Special coverage

Idaho Politics

Political and legislative news out of Idaho.

Latest from The Spokesman-Review

Judge denies motion to dismiss, will hear full Idaho GOP case this morning on merits…

Fifth District Judge Randy Stoker has denied the motion to dismiss Barry Peterson’s lawsuit over chairman of the Idaho Republican Party, saying he’ll instead move to hear the full merits of the case this morning, after a 10-minute break. The judge said he believes state statute cites party rules, so they can be enforced by the court. “I think that this case involves both political questions and questions of whether there has been a statutory and therefore a rule violation,” Stoker said. “It’s a mixed issue.” A 1908 Idaho Supreme Court case involving a fight between competing delegations in the Idaho Democratic Party set the precedent on that, he said.

“The court has no stake in who is elected chairman or vice chairman or secretary or treasurer of this party or any other party,” Stoker said. “The issue that I have is are you following the rules, it’s just that simple.” He said his decision to deny the motion to dismiss shouldn’t be taken as a sign he’s leaning either way on the case as a whole. Peterson is seeking an injunction to block the Idaho Republican Party from holding an Aug. 2 state central committee meeting to select new leaders.

Role of First Amendment in Idaho Republican Party case…

Christ Troupis, attorney for Barry Peterson, argued that the First Amendment’s free speech guarantees are implicated in the Idaho Republican Party lawsuit Peterson’s brought in an attempt to keep the chairmanship. “All political activity is First Amendment protected,” Troupis told the court. “Any loss of First Amendment rights is an irreparable injury.”

Tim Hopkins, attorney for the two party officials Peterson sued, told the court, “My God, nobody’s short on freedom of speech in these instances. … I don’t think there’s been any limitation or restriction on anybody’s freedom to speak.” Hopkins said, “The efforts here to create  legal question out of what is clearly a political feud, if you will … It has no sound basis in law for the court’s consideration.”

Judge tells court he’ll decide Idaho GOP case today

Fifth District Judge Randy Stoker told the court his morning that he will rule today in the Idaho Republican Party lawsuit, in which two wings of the party are fighting over the chairmanship. “‘This is a very unique proceeding,” Stoker said. “I’m going to give you a ruling at the end of the day.”

More than two dozen people are in the audience. The judge told the court he’s studied all the briefing and affidavits, pored over Idaho Republican Party rules and watched video of the state GOP convention and a rules committee meeting.

Among the arguments: Timothy Hopkins, attorney for party Vice Chairman Mike Mathews and National Committeewoman Cindy Siddoway, told the court: “There are winners and losers inevitably in a political setting like this one, but there is not irreparable injury.” Therefore, he argued, no injunction is warranted.

Christ Troupis, attorney for embattled Chairman Barry Peterson, cited Bush vs. Gore and the Idaho closed GOP primary case. “The courts involve themselves in the affairs of political parties every day,” he said.

The audience is quiet and attentive. A sign in the corridor outside warns that a ringing cell phone in court can bring a $100 fine.

Embattled GOP chairman contends he’s facing ‘hostile takeover’ by ‘rogue members’

Lots of interesting stuff in the court filings in the Idaho Republican Party case, including a link to a YouTube video of the final four minutes of the Idaho GOP convention; you can watch it here. In it, convention Chairman Raul Labrador calls for adjourning the convention, and a motion is made to suspend the rules to allow the convention to continue past its scheduled ending point. Asked by Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, what happens if the convention adjourns without any votes on leadership, Labrador confers with parliamentarian Cornel Rasor and then says, “Platform stays the same, the officers stay the same.” A voice vote is taken, with the “no” votes much louder, and Labrador says, “The nays have it and we are adjourned.”

However, Rasor later told the Lewiston Tribune he “inadvertently misread the rules.” “It was my fault, not Raul’s,” Rasor told Tribune reporter Bill Spence in a June 25 article that’s among the documents filed in court. State party rules specifically say there “shall be no automatic succession to the office of state chairman.”

Christ Troupis, attorney for embattled Chairman Barry Peterson and six of his supporters, contends it doesn’t matter – the 527 delegates at the convention thought that was the result of adjourning. Any other interpretation, he wrote in court documents, “threaten(s) to nullify the votes of 527 convention delegates.”

