Idaho Democratic Leader Rusche taking Fridays off as wife is treated for cancer

House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, says he’ll be on a 6 o’clock flight Thursday night to join his wife as she is treated for a recurrence of ovarian cancer.

Rep. Rusche said he plans to take Fridays off through early March, to be with his wife during treatments at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston.

Both John and Kay Rusche are physicians. Kay Rusche, 63, blogged frequently in 2010 about her first bout with cancer at  “Kay’s Adventure — My experience as a patient.” She resumed blogging in November, with a post headlined, “Here we go again,” describing a colonoscopy that detected a tumor and surgery to remove the cancer and parts of her small and large intestines.

“Now I am home, recovering well, eating and without significant pain,” she wrote. “And ready to fight the Bear again.”

Rep. Rusche said Assistant Democratic Leader Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, will fill in as floor leader on Fridays — typically the slowest day of the legislative week, particularly early in the session.

Rusche said he discussed his absences with House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, whose wife, Sarah, was treated for breast cancer last year, and House Health & Welfare Committee Chairman Fred Wood.

Wood, R-Burley, said he will schedule non-controversial matters for the committee’s Friday meetings. “John is a good friend and I’m going to do whatever I can to help him,” Wood said.

The committee meets five days a week and Rusche is trusted on both sides of the aisle for his expertise on health policy.

Rep. Rusche said he doesn’t anticipate naming a replacement to fill in for him. He said, however, that should his wife’s treatment require more frequent absences he likely will choose a substitute.

Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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