voters, and I think you're seeing that process is now under way.
Your office here at the Statehouse is filled with a number memories from a relatively short political career.
Let me show you something that I never got a chance to hang up on the wall.
[Cronin dug through a stack of art to find a framed June 2004 letter he had received from former Gov. Cecil Andrus.]
I received that after I lost my first primary election to Nicole LeFavour.
["I hope you try again," wrote Andrus. "The future of the Democratic party depends on people like you."]
I'm not going to entirely walk away from politics and issues. But for now, I might be able to make more of a difference on the outside of this building than the inside.
What would you tell a candidate who wants to win your District 19 seat?
I think the folks in my district expect someone who holds certain policy positions and is also driven by a desire to bring change to this state. The people from 19 want to see what you're really made of. They're looking for someone who brings a strong sense of purpose, not just some naked ambition to be here.