Timothy Hopkins, attorney for party Vice Chairman Mike Mathews and National Committeewoman Cindy Siddoway, whom Peterson has sued in an attempt to halt an Aug. 2 party central committee meeting to choose new leaders, wrote, “No vote for chairman was held. No vote for any officer was held.”

“The entirety of plaintiff’s claim for relief is based on a significant mistake and misreading of the rules at the end of the convention,” Hopkins wrote. “No constitution or statute permits a group of individuals to conjure a right to use mistaken information in order to lay claim to party leadership positions.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Balukoff knocks Otter for destroying public records, also incorrectly says records law is in Constitution

A.J. Balukoff, Democratic candidate for governor, is criticizing GOP Gov. Butch Otter for destroying 22 of the 37 applications for two recent openings on the state Board of Education, saying Otter isn’t following through with his pledge to emphasize openness in government, made when he appointed a state public records ombudsman in his office this spring. However, in his statement, he mixes up the Idaho Public Records Law and the state Constitution. “That was my error,” said Mike Lanza, communications director for Balukoff’s campaign; he said a corrected statement is in the works. “We’re talking about the law here,” Lanza said. (Update: A corrected statement was posted within an hour.)

Balukoff said, “Gov. Otter made a great show of this appointment, which followed a request from newspaper publishers for better government compliance with the freedom of information and public-records laws. The Otter administration’s handling of this episode raises two questions: How committed is the governor to obeying state open-records law? And why would his administration conceal from us some applicants for a high-profile state board?”

Balukoff also charged that Otter’s move violated the state Constitution, incorrectly attributing a passage from the Public Records Act to the Idaho Constitution. “The public has the constitutional right to know who’s seeking positions in government, and there was no legitimate reason to have destroyed those records,” he said.

Otter’s public records ombudsman, Cally Younger, told Idaho Education News that the applications were destroyed because they contained personal information; the news outlet had requested all the applications. But those that weren’t destroyed, and were released, also contained personal information such as driver’s license numbers; it was redacted, or blacked out, in the released versions.

Lanza said, “The language is pretty darn clear in that statute – it seems to be clear to us, anyway, as to what the government should be doing.” Balukoff’s full statement is online here.

Idaho state treasurer defends record, calls critical state audits ‘politically motivated’

In his 16 years as Idaho’s state treasurer, Ron Crane has built up the state’s credit rating, launched a popular college savings program and a free annual control-your-finances conference for women, and helped create a bond bank that lets local school bonds and other local-government debt take advantage of the state’s favorable interest rates, potentially saving property taxpayers millions. But he’s best known for a series of critical state audit findings over the past five years, the most recent suggesting that Crane made an inappropriate transfer between two funds that cost the state’s taxpayers more than $10 million.

Crane vigorously disputes the audit finding, contending his office did nothing wrong and made reasonable decisions based on what it knew at the time. “As to the charges of the audit, I maintain and will maintain that they were politically motivated,” Crane said in an interview. “We think there’s an excellent explanation for each one. When voters understand what the real explanation is, they will agree with our position.”

The audit findings have prompted a longtime Twin Falls CPA, Deborah Silver, to challenge Crane in this year’s general election. “I would absolutely follow the auditors’ suggestions, no argument, no excuses,” said Silver, a Democrat who taught accounting at the College of Southern Idaho for five years and has operated a CPA firm with her husband in Twin Falls for nearly three decades. “This is a job that I can do.”

The Spokesman-Review asked David Burgstahler, the Julius A. Roller Professor of Accounting at the University of Washington, to review the audit finding about the fund transfer and Crane’s detailed response. “I found the auditor’s conclusions pretty convincing,” Burgstahler said. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Eight migrant kids from border surge have come to sponsors in Idaho; Otter not happy

Eight migrant children from Central America apprehended at the Mexican border already have been sent to Idaho, according to a U.S. Health & Human Services report quoted late yesterday by the Associated Press, though they’ve gone to sponsors, not to state custody; that means they’ve been taken in by relatives, family friends or foster parents.

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, who yesterday sent a letter to top federal officials declaring that the Gem State won’t take any of the unaccompanied minors who arrived illegally at the southern border as part of a surge of tens of thousands, wasn’t happy about the report. “Assuming this report is true, HHS has not provided any information  about this nor did it go through any of the established channels  to inform the Governor’s Office that this was happening,” Otter’s press secretary, Jon Hanian, said in an email.

