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Parties tangle, accusations fly

The political war of words between the state's top party leaders continues today, with Norm Semanko, Idaho Republican Party chairman, issuing a statement sharply critical of Idaho Democratic Party Chairman Keith Roark's guest opinion last week, which was entitled, "You Have Been Invited to Leave the Idaho GOP" and derided the "fringe element now running the Idaho Republican Party," saying Idaho voters are "tired of one party rule and your loyalty oaths."

Semanko called Roark's statement "sad" and an "attempt to mislead Idahoans and spread falsehoods about what took place at the Idaho Republican Party State Convention in Idaho Falls when he wasn’t even there." He went on to charge that the Democrats are the only party in Idaho using a "loyalty oath," citing the pledge participants must sign to take part in Democratic presidential selection caucuses; and slammed the Democrats for closing their platform deliberations to the press during their state convention at Worley last month, while those deliberations at the Republican convention were open; you can read Semanko's full statement here.

Idaho Democratic Party Executive Director Jim Hansen disputed both points. The pledge used at caucuses is a national party requirement to make sure voters don't participate in both parties' caucuses in the same election, he said; in many states, Republicans as well as Democrats hold caucuses. Hansen dubbed Semanko's comparison "intellectually dishonest." And as for the decision to close the deliberations at the Democratic convention last month, Hansen said, "Well, actually, the press didn't come, unfortunately." The only reporter covering the convention was one from the Idaho Freedom Foundation's "They didn't consider Wayne Hoffman's group a press outlet, they considered it a Republican entity," Hansen said. "They would not have excluded the press."

Hansen said convention delegates debated the closure and then voted in favor of it, though the vote was divided; the representative was allowed to attend all proceedings other than the final deliberations on the platform, which lasted about two hours. "There was a difference of opinion expressed," Hansen said. "Most people, I think, lamented the fact that the press was not present, and that this was the only tool available to keep this Republican entity from distorting what was happening in the proceedings." covered both parties' conventions this year, but there was considerably more press coverage at the Republican convention in Idaho Falls, which also was covered by the Associated Press, the local newspaper and more. Click below to read the Idaho Falls Post Register's editorial take on the closure, in which it offered "jeers" to both the Democratic Party and the press.

The Post Register
Editorials, June 18, 2010

Jeers to the Idaho Democratic Party. Last week in Worley, Democrats voted to expel a member of the media who showed up to cover their state convention, a reporter from, which is affiliated with the Idaho Freedom Foundation, a free-market think tank.

The reporter wasn't the only person tossed. Democrats voted to expel all nonofficial persons from the room, but clearly this was done with the scribe in mind.

Democrats this year closed their legislative caucuses to the public. Now they're kicking reporters out of their platform hearings. The first action is defensible only in that Republicans have closed their caucuses for years. The second is inexcusable. So is the fact that was the only news organization to show up last weekend.


Jeers to Idaho's print media. It's a sad day when a political party gathers to formulate its public policy positions and the papers don't bother to show up. Yes, newsrooms are thin. Budgets are tight. At the very least, however, Idaho's daily newspapers should have pooled their resources and sent one reporter to Worley for the Democratic convention. There's no way to sugarcoat this. The press dropped the ball. We let down the hundreds of thousands of people in this state who depend on us to tell them what's going on. We need to do better.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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