BOISE – Amid recriminations and finger-pointing after the weekend’s Idaho GOP state convention debacle, Gov. Butch Otter said Tuesday he was offered a deal that would have allowed the convention to continue if he agreed to endorse his opponent in the primary election as party chairman.
He refused that deal, Otter told The Spokesman-Review.
The convention adjourned Saturday afternoon without voting on a party platform or new chairman, revealing the deep divisions between factions of the Republican Party in Idaho.
The governor said he was contacted in his hotel room in Moscow after midnight last Thursday about a deal, which would have placed the ultraconservative Russ Fulcher in the chairmanship.
Otter defeated Fulcher in the GOP primary in May.
“The agreement that they’d cooked up was if I would agree to endorse Russ Fulcher for chairman, then they would seat the delegates,” Otter said. “I said, ‘Well, wait a minute – you’re making me a majority of one on credentials? They’re either delegates or they’re not delegates.’ ”
Otter said before the convention that he’d be comfortable with Fulcher as the new chairman – or an array of other candidates – if that was the choice of the convention’s delegates.
A dissident group led by conservative GOP activist Rod Beck challenged the credentials of the entire Ada County delegation – the state’s largest at more than 100 people – amid disputes over the selection process, which Beck said excluded prospective candidates including himself. Among those signing on to Beck’s challenge were Fulcher and House Majority Leader Mike Moyle.
Between that and other challenges to delegates’ credentials, the convention never got around to conducting any of its traditional business. The only votes taken were to toss out various delegates, before participants, weary of repeated disputes and parliamentary procedure challenges, voted in disgust to simply adjourn.
If the delegate selection was improper as some charged, Otter said, “How can you make it legitimate just by making a deal?”
Now, it’s unclear whether the party has a chairman or not. Previous Chairman Barry Peterson says he’s still chairman. But a legal opinion offered to the Idaho GOP by attorney Jason Risch, son of U.S. Sen. Jim Risch, found that the chairman’s term automatically ends at the convention, and the party’s officer positions are now vacant.
Peterson told The Spokesman-Review on Tuesday that he’s requested another legal opinion from attorney Christ Troupis.
“I’m adopting the position that was tendered at the convention when the motion for adjournment was made,” Peterson said.
The convention chairman, U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador, conferred with parliamentarians and announced that the result of voting for adjournment would be that officers, platform planks and resolutions would stay as-is for the next two years.
“Overwhelmingly, the vote was carried,” Peterson said. “Everybody got to vote on it there at the convention.”