“We are working now to determine the veracity of this report. Should it prove to be true, it underscores the importance of the letter the governor released yesterday putting the federal government on notice, that Idaho will not be used as a staging area or a destination for the crisis the federal government has created. Just as troubling is the fact that they are ignoring states and the impacts associated with placing these undocumented migrants without the knowledge or consent of state governments.”

The report cited by the AP said 269 children from the border surge have come to Northwest states between Jan. 1 and July 7 of this year – 211 to sponsors in Washington, 50 to sponsors in Oregon and eight to sponsors in Idaho. The U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement has the data posted here. Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber released a statement saying his state welcomes the children and that the border surge was a reminder of Congress’ failure to enact immigration reform. “These children are fleeing their homelands because of overwhelming violence and economic hardship, and they do not deserve to become political fodder,” Kitzhaber said.

Jaime Smith, spokeswoman for Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, said today, “There are more than 200 children who have been placed with sponsors in Washington state. These are children who have seen and experienced traumatic violence and disruption in their communities. The federal government has identified care givers, some of whom are family members, who have agreed to take these children in. This is clearly an improvement over holding children in detention facilities. Our state will provide the support and services they need as they await their court proceedings.”

Two new Idaho GOP chair hopefuls emerge in two days

Two new candidates for Idaho Republican Party chairman have emerged in the past two days: Cassia County Republican Chairman Douglas Pickett, and former Dick Cheney aide and three-year Idaho Falls resident Steve Yates. This comes as the party is headed to court in a lawsuit filed by its last elected chairman, Barry Peterson, who maintains he’s still in charge despite the failure of the June state party convention to elect anyone as state party chair; while other party leaders have scheduled a state Central Committee meeting for Aug. 2 to choose new leaders, Peterson’s called a competing meeting for Aug. 9.

He’s asking a judge to declare his meeting the legitimate one, though those endorsing the Aug. 2 meeting date so far have included Gov. Butch Otter, Sen. Jim Risch, Congressman Mike Simpson, and the legal counsel for the Republican National Committee, who advised the RNC that the Aug. 2 meeting’s choice would be the legitimate chairman.

Idaho Statesman columnist Dan Popkey reports today that Pickett has been a party activist for 14 years, serving as a precinct committeeman, youth committeeman and state committeeman. In 2012, he ran unsuccessfully against Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, in the primary, garnering 44 percent of the vote; Popkey’s full report is online here.

Yates said he’s spent 24 years working public policy issues at the federal level and moved his family and business, D.C. International Advisory, to Idaho Falls in 2011; he’s a regular analyst on Fox News. Yates ran unsuccessfully against Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Idaho Falls, in the May primary, losing narrowly with 48.9 percent of the vote.

Feds never asked Idaho to take captured immigrant kids; Otter was acting ‘pre-emptively’

Asked if Idaho has been contacted by federal officials about housing or staging unaccompanied minor immigrants captured at the southern border up north here in the Gem State, Gov. Butch Otter’s press secretary, Jon Hanian, responded, “The short answer is no.”

“We have not received any information to suggest that undocumented UAM immigrants are headed this way nor have we heard that Idaho will be a destination,” Hanian said in an email. “However, the governor felt it was important to act preemptively on this issue in an effort to avoid the kind of chaos that the federal government has forced on a multitude of other states where illegal immigrants have been brought in without the knowledge or consent of those states.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com

Otter fires off letter to feds saying Idaho won’t take any immigrant kids captured at southern border

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter today fired off a letter to three top federal officials declaring that he wants “to immediately eliminate the chance of the federal government using Idaho as a destination or a staging area for the influx of unaccompanied and illegal immigrants entering the United States through our southern border.” There was no indication that Idaho – which borders Canada, not Mexico – had been targeted for any such use; the governor’s office didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry about that.

Otter, in a letter he also copied to the four members of the state’s congressional delegation, wrote, “It should be understood that the State of Idaho and its subdivisions will not be actively involved in addressing the humanitarian crisis the federal government has created. Idaho will not open itself to the unwelcome challenges with which other states have struggled at the federal government’s hands.” You can read Otter’s full letter here.

Otter’s letter was addressed to U.S. Health & Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services director Leon Rodriguez. 

Peterson says he’s filed lawsuit against GOP officials

Embattled state GOP Chairman Barry Peterson announced today that he and six backers have filed a lawsuit in state district court in Twin Falls County, challenging the state GOP central committee meeting that's been set for Aug. 2 by petition of several counties' delegations to pick new state party leaders. The lawsuit targets Mike Mathews and Cindy Siddoway, whom Peterson termed “the two party members who illegally issued a call for a special meeting of the State Central Committee while unilaterally declaring that all state party offices were vacant.”

