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The longest-serving Democrat in the Idaho Legislature dies of pancreatic cancer

Rep. Sue Chew, the longest-serving Democrat in the Idaho Legislature, died Wednesday after a battle with pancreatic cancer, Idaho Democratic Party officials said.

Chew, D-Boise, a licensed pharmacist by profession, served nine terms in the Idaho House of Representatives after being elected in 2006.

Chew was born March 31, 1958, and died Wednesday, said Avery Roberts, communications director for the Idaho Democratic Party.

Idaho political leaders from both sides of the aisle remembered Chew as a champion of health care, an advocate for her constituents and a voice for the voiceless.

“Sue Chew was known for her moral clarity and deep heart for those at risk of falling behind,” said Lauren Necochea, assistant minority leader of the House of Representatives who is also chair of the Democratic Party of Idaho.

“She was deeply committed to inclusive representation and was a tireless door knocker, always staying in touch with her constituents and their needs,” Necochea added.

On Thursday morning, Republican Governor Brad Little ordered that American and Idaho flags be flown at half-staff in tribute to Chew until sunset Friday.

“Representative. Sue Chew was one of the longest-serving current members of the Idaho Legislature, and she served her constituents in Boise’s District 17 with passion and dedication,” Little said in a written statement released Thursday. “As the Legislature’s only pharmacist, she was a tireless advocate for expanding the role of pharmacy in health care, among her other accomplishments. She was a strong ally on a variety of health care policy issues, and she will be deeply missed by her community, colleagues in government and many loved ones.”

During her time in office, Chew was named the 2014 Democratic Party Legislator of Idaho. In 2018, Chew sponsored House BIll 649, a Good Samaritan law that provides that certain people seeking medical attention for a drug overdose should not be charged with possession of controlled substances or drug paraphernalia.

“Sue spoke up in every aspect of her life,” Rep. Soñia Galaviz, D-Boise, wrote in a Facebook post Thursday. “She always put people first and demonstrated to all of us the importance of humility and dedication. She will be missed.”

Idaho House honored Chew last month

While she battled cancer and underwent chemotherapy, Chew did not serve in the 2024 legislative session and allowed a series of alternate lawmakers to serve in her place. On March 27, Chew visited the Idaho State Capitol in Boise, and members of the Idaho House honored Chew with a standing ovation as she watched from the House gallery, surrounded by family.

As Chew watched, the Idaho House passed House Resolution 7, which honored Chew and commemorated the Idaho House’s “deep appreciation and respect for her remarkable achievements and contributions to society.”

Chew was tied as the second-longest-serving current Idaho lawmaker of any party, behind only House Speaker Mike Moyle, R-Star, and his 13 terms.

During her visit to the Idaho State Capitol on March 27, Moyle personally thanked Chew for her service and put the Idaho House at ease so lawmakers could stand and applaud her.

“You and I have been in this building together for a while, and we’ve had a lot of fun over the years,” Moyle told Chew from the House floor. “You have always been honest, easily approachable and you have always had the best interests of your constituents at heart, and I know that I personally appreciate that and that you will be missed when you are not in the backseat (on the House floor ).”

Chew’s term in the Idaho Legislature runs through December and will be up for election in November. Idaho Democrats from Chew’s Legislative District 17 will submit a slate of three nominees to complete Chew’s current term to Little within 15 days, Roberts said. Little will then choose one of the names from the list to appoint to complete Chew’s term.

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