July 18, 2010 in Idaho Voices

Otter not ready to share exceptions to the platform

By The Spokesman-Review

BOISE – Here’s the thing about Gov. Butch Otter’s stand on a GOP platform loyalty oath: Otter doesn’t want to specify where he disagrees with the state party platform before he goes up for re-election in November.

Asked if he’d participate in the party’s new requirement that candidates specify where they depart from the platform, Otter replied, “Nope.”

The party’s provision, approved at the recent state Republican Party convention, actually doesn’t mandate that move until the next primary election, which wouldn’t be until 2012, but its top office-holder’s concerns raise questions about the whole process.

GOP activist Rod Beck, who sponsored the measure after unsuccessfully pushing a similar proposal four years earlier, describes it as a “candidate disclosure” and bristles at the “loyalty oath” description, which he said is “used as a pejorative in a propaganda sense.” However, Beck said, “The last time, Blake Hall called it a litmus test – I didn’t like that either.”

Beck’s provision calls for all Republican candidates to pledge their allegiance to the whole party platform, and if they differ with any of its planks, to specify which ones. The party would publish the candidates’ responses on its website, for all federal, statewide and legislative candidates prior to every primary election. Beck said in his view, it might even help improve the party’s platform – say, if every candidate objected to the same plank, the party might think about changing that one next time.

“I understand the motivation behind that,” Otter said, “but obviously there are things in there that I’d wholeheartedly support and things in there that I can’t.” The question of allegiance to the party platform, he said, “I don’t think can be answered by a single signature.”

Pressed for examples of where he departs from the platform, Otter said he didn’t want to go into specifics. But when reminded that the measure only requires such statements before the next primary election – a year and a half after the November election in which the 68-year-old governor is running for a second four-year term – Otter chuckled, and said, “Before the next primary, I’ll do that.”

No noose, trap door

Online comments on the governor’s take on the loyalty oath included this from former North Idaho lawmaker Gary Ingram: “And who says we are the party of ‘No’? ‘Nope’ is better and I agree with the Gov. It is indeed proper for a political party to establish a ‘foundational platform’ of values and principles for candidates to stand on, and a political party in order to justify its continued existence must be different than another political party. But the platform should not have a trap door below a noose hanging above it.”

What it is

As for the term “loyalty oath,” according to thefreedictionary.com, a loyalty oath is, “An oath that declares an individual’s allegiance to the government and its institutions and disclaims support of ideologies or associations that oppose or threaten the government.” Webster’s Collegiate says loyalty is “the tie binding a person to something to which he is loyal,” and an oath is “a solemn attestation of the truth or inviolability of one’s words.”

Here’s the oath from the party platform: “I support the Idaho Republican Platform and accept it as the standard by which my performance as a candidate and as an officeholder should be evaluated. I certify that I am not a candidate, officer, delegate or position holder in any party other than the Republican Party.” The platform plank also calls on the state party chairman to inform the party at large whether GOP office-holders are adhering to the party platform and resolutions.

‘With exceptions’

Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, said, “I’ve read the platform, and if I decide to sign off, it’s going to be with exceptions.” Asked to name one, he said, “I don’t support repealing the 17th Amendment.” The party platform does; that’s the amendment that calls for direct election of U.S. senators, rather than their appointment by state legislatures. Goedde said there probably would be other items, too, where he’d differ.

Lottery sets record

Idaho’s state lottery has set a seventh consecutive record for the dividend it turns over to the state this year, handing over $36.5 million in lottery profits to the state’s schools and the permanent building fund. It marked the third consecutive year that Idaho Lottery sales have increased.

Asked why he thinks lottery sales have continued to increase despite the economic downturn, Gov. Butch Otter said, “It’s probably the purest form of voluntary taxation. I think people want to support the school system, but they also want to win some money.” And in tough times, winning money may seem more attractive, he said.

Winners should drop out?

It’s apparently becoming fashionable in Idaho politics these days to call on elected GOP nominees who’ve won primary elections to drop out of the general-election race because they’re not deemed Republican enough. First, the Idaho Republican Party at its state convention made such a call regarding longtime Ada County GOP elected official Vern Bisterfeldt, who won the primary in May for the Ada County commission, on which he’d long served earlier; Bisterfeldt is a current Boise city councilman who’s dared to support some Democrats, even serving as campaign treasurer for Democratic Congressman Walt Minnick.

Now, Brian Schad, an independent candidate for the 2nd Congressional District seat, has put out a long and scathing “open letter” to six-term 2nd District Congressman Mike Simpson, accusing him of voting like a Democrat and calling on Simpson to drop out of the race, despite his strong victory in the GOP primary.

“I am asking you to voluntarily part ways with The House and come home to beautiful Idaho,” Schad writes in his open letter. “For the good of the most conservative political state in the Union, Mr. Simpson, please step aside of the race and let others who keep the Constitutional tradition alive compete for your seat.” Simpson won the GOP primary with 58.3 percent of the vote, despite facing three challengers.

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