“It is with great regret that we have had to take this legal action to enforce state party rules,” Peterson said in a statement. “Since June 12, 2014, much effort has been put forth to sit down with Gov. Otter to resolve this issue. With no response from the governor, this action is necessary to uphold the integrity of the party and the party Rules.” Click below for his full statement. Peterson called for a meeting of the same body on Aug. 9. While he maintains he's still the state party chairman, others say his term ended after two years when this year's state party convention ended in disarray, without any votes on leaders, resolutions or a party platform. Instead, factions within the party spent the entire convention fighting over whether or not to allow several counties' delegations to participate. The Idaho Statesman has posted Peterson's complaint here.

Balukoff offers 3-1 match for donors to his campaign against Otter

A.J. Balukoff, the Democratic candidate for governor of Idaho, is matching contributions to his campaign by putting in $3 for every $1 donated this month, Idaho Statesman political columnist Dan Popkey reports today. Balukoff’s pledge is credible because the multimillionaire businessman can afford it – and he said when he announced his candidacy against two-term GOP Gov. Butch Otter that he was willing to dip into his own funds to help finance his campaign.

“I know that pay-to-pay politics will put my opponent at a financial advantage, but I was surprised to find out how slanted it is,” Popkey reported Balukoff said in a fundraising pitch sent out to supporters this week, headed, “Jump in July: TRIPLE MATCH!” Balukoff told Popkey, “I think it’s important that this race be competitive and that we talk about issues. People pay attention when they realize there’s a viable alternative to Gov. Otter.” Popkey’s full report is online here.

Idaho’s year-end budget surplus: $44.4M

Year-end state tax revenue figures announced yesterday showed that Idaho ended up with $7.2 million more than expected at the end of the fiscal year June 30, but the state actually has a significantly larger budget surplus than that. Here’s why: This year’s state budget didn’t call for spending all the tax revenue the state expected to collect. Instead, $36 million was transferred to various budget stabilization funds, and another $44.4 million was left unspent, creating a year-end balance or surplus.

The monthly Budget and Revenue Monitor from the Legislature’s budget staff lays out the figures; you can see it here. It shows the ending balance, or surplus, at the end of fiscal year 2014 at $44.4 million, $17.6 million higher than was anticipated at the close of this year’s legislative session.

Factors pushing the number higher, aside from the increased revenue collections, are year-end reversions of unspent money from various state agencies, including $6.4 million from the Catastrophic Health Care Program due to lower than anticipated costs; $5.9 million from other agencies; and $1.6 million in other year-end adjustments, all adding to the surplus. (If you’re doing the math, the Legislature’s budget figures already counted part of the $7.2 million based on revenue reports that came in before the Legislature adjourned; so by its calculation, the additional year-end boost from revenues was $3.6 million beyond expectations rather than $7.2 million.)

When lawmakers return to town in January, they’ll need to act on a series of deficiency warrants largely consisting of $17.5 million for firefighting costs; that would still leave more than $26 million from the surplus. An additional reversion from Medicaid also is expected to boost the total in August or September.

CdA had highest score for crisis center, but lost out due to local lawmakers’ opposition

Coeur d’Alene actually had the highest score in the competition for a state mental health crisis center by a slim margin, Coeur d’Alene Press reporter Taryn Thompson reports today, but lost out to Idaho Falls because North Idaho lawmakers didn’t support the project. North Idaho Reps. Kathy Sims, Vito Barbieri, and Ron Mendive and Sen. Bob Nonini all voted against SB 1352, which passed the House 28-6 and the Senate 53-14 and sought to establish three of the centers. JFAC approved funding for just one in the first year, putting three locations – Coeur d’Alene, Idaho Falls and Boise – in competition for it.

Thompson reported that the Department of Health & Welfare scored the competing proposals, then worked with the governor’s office to make the final choice. “The fact that a majority of legislators in eastern Idaho wanted the project helped in the final decision,” Otter’s press secretary, Jon Hanian, told the Press; he cited a “proven level of legislative support in eastern Idaho.”

