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Eye On Boise

Thu., June 13, 2013, 3:17 p.m.

Otter, Batt, other top GOP leaders speak out against rule to limit ballot access for GOP primaries

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, former Gov. Phil Batt, and an array of other top GOP officials have come out against a proposed new Idaho Repubican Party rule that would require party officials' blessing before any candidate could appear on a GOP primary ballot, the AP reports. The rule is up for consideration at a state GOP central committee meeting this Friday and Saturday in McCall.

"This is not the party of Phil Batt, this is not the party of Ronald Reagan," Otter said, of proponents of the plan's loyalties. "It seems to me they want to limit freedom of choice, rather than expanding it." Batt told AP reporter John Miller. "It's a very poor idea. We need to broaden participation in our elections. I think that would narrow it." Click below for Miller's full report. Also, Idaho political reporter Melissa Davlin has a report here on opposition to the proposed new rule that's cropping up among Republicans on social media.

Otter, Batt join opposition to GOP vetting plan
By JOHN MILLER, Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, former Gov. Phil Batt and other Republican officials oppose giving GOP party leaders power to vet candidates for primary elections, saying it's an exclusionary plan that ignores the will of voters.

The proposal is slated for consideration Friday and Saturday at the Republican Party Central Committee's meeting in McCall. It comes from former Idaho Senate Majority Leader Rod Beck, a GOP official and architect of the state's move in 2012 to a closed GOP primary that Otter and Batt also opposed.

Otter and Batt, interviewed Thursday with Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, House Speaker Scott Bedke, of Oakley, and Rep. Dell Raybould, of Rexburg, all say the proposal to require GOP candidates get their committee leaders' blessing is a bad idea.

Otter, who spoke at a ceremony in which the Idaho Transportation Department was named after Batt, said the proposal comes from party members aiming to shift the state's dominant political machine away from an inclusive group where differences of opinion are tolerated toward a narrower one focused on strict ideology and enforced loyalty.

"This is not the party of Phil Batt, this is not the party of Ronald Reagan," Otter said, of proponents of the plan's loyalties. "It seems to me they want to limit freedom of choice, rather than expanding it."

In all, some 60 Republicans, half of them state legislators, have signed a letter urging Central Committee members from across the state to reject the change.

According to Beck's proposal, the state Central Committee would vet state and federal candidates; legislative District committees would review legislative candidates; and county GOP committees would approve local candidates.

Batt, who as Republican Party chairman in the 1990s is credited with rebuilding the party from one that was tied for members with Democrats in the Senate into one that now holds all statewide elected offices and 81 percent of the state Legislature, also urged officials attending this weekend's meeting at McCall-Donnelly High School to reject it.

"It's a very poor idea," Batt said. "We need to broaden participation in our elections. I think that would narrow it."

Beck, an Ada County resident who is the Republican Party's regional leader in southwestern Idaho, contends this would be a tool to exclude what he calls "non-serious" candidates from a GOP primary who clearly don't exhibit Republican ideals, such as a Boise-based comedian who ran in the GOP primary against Otter in 2010 after announcing his campaign in a bikini bar.

Beck also said such a vetting process would encourage Republican candidates to be more receptive to ideas from their central or district committee officials, on important issues like the state-based insurance exchange backed by Otter and many Republicans in the 2013 Legislature, over objections of the Idaho Republican Central Committee and GOP county committees.

Foes of his plan should have more faith in local or state GOP leaders, Beck said.

"They are clearly suggesting that the grassroots are not responsible," he said. "I believe we would have more, vigorous primary campaigns as a result of this process. I believe in our local leadership, I believe in our grassroots."

A vote is expected Saturday afternoon.


Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.




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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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