A struggle for control of the Stevens County Republican Party has produced the largest number of precinct committee officer candidates that election officials can remember.
Ninety-eight candidates are running for 53 positions. In most of the 45 contested precincts, there are two candidates: one supported by mainstream conservatives and one that presumably represents the party’s right wing.
The split came into sharp focus in March when County Commissioner Allan Mack died and the Republican Party had to nominate a successor. Suddenly the county faced the possibility that Commissioner J.D. Anderson, a far-right constitutionalist, could gain an ally on the three-member commission.
Some people, including conservatives, worried the county might be plunged into costly and futile battles over state and federal regulations.
The party was almost evenly split between traditional conservatives who focus on economic issues and conservatives who focus on religious and social issues.
Religious conservatives had just dominated the party convention by turning out for the caucuses that others shunned. But the traditionalists maintained a slender majority in precinct committee officers and nominated a slate of like-minded candidates for Mack’s replacement. Their top choice, Fred Lotze, was appointed.
The Nov. 5 precinct committee officer elections will decide which side controls the party for the next year.
Two leaders of the party’s religious right, Chris Hoops and Dan Eby, said they support Lotze now. They said the real issue dividing the party is former chairman Wayne McMorris.
In a letter to the Colville Statesman-Examiner, Hoops called McMorris - a fellow precinct committee officer who is father of state Rep. Cathy McMorris - the party’s “Boss Hog.” McMorris is a power broker who is afraid of losing his grip on the party, according to Hoops, who has emerged as an informal spokesman for the dissidents.
McMorris is equally critical of his opponents.
“They want to reconstruct society according to the Bible, the way they interpret it,” McMorris said. “These people exclude everybody. They call themselves Christians, but they won’t even speak to you.”
Party Chairman Greg Simon said McMorris “may be a little loud” with his criticism, but the dispute is a clash of ideologies more than personalities.
“Basically, I see the people on the right wanting to impose a very conservative line, even more conservative than what (Republican gubernatorial candidate Ellen) Craswell is doing,” said Simon, a Colville Junior High School English teacher.
Hoops said he doesn’t know of anyone in Stevens County’s religious right who wants to force his views on others. “You are allowed to persuade, though, aren’t you?” he said.
Simon believes the persuasion goes too far: “They’ve gone so far as to say that, if you don’t support some issues that they view in religious terms, such as pro-life, then you can’t be a Republican.”
If the right wing has its way, Eby may be the next party chairman. He conducts a Bible study in his Daisy-area home along the Columbia River and is one of three district leaders responsible for organizing party meetings.
“Our faction, if you want to call it that, backed him (a year ago) and we still do,” Hoops said.
Hoops operates a religious bookstore in Colville that caters to home-schoolers. He schools his children in the store and leads a Bible study there on Sunday mornings.
Eby and Hoops said their dispute with more moderate Republicans has nothing to do with J.D. Anderson - even though they like some things about him.
“The other ones (commissioners) have been spending our money like it’s going out of style,” Hoops said.
“We are not anarchists,” Hoops said. “But I must tell you I can’t speak for everybody. There may be some anarchists in our midst.”
He said he doesn’t know any militia members, though.
The Republican right supported former County Commissioner John Hodde for the appointment to replace Mack, Hoops said. Hodde has a long association with the county’s religious right and admits to a “libertarian streak,” but his rhetoric focuses overwhelmingly on cutting the county budget, not social issues.
Lotze defeated Hodde almost 2-1 in the September primary, but Hoops thinks the election was skewed by Democrats who voted as Republicans.
Hoops recently stated on the World Wide Web that he is leaving the Republican Party because it “no longer represents the heart and soul of America who love both God and country.”
He now says the remark, made while urging Pat Buchanan to run for president under the U.S. Taxpayers Party banner, was premature.
But, he said, “If the Stevens County party decides to go moderate and leave the roots of the traditional Republican Party, then I will resign.”
What’s wrong with moderation?
“All of these new things that come up that tend toward socialism, that’s moderate,” Hoops said.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: PRECINCT PICKS Leaders of the Stevens County Republican Party’s right wing declined to identify their choices for precinct committee officers. Here are the candidates who are endorsed by mainstream Republicans: Addy precinct: Luke Baumann; Arden 1, Marlyn Ballain; Arden 2, George Paccerelli; Camas precinct, Jean Bell; Chewelah 1, Jewel Ziehen; Chewelah 2, Joan Gerdes; Chewelah 3, Bobbie Jo Gardner; Clayton 2, Todd Heaton. Columbia: Pete Guglielmino; Colville 1, Carroll Whitten; Colville 2, Greg Simon; Colville 3, Wendell Widdowson; Colville 4, Jeff Pitts; Colville 5, Dee McMillan; Colville 6, David B. Hubbard; Colville 7, Ann Berger; Colville Valley, Scott Barr; Daisy, Gene Wilden ; Echo, Blanche Estep; Evans, Vern Daeley ; First Thought, James Smiley. Hunters: Gerrie Dale; Kelly Hill, Patricia Durpos; Kettle Falls 1, Donna Kent; Kettle Falls 2, Leonard Porath; Loon Lake 1, Jack Ranck; Marcus, Fred Frostad; Meyers Falls 1, Delores “Doll” Linton; Meyers Falls 2, Wayne McMorris; Mill Creek, Gloria McDonald; Narcisse, Connie Cada; Northport, Wesley Sell. Orin 1: Ann Coffman; Orin 2, John Goldsmith; Quartzite 1, Alma Johnson; Quartzite 2, Ann Trampush ; Rice, Simon Abeid; Rock Cut, Linda Morton; Springdale, Ina Matherly. Tum Tum 1: Ruth Hempel. Tum Tum 2: Mike McGinnis; Tum Tum 4, Lynn Wells; Valley 1, Ray O’Neal; Valley 2, Joseph Beity; Walkers Prairie, Rick Bade; Williams Valley, Don Horton.