You can read Thompson’s full report here; she obtained the scoring data through a public records request under the Idaho Public Records Act. Over the weekend, Thompson reported on the magnitude of the mental health crisis in North Idaho that had local officials hoping for funding for a 24-hour crisis center; see that report here. Letters in support of the Coeur d’Alene crisis center were signed by the county commissions and sheriffs of all five North Idaho Panhandle counties.

Barbieri told Thompson that law enforcement and others don’t need to “panic or specifically worry.” He said, “If it turns out that there's as dire a need here as opposed to somewhere else in the state, they'll get it. … Of course, with a bureaucrat, they all need it right away.”

When a past Idaho governor wanted his own state party chairman, he got him…

Idaho Statesman political columnist Dan Popkey cornered a half-dozen people for video remembrances at former Idaho Gov. John V. Evans’ funeral last week, and came up with this interesting anecdote: When Evans, a Democrat, became governor in 1977, he wanted – and got – his own man as state party chairman. It’s a relevant tale as current Gov. Butch Otter has been bedeviled by the fight over the chairmanship of his party, the Republicans.

Popkey reports that Evans simply asked then-Democratic Party Chairman John Greenfield for his resignation. Greenfield told Popkey he replied, “Why should I do that?” The governor looked him in the eye and said, “Because I’m governor and you’re not.” Popkey reports that Greenfield mulled it over and consulted with his dad, also a former state party chairman, who advised him, “You’d better do that, kid. If you don’t do that and he loses the election, they’re never going to forgive you.” Popkey’s report is online here, along with six video remembrances. “It was just common sense,” Greenfield told Popkey. “That's what he wanted and he was governor and that was it.”

Otter has been feuding with a faction of his own party since it dislodged his choice for chairman, Kirk Sullivan, in 2008; now, depending on which side you believe, the party either has no chairman, or former Chairman Barry Peterson continues to hold the office because the party’s disastrous state convention failed to even hold votes on leaders, resolutions or a party platform. Party leaders aligned with Otter have called a state central committee meeting for Aug. 2 to fill the vacancy; Peterson has called a state central committee meeting for Aug. 9 for the same purpose. The Republican National Committee has blessed the Aug. 2 meeting and said its selection will be the officially recognized leader.

Tax-protesting Idaho GOP delegate says we’re seeing ‘growing pains of a revitalized party’

Hari Heath, a Benewah County delegate to the tumultuous Idaho State Republican Party convention in Moscow last month, opines in an op-ed piece today about the convention, which ended in disarray with no votes on leadership, resolution or a party platform: “These are the growing pains of a revitalized party worthy of the public’s participation.” Adds Heath, “The Otters, Clarks, Rischs and Loebs of the elite have lost the heart and soul of the Republican Party because corruption and cronyism is no longer assembled. The assembled body of the Republican people has spoken.” The full op-ed piece, published in the Idaho Statesman today, is online here.

Heath and his wife, owners of logging and archery businesses in Santa, filed an unsuccessful lawsuit in 1998 against the Idaho State Tax Commission after the Heaths failed to file or pay state income taxes in 1995 and 1996; they contended they lived in the “Republic of Idaho” and the Tax Commission had no authority over them. They lost; the state Court of Appeals rejected their appeal in 2000. Heath also went to court to mount a lengthy fight against charges of failure to purchase a driver’s license or register his car; a jury found him guilty and his appeals were unsuccessful. Heath's piece in the Statesman ran under the headline, “Integrity matters to Idaho Republicans, who stand firm.”

RNC counsel: Whoever is elected Idaho GOP chairman at Aug. 2 meeting will be ‘full voting member’ of RNC

John R. Phillippe Jr., chief counsel for the Republican National Committee, has sent a memo headed “Update on Idaho GOP Chairmanship Vacancy” to RNC Chairman Rance Priebus, saying the Idaho Republican Party’s central committee meeting on Aug. 2 will fill the vacancy for state party chairman, and will comply with party rules. Embattled state Chairman Barry Peterson has called a competing meeting for Aug. 9. “Mr. Peterson has no authority to call such a meeting since, as I advised earlier, he is no longer the state party chairman,” Phillippe wrote. “In any case, the meeting in Boise on August 2nd is the properly called meeting. If someone is elected chairman at the meeting, he or she will be eligible to attend the RNC Summer Meeting as a full voting member of the RNC.”

