Eye On Boise

A week on the water...

Windsurfers at Doug's Beach in the Columbia River Gorge (Betsy Russell)
Windsurfers at Doug's Beach in the Columbia River Gorge (Betsy Russell)

Here's how I've been spending my time this week - windsurfing in the Columbia River Gorge. This shot is from Doug's Beach earlier this week; it's been great.

Meanwhile, political news has continued to break in Boise. Here's a link to the announcement that 1st District Rep. Walt Minnick has been endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a leading business group, and here's a link to rival Raul Labrador's response to the endorsement, which charged that the Chamber has a "big-government tilt." Also this week, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Keith Allred was endorsed by the former GOP Senate tax committee chairman, Hal Bunderson, who said current Gov. Butch Otter has allowed serious problems to develop in the state's tax system and "now Idaho school kids are also paying the price." You can read that announcement here.

And some GOP state lawmakers now say they won't pledge loyalty to Idaho's new state party platform, despite a candidate disclosure measure approved at the 2010 state convention last weekend asking them to do so. State Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, and Sen. Joe Stegner, of Lewiston, said the disclosure could be used to narrow the party's base, not promote healthy debate. Rep. Carlos Bilbao, R-Emmett, told the AP he hasn't decided what he'll do, but has heard from "five or six" lawmakers who won't sign any pledge. Click below to read the full story from AP reporter John Miller.

GOP loyalty oath draws some Idaho lawmakers' ire
JOHN MILLER,Associated Press Writer

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Some Republican lawmakers won't pledge loyalty to Idaho's new state party platform, despite a candidate disclosure measure approved at the 2010 state convention last weekend asking them to do so.

State Rep. Maxine Bell, from Jerome, and Sen. Joe Stegner, of Lewiston, said the disclosure could be used to narrow the party's base, not promote healthy debate.

Rep. Carlos Bilbao, from Emmett, said Thursday he hasn't decided what he'll do, but has heard from "five or six" lawmakers who won't sign any pledge.

At Saturday's convention, former Idaho state Senate majority leader Rod Beck spearheaded the provision asking all GOP candidates to pledge support for Idaho's party platform — or list what they disagree with. Beck said answers could become the basis for people to challenge unfaithful incumbents, starting with 2012 primaries.

Bell and Stegner contend it's a mistake to limit the GOP's focus to the platform, which was updated Saturday to urge people to stock up on gold and silver, dump the popular election of U.S. senators and get the Legislature to simply nullify federal laws deemed to violate state sovereignty.

Stegner said it was aimed at threatening Republicans to embrace a more rigid party doctrine instead of the interests of constituents that may differ from region to region.

"It seems to be directed at purifying the party," Stegner said. "It smacks of some rather heavy-handed party membership requirements that I think in the last century have certainly been abused in any number of nations, and I don't think that's the direction America should be going."

Idaho's Republican Party isn't alone: In Georgia, gubernatorial hopeful Ray Boyd was refused a spot on the GOP primary ballot this year because he refused to sign a loyalty oath.

Some Idaho lawmakers aren't taking issue with the disclosure. Idaho candidates who refuse to sign won't be excluded from the GOP ballot, but those who won't would be announced by the GOP chairman 40 days before primaries.

Sen. Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, said he plans to sign it and list areas where he differs — just as he did a similar pledge with the Madison County GOP in the last election.

"We put some things we had concerns about," Hill said, but "overall, we agree with the principles they're looking at."

Idaho Democratic Party Chairman Keith Roark contends Republicans are promoting "ideological purity," something that will eventually drive moderates from GOP ranks.

"Loyalty oaths are associated with certainly the darkest time in U.S. history," Roark said. "I'm surprised cooler heads have not prevailed."

Beck, who also is behind a lawsuit filed by the Idaho Republican Party seeking to force the state to shutter the GOP primary to all but registered party members, tried unsuccessfully to pass a pledge measure in 2006.

"If some candidate signs the document, then gets elected, and then there's three or four issues or more where they completely ignore the platform, that would give somebody the basis to run against them," Beck said. "It's really for primary voters. Primary voters are typically the more active voters, and they are the voters that probably scrutinize their candidate a little more."

House Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke was considering the pledge, but said Thursday he understands frustrations shared by Beck and others who believe the GOP has been infiltrated by those who don't take Republican ideals seriously. The example used by many is Vern Bisterfeldt, a Boise City councilman who won his GOP primary race for Ada County Commission in May while openly backing several Democrats.

Instead of a pledge, Bedke said halting tomfoolery could be better accomplished by closing Idaho's now-open primaries. Legislation to do just that will be a major theme of the 2011 Idaho Legislature, he said.

"That's the underlying problem — not the lack of a candidate disclosure form," Bedke said. "The system is being worked lately, evidenced by the Ada County commissioner race."

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.




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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Russell covers Idaho news from the state capitol in Boise and writes the Eye on Boise blog.

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