Now that the Idaho Republican Party is requiring candidates to pledge their support to the state party's platform or outline where they disagree, the candidate surveys are taking on new significance as primary elections approach, reports AP reporter John Miller, and they've divided the state's dominant political party. Jonathan Parker, executive director of the state GOP, told Miller the review "gives people the opportunity to find out where the candidates stand." But critics such as Priest Lake Republican Rep. Eric Anderson say it's an unnecessary "purity test." "It's silly," Anderson said. He added, "There's always going to be things in life you disagree with."
The platform includes planks such as calling for the repeal of the 17th Amendment, which let voters, rather than state legislatures, elect U.S. senators; returning to the gold standard; abolishing the state's redistricting commission and handing that task back to the state Legislature; and calling for state nullification of federal laws. Click below for Miller's full report.
Lawmakers spar on Idaho Republican 'purity test'
By JOHN MILLER, Associated Press
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A survey that Idaho Republican leaders say they devised to help voters pick candidates has taken on new significance as primary elections approach — and it's divided the state's dominant political party.
Jonathan Parker, executive director of the state GOP, says the review "gives people the opportunity to find out where the candidates stand."
But critics such as Priest Lake Republican Rep. Eric Anderson say it's an unnecessary "purity test."
"It's silly," Anderson said. He added, "There's always going to be things in life you disagree with."
The survey connected to the Idaho Republican Party platform established at the last state convention asks candidates to pledge their support or list where they disagree with the opinions outlined in the statement of beliefs.
The platform lays out several positions important to tea party supporters thanks to a strong contingent that worked to shape the document in Idaho Falls two years ago.
When delegates created the survey in 2010, it was praised by supporters as a way to help voters learn which candidates really subscribed to conservative principles and vilified by foes as a loyalty oath meant to force Republican moderates out into the open.
Among the planks that make up the platform is a repeal of the 17th Amendment, the constitutional provision that allows voters — not lawmakers — to select U.S. senators. The state GOP principles also call for dumping the Federal Reserve and returning to the gold standard, handing the redistricting process back over to the state Legislature and a recommendation that Idaho simply nullify federal laws that violate state sovereignty.
"I am happy to disclose that I disagree with efforts to repeal the 17th Amendment, adopt the gold standard (I do support auditing the Federal Reserve) and abolish the redistricting commission process," wrote U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson in response to the survey.
Simpson, a seven-term incumbent, is facing Chick Heileson for the second time in the GOP primary. Simpson defeated Heileson decisively last time around.
Heileson agrees almost entirely with the GOP platform — and hopes voters notice it, too.
"Mike Simpson is not in line with the Republican philosophy according to the platform," Heileson said. "There's a stark difference between me and him."
Simpson is not alone among incumbent Republicans who disagree with major provisions in the platform.
Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis responded to the survey by listing several points of conflict, including a statement in the document that says "the United States Constitution is greatest and most inspired document ever devised by Man."
"What does that mean? Does this preclude other scriptural writings or religious pronouncements?" Davis asked, as he stated that he agrees that God inspired the Constitution but questioned the rest of the statement.
However some Republican incumbents agree fully. Riggins Rep. Paul Shepherd even called out fellow GOP lawmakers who pay only lip-service to the platform, while voting otherwise.
"We have been very frustrated and still are when we observe many elected Republican officials who consistently vote against issues that the platform is very clear on," Shepherd wrote in his response.
Still other lawmakers indicated they agreed with the entire platform — even though their votes in the Legislature indicate otherwise.
Dover Republican Rep. George Eskridge voted against a bill to nullify the federal health care law in 2011. But his survey doesn't reflect that.
Eskridge said he simply decided not to go into it, on grounds the survey doesn't provide sufficient opportunity to capture nuances of his objections.
"It doesn't do any good to get in discussion, because you've got those extremists who say, 'If you don't agree with me, you're wrong,'" Eskridge said.
Eskridge's primary opponent, tea party activist Pam Stout, has indicated she agrees with the platform.
The survey also has resulted in some angst among lawmakers.
Rep. Maxine Bell initially said she wouldn't sign the survey because it was a litmus test. But she changed her mind, thinking she just didn't want to make a big deal out of it.
"Maybe it was a very cowardly thing of me to do, but it just did not seem to me to be a place to fuss," said Bell, a Jerome Republican who does not face a primary challenge. "What's the point of not filling it out? I'm 99 percent there."
Rod Beck, a former Senate GOP majority leader and the survey's author, indicated he was troubled by lawmakers who filled out their reviews in conflict with their votes.
"I respect a candidate more that actually disagrees on several planks," Beck said, "because I know they've read it and have given it thoughtful consideration."
Some Idaho Republican incumbents indicated disagreement with provisions in the state 2010 party platform on recently-released surveys available on the state party website. Here are some excerpts from lawmakers:
— Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, on dumping the U.S. Federal Reserve: "I do agree the U.S. Congress should have the power to control our national currency, but blanket statements demanding the complete abolition of the Federal Reserve may not be productive."
— Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, on nullification: "Nullification is not a constitutionally permitted remedy. The father of our Constitution, James Madison, later in life wrote disparagingly of the doctrine of nullification in letters to others. George Washington called nullification 'preposterous and anarchic' suggesting that it would lead to the 'dissolution of the union.' "
— Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, on repealing the 17th Amendment: "I trust the voters, my constituents, to choose our United States senators."
— Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d'Alene, on education: "I do not support tax credits to support private and parochial schools and question the constitutionality of same." Goedde added, "Republicans exist in degrees from moderate to ultra conservative and most will not agree with every plank of the Republican platform. I respect each person's right to an opinion."
— Rep. Vito Barbieri, on the platform's language promoting U.S. activities to secure peace, freedom and human rights throughout the world: "This language points to American Imperialism and could be construed to be enabling language to promote America as the world policeman."
— Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, on returning redistricting to the Idaho Legislature: "While I have not been pleased with the state legislative plans drawn by our re-districting commissions, returning the process to the state Legislature is not the answer and most Idahoans agree."
— Sen. Tim Corder, R-Mountain Home, on the platform's contention that the U.S. Constitution "is the greatest and most inspired document ever devised by Man": "I confess and believe the Holy Bible to be the most divinely inspired document devised by men."
For the full survey results: http://idgop.org/primary-2012/
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.