Both parties use GOP convention to recruit

SUNDAY, JULY 11, 2010

BOISE – It’s hard to imagine two more different takes on the outcome of the recent Idaho Republican Party convention than those in statements issued by state GOP Chairman Norm Semanko and Idaho Democratic Party Chairman Keith Roark – from “positive and inspiring” to “astounding” and “radical.”

Semanko dubbed the Idaho Falls gathering “positive and inspiring,” and wrote, “More than 500 delegates, elected by their peers from across the state, packed the convention hall in Idaho Falls to welcome their candidates and share in a common goal. … Americans – Republicans, Democrats and independents alike – are frustrated and they want to be heard by their elected leaders. As the party of ideas, only the Republican Party has been listening. At our state convention, we embraced these ideals and united behind our candidates statewide.” Semanko titled his statement, “Republican State Convention: Toppling Obama’s Ivory Tower.”

Roark, whose statement was headed, “Idaho Republican Party Finally Leaves Idaho Voters Behind,” said the state’s voters are “astounded at the radical right-hand turn taken by the Idaho Republican Party at its recent state convention.” He blasted platform planks from repealing direct election of U.S. senators to a loyalty oath for candidates to a call for an elected GOP nominee to step down because he also supported some Democrats. “The Republicans proposed measures so far out of the mainstream that Idahoans should be disturbed that they were even considered,” Roark wrote. “If you are tired, irritated and frightened by the right wing extremism of the Idaho Republican Party you are always welcome in our big tent.”

Hemmer out, Hardy in

The Idaho Republican Party has named Phil Hardy its “2010 Victory Director,” a position that will oversee a parallel campaign in favor of Raul Labrador’s challenge to 1st District Democratic Congressman Walt Minnick’s re-election. Just a month earlier, the party had named Lindsay Hemmer to that post, but party executive director Jonathan Parker said Hemmer ended up declining the position just before she was to start on June 8.

Hardy, who’s now on the job, most recently served as communications director for the Idaho Senate majority caucus; he’s also been an aide to Lt. Gov. Brad Little. Previously, Hardy worked in international communications and marketing in New York and London, and was media director for a London-based professional basketball franchise.

The new position of victory director is one of two for which the Idaho GOP secured funding this year from the Republican National Committee to work against Minnick’s re-election; the other is a North Idaho field office head, Jeff Ward.

‘Avoided like the plague’

Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, said he didn’t yet know he was going to chair an ethics committee investigating the conduct of Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, and Hart’s tax woes, when he ran into Hart at the recent state GOP convention in Idaho Falls. “He avoided me like the plague – we said ‘hello’ and that’s it,” Loertscher said.

Loertscher said he realized what was up once he was informed of his new chairmanship later the same day. Said the eastern Idaho lawmaker, who cautioned ethics committee members not to have discussions about the case with Hart while the panel’s deliberations are pending, “It was very appropriate.”

Hill endorses Allred audit plan

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Keith Allred’s plan to audit tax deals between the Idaho Tax Commission and those protesting their payments has been endorsed by the state Senate’s tax committee chairman. Sen. Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, said Allred’s proposal would boost public confidence in the tax system’s fairness while protecting taxpayer privacy.

Allred said an audit panel, created with or without help of the Legislature, would clear up the public’s “cloud of doubt” over whether taxpayers with political clout get special treatment, the AP reported.

Hill, who supports GOP Gov. Butch Otter’s re-election, called Allred’s plan “a great idea.”

Allred outraises, Otter outspends

Once again, Allred has outraised incumbent Otter in the governor’s race, just as Allred did in the previous campaign finance reporting period before the primary. According to the two candidates’ 30-day post-primary reports, from May 10 to June 4, Allred raised $118,861 and spent $58,917, leaving him with $189,995 cash on hand as the general election campaign season opens.

Otter raised $95,969 in the same time period and spent $135,573 – $53,000 of that to one communication consulting firm alone, Mike Tracy Communications – and had $161,532 cash on hand at the close of the period.

Though Otter trailed Allred in fundraising for the period, he spent more than twice as much.

Quicker tickets

The Idaho State Police began using an electronic system to issue traffic citations this month, with the result that the process of writing out a citation for a stopped motorist is dropping from five minutes to less than a minute.

“E-Ticketing will bring vast improvements to a process that hasn’t had any major changes in the past 50 years,” said ISP Capt. Eric Dayley, who’s overseeing the statewide project.

Troopers are using hand-held barcode scanners to input driver’s license and vehicle registration information, the citation is printed out and handed to the driver without need for a signature from the driver, and the citation is transmitted electronically to the computer databases for the courts and ISP.

Dayley said the new system, funded by a $900,000 federal grant last fall, will increase accuracy as well as speeding up the process. “This will result in reduced time on the side of the highway for our troopers and the public, which is safer for both.”


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