This year’s high-profile rift in Idaho’s dominant political party, the Idaho GOP, extends down to the party’s grass roots, Idaho Statesman reporter Dan Popkey writes today, with battles in the May 20 primary election for precinct committee seats around the state – including the one now held by state party Chairman Barry Peterson. Peterson is being challenged for his precinct committee seat in Mountain Home by former Sen. Tim Corder, R-Mountain Home, Popkey reports; it’s part of a move by establishment Republicans across the state to take the party’s machinery back from a coalition of tea party, Libertarian Party and Constitution Party activists who’ve shifted the party to the right, resulting in party platform planks backing doing away with direct election of U.S. senators, returning to the gold standard, nullifying federal laws and more. That wing of the party triumphed in 2008, when it elected Norm Semanko as party chairman, ousting Gov. Butch Otter’s choice, Kirk Sullivan.
“People statewide are simply tired of the direction the party’s been going and they’re finally doing something about it,” Corder told Popkey. Popkey also talked with longtime GOP stalwart Ruthie Johnson of Hayden, who told him, “When Republicans fight among themselves, it gets very foolish.” She worries that the GOP’s divisions could open doors for minority Democrats. Kootenai County’s Republican Party is among the state’s most divided, Popkey notes, with factions including the Reagan Republicans, Rally Right/United Conservatives, Liberty Caucus, Republican Women and Pachyderms all vying for power.
Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, told Popkey, “It’s an awakening. People are realizing it actually does make a difference who is in charge of the party structure.” Malek’s part of the mainstream wing; Rep. Ron Mendive, R-Coeur d’Alene, who comes from the tea party wing, told Popkey, “You have a struggle to see who’s going to run the Republican Party. I am convinced the people in Idaho are extremely conservative. So, hopefully, at the end of the day, the Republican Party will reflect that.” Popkey’s full report is online here.