Cherie Buckner-Webb 

“The reason I’m here is the legacy that others left for me, little by little.”

Cherie Buckner-Webb happily shared two photographs with Boise Weekly that framed her life.

"Let me show you this," she said, reaching for a framed black and white Kodachrome from April 1968. "I was still in high school at Boise High. I was probably 15 or 16."

Buckner-Webb, 61, pointed to herself, singing with two other girls at a rally held outside the Idaho Statehouse, days after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Moments later, Buckner-Webb pointed to another photo, this one on her iPhone, of her 22-month-old granddaughter Zaida holding a program from the Jan. 21 MLK Day ceremony at the Statehouse.

"She's my heart," said Buckner-Webb.

In a wide-ranging conversation, BW spoke with the two-term legislator -- her first in the Idaho Senate -- about grandchildren, music and the nobility of politics.

Do you find the 2013 Legislature dramatically different than the 2011 Legislature?

I have the advantage of seeing how the House runs, which is so different than the Senate.

Do you believe there is truth to the adage that the Senate is closer to the center of the political spectrum than the House?

I will tell you that, in coming over to this body, the tone and timbre is much more collegial to me. I have been told by trusted colleagues of mine in the House that the House remains less centered, a little further right.

Can you speak to the challenge of losing a vote today but winning a greater cause for tomorrow?

A win isn't necessarily a check mark. A win is also speaking the truth. Change comes even after I'm gone. I believe in living a legacy. Legacy is a tradition I heard my entire life. The reason I'm here is the legacy that others left for me, little by little. I have a granddaughter now and ... (Buckner-Webb's eyes welled up).

And I can tell you ... (Buckner-Webb began to cry).

I'm sorry. I didn't expect that. But what I wanted to say is that it really makes a difference what the political landscape will look like, what the Boise Valley will be like for her. I want her to be cradled in the bosom of this community so that she can be everything she wants to be. She's the representation of children, known and unknown, to me.

Do you see any of yourself in your granddaughter?

I see my mother in her. She was a person who believed in possibilities and to have a responsibility to make sure those possibilities are available to many people.

You've been a professional singer and still sing at a number of public events. What are your earliest memories of singing?

My grandmother said I was singing before I was talking. She wanted me to study classical music. But when I was 12, The Supremes and Martha and the Vandellas were hot.

What does your music collection look like?

Very eclectic.

What do you listen to in your car?

NPR. That's the truth.

But when you want to dial down the world, what music do you listen to?

It really depends. Music is illustrative of how I'm feeling or how I want to feel. I'm going to perform the role of Bloody Mary in South Pacific for Music Week in May, so we better get out of session on time.

Let's talk about legislation for the current session. There's a rumor going around that you'll be the sponsor of a 2013 version of Add the Words.

People across the state have been working diligently to get the words "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" included in the human-rights legislation. Some folks assume it's an agenda. It's not. It's about seeing that rights are approved for everyone.

And where are you with introducing a proposed measure?

We have legislation that has been reviewed by a number of stakeholders. Routing slips have been done, but the first step is to hear the will of the people. We want to open up those discussions with academics and business and religious leaders.

During testimony in November 2012 before the Boise City Council, even proponents of the city's new ordinance said they were overwhelmed by five hours of testimony on this issue.

You know it. I think this is the time.

That said, what is the chance of seeing statewide legislation?

I'm hoping, I'm hoping, I'm hoping.

What was your reaction to the Republican trial balloon to wipe away Idaho's business personal property tax?

Having worked in rural communities in Idaho, I can tell you that the result of eliminating that tax without another opportunity to fill that void would be devastating. It's a matter of safety, security and all of those infrastructures that personal property tax supports and fronts.

The primary option seems to be a shift of the personal property tax burden over to homeowners.

My email is full and my voicemail is full with homeowners who are saying, "Please, please think of us."

What was your takeaway from last November's voter rejection of the so-called Luna Laws?

People were very clear. It wasn't just Republicans or Democrats. It was across the board. They voted no. I'm amazed when I hear some elements of those initiatives will be brought back. It's incredulous to me.

But Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna has told legislative budget writers and legislative committees that he heard something different.

The voting box told me in very empirical terms that voters don't want it. Perhaps he's hearing a different voice.

Superintendent Luna has had a pretty low profile since the November election.

I think that's appropriate.

There was a time, perhaps two generations ago, when politics was considered noble. Do you believe it can be again?

There are so many people I work with that I have so much respect for, but I believe that people in our community aren't sure about us. And as long as they're not sure, we've got big work to do.

Do you want to keep doing this?

I think so.

What's the chance of you holding another political office within the next 10 years?

I don't think so. Right this minute I think I'm supposed to do very good work here.

The following morning, Buckner-Webb called to make an addendum to her remarks regarding running for another public office.

I had to call because I just had an unexpected two-and-a-half-hour phone call with a group of people who wanted to talk about a future campaign. Believe me, I'm as surprised as anyone.

When BW asked Buckner-Webb about the specifics of the conversation, she laughed.

I can't tell you; We were just talking. But considering what I said in our conversation, I thought you should know first.

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