Dem Rep. Sue Chew, longest-serving member of Idaho House, dead from cancer at age 66

 April 19, 2024

A long-serving and widely beloved Democratic member of Idaho's state legislature, Rep. Sue Chew, passed away on Wednesday at the age of 66, Idaho's KTVB reported.

Chew, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year and was a pharmacist by trade, was the longest-tenured member of the Idaho House, having represented the 17th District that includes Boise for 18 years after she was first elected in 2006.

Her death was confirmed by state Sen. Melissa Wintrow (D) and she was honored with statements from her fellow Democrats and with the lowering of flags at the Idaho capitol on the order of Republican Gov. Brad Little.

Governor orders flags lowered to half-staff in Chew's honor

"Representative Sue Chew was one of the state’s longest-serving current members of the Idaho Legislature, and she served her constituents in Boise’s District 17 with passion and dedication," Gov. Little said in a press release. "As the Legislature’s only pharmacist, she was a tireless advocate for the expansion of the role of pharmacy in healthcare, among her other achievements."

"She was a strong ally on a variety of healthcare policy issues, and she will be deeply missed by her community, colleagues in government, and many loved ones," he added along with a directive that all U.S. and state flags be lowered to half-staff until sunset on Friday in her honor.

Notably, Chew had just recently been honored at the end of the 2024 legislative session with a special resolution that recognized her lengthy service that was passed unanimously by her colleagues on both sides of the aisle.

She had announced nearly a year ago in June 2023 that she was ready to step down and would not seek re-election to another term in this year's elections.

A "bright light and an unrelenting force for good"

KTVB reported that Rep. Lauren Necochea (D), the House Minority Leader and chair of the Idaho Democratic Party, whose district also includes parts of Boise, said in a statement, "Sue Chew was known for her moral clarity and huge heart for the people at risk of being left behind. She was deeply committed to inclusive representation and was a tireless door-knocker, always keeping in touch with her constituents and their needs."

"The Idaho Democratic Party grieves alongside the many people Rep. Chew touched across her career, including advocates for health care, labor, disability rights, and civil rights," the party leader added. "We will do our best to pick up the torch she carried and continue building a state with justice for every Idahoan."

Similarly, the Idaho Democratic Party said in an X post, "Representative Sue Chew was a bright light and an unrelenting force for good. Her tireless advocacy on health care, labor, disability rights, and civil rights issues has made our state a better place. We grieve alongside the many people Rep. Chew impacted throughout her career."

A lifelong focus on "helping society's underdogs"

A joint statement from the Idaho House & Senate Democrats posted on social media said, "It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our friend Representative Sue Chew, a beloved servant of the people of Idaho. Representative Chew was a tireless advocate for Idahoans in need of a champion."

The statement noted how Chew was born and raised in California's Bay Area and became an activist as a student and how "helping society's underdogs became her full-time mission."

She was also praised for her "legendary door-knocking" during campaign seasons as well as her volunteerism and legislative efforts to help those in need.

The post also included a statement from House Democratic Leader Ilana Rubel, who said, "I am so grateful to have known and served with Representative Chew. She was motivated by pure love and a desire to help those who most needed an advocate. People who otherwise felt they had no voice in the corridors of power knew they had a voice in Sue."

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