A week ago, Peterson sent out a press release calling on Idaho Gov. Butch Otter to select a single date and bring the party together, saying “one phone call” from the governor would straighten things out. Otter subsequently announced support for the Aug. 2 date, and Sen. Jim Risch and Congressman Mike Simpson chimed in with their support.

Click below for Phillippe’s full memo. The question over the party's leadership arose after the state party convention in Moscow last month ended in disarray, without any elections on leaders, resolutions or a party platform; instead, delegates spent the two days squabbling over whether to seat various counties' delegations, before giving up in disgust. Peterson maintained afterward that he was still chairman, but his opponents said his term ended after two years and the party was left with no chairman.

Risch, Simpson chime in with Otter’s call for Aug. 2 Idaho GOP meeting on leadership

Idaho GOP Sen. Jim Risch and 2nd District GOP Congressman Mike Simpson have now chimed in with Gov. Butch Otter’s call for a state Republican Party central committee meeting on Aug. 2, one of two dueling dates that have been set for the party to figure out who’s in charge and what comes next.

Both Risch and Simpson said the party needs unity; in a joint statement from their re-election campaigns issued late Tuesday, Risch said party officials should “respect the date the Members have chosen and the selection of officers they make on that date,” and Simpson said, “Aug. 2nd has been selected and I encourage all members of the Republican State Central Committee to convene in Boise to scrutinize each candidate’s qualifications and duly elect state party leaders.” You can read their joint statement here.

On Monday, embattled GOP Chairman Barry Peterson called on Otter to lead the party to unity by selecting a single date; Peterson had set a central committee meeting for Aug. 9, while his opponents, including several party delegations who petitioned for the meeting, set it for Aug. 2. Peterson said he'd chosen the Aug. 9 date because the Aug. 2 date interfered with a 40-year tradition in his family, but that another mutually agreeable date could be set. Peterson had maintained he was still the party chairman after the state GOP convention last month ended in disarray with no elections on leaders, resolutions or a party platform, but others said his term ended in June and the party was without a state chairman.

Otter calls Peterson statement ‘a welcome sign, because they were all calling on me to stay out of it earlier’

Asked today about embattled GOP Chairman Barry Peterson’s announcement yesterday that “one phone call from Gov. Otter is all it would take to end the current division” in the party, calling on Otter to set a new date to replace two dueling dates now set for party central committee meetings to figure out who’s in charge and what comes next, Otter said, “Well, I’ve gotta get a hold of Barry and find out to whom I have to make that call.”

The GOP governor said, “I’ve made some promises to some folks that depending upon the outcome of the phone call, that I’m going to have to at least go back to those folks and make sure that they’ll release me of those agreements. And one is that I’d stay out of it, that I would not choose a candidate. They wanted a grass-roots candidate, I said that’s fine by me.”

Idaho’s state GOP convention ended in disarray last month without any votes on a new chairman, platform, or resolutions, as attendees battled over whether several counties’ delegations should be allowed to participate. Peterson maintains he’s still chairman, but others say his term has ended and the party has no chairman now.

Party rules say the state Central Committee can fill a vacancy, but two competing dates have been set for such a meeting - Aug. 2, set by opponents of Peterson, and Aug. 9, set by Peterson. “I’ll be more than happy to pick a date,” Otter said today, “but I want to know what the chances are of success. You know, if we can come together on the 2nd or the 9th or the 5th or whenever, I’m more than happy to do that. But like I said, I’ve gotta know who to call.” UPDATE: Later on Tuesday, Otter posted a statement on his campaign website saying, “I support the proposal for an August 2 meeting of the Central Committee to choose an Idaho Republican Chairman and put the confusion and uncertainty behind us.”

Asked about Peterson’s call yesterday for Otter to “use his leadership position to insist that one meeting be held for the purposes of reuniting the party,” the governor said, “Well, that’s a welcome sign, and I appreciate that, because they were all calling on me to stay out of it earlier.”

Otter rips Balukoff over Hobby Lobby ruling, Balukoff responds

In addition to the official statement Gov. Butch Otter sent out yesterday lauding the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, Otter also sent out another rather different statement from his campaign – sharply attacking his Democratic opponent, A.J. Balukoff, and suggesting Balukoff “would happily go along with Obama’s attempts to repress religious freedom and individual rights.”

Today, Balukoff responded, saying, “By misrepresenting my views, Otter makes one point very clear: He knows he will lose if he tries to run on his own, terrible record.” Click below to read both the Otter campaign statement and Balukoff’s response.