SANDPOINT – The buzzword at the Idaho Republican Convention is unity, but debate Friday about Ron Paul delegates, whether to oppose legalizing marijuana and when to go to war reflected the party’s diversity.
The state Nomination Committee unanimously voted to select six Paul delegates and six alternates to attend the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis in September. The full convention is likely to ratify the decision today. There will be 17 John McCain delegates and 17 alternates in addition to six at-large delegates and six alternates.
Paul supporters attempted to get a slate nominated as at-large delegates, but failed. Most of their candidates got no votes.
After Paul suspended his campaign Thursday, party chairman Kirk Sullivan said he didn’t believe party rules would allow delegates for a candidate no longer running.
Sullivan said he and other members studied the rules Thursday and decided it’s only fair to nominate Paul delegates.
In the May primary, Paul received 24 percent of the vote, which equates to five delegates.
“In my view these people have clearly earned the right to go to the national convention,” said Blake Hall, chairman of the Nomination Committee and Idaho’s national committeeman.
Meanwhile, the Resolutions Committee debated a proposal to amend the party’s platform to oppose legalizing marijuana, even for medical use.
Delegates voted 21-9 for the measure that Ada County delegate and former Deputy Attorney General Jeremy Chou presented. Delegate Ryan Davidson, former leader of the state Libertarian Party who sponsored three successful marijuana initiatives in Hailey, Idaho, said he wouldn’t float any marijuana resolutions during the convention. “I’m surprised they went the opposite route,” Davidson said of the GOP establishment. “That’s just total propaganda, total company line right there.” Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, wasn’t part of the Resolution Committee discussion, but said he disagrees with the anti-marijuana use measure.
“The resolution had a tone to it I think we need to move away from,” Hart said. “We need to look at each case and consider treatment options. Our jails are filling up and I don’t think it’s really the best way to deal with people who do have a problem with drugs.”
Here’s a look at some of the other resolutions debated, most of which will be discussed by the full convention today.
“Perhaps the most lively debate centered on how war should be declared – whether to give the president nearly unlimited power or strictly follow the Constitution. In the end, the delegates on the Platform Committee voted 22-6 against a plan floated by Paul supporters that would have required a congressional declaration to go to war.
Delegates on the Platform Committee approved a resolution to abolish the Federal Reserve System and that the U.S. dollar should be backed by gold or silver.
“ The same delegates also voted to expand the platform to state that tax reductions should always be accomplished by spending reduction. The measure also asks Republican office-holders to author legislation to eliminate practices such as “earmarking.”
Besides approving the platform, delegates also will decide who will lead the state party, another indication of party diversity. Norm Semanko, an agribusiness lobbyist and 2006 congressional candidate, is challenging Sullivan, who has been chairman since 2004. Sullivan is opposed by social conservatives, Ron Paul supporters and Republicans who want the primary closed so Democrats and Independents have no say in choosing party nominees. So far, Sullivan is backed by the party establishment, including Gov. Butch Otter, who will speak this morning.
Semanko is supported by Schools Superintendent Tom Luna and U.S. Rep. Bill Sali, along with people who want a closed primary.
The convention begins at 9:15 a.m. with Otter’s keynote address.