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Eye on Boise: Ada County GOP chair defends cardboard cutout

A cardboard cutout appearing to show President Donald Trump holding Hillary Clinton in a chokehold has drawn criticism in Ada County. (Courtesy of Diana Lachiondo)

Ryan Davidson, Ada County Republican Central Committee chairman, says he doesn’t understand all the fuss over the Donald Trump-Hillary Clinton cardboard cutout he put up at the GOP booth at the Western Idaho Fair.

The cutout, which showed Trump holding a startled Clinton in a headlock and appearing to choke her, prompted calls on social media to take it down, both from Republicans and Democrats. GOP Ada County Commission candidate Sharon Ullman said she asked that it be removed.

“The first thing I saw was her Facebook post,” Davidson said. “And then I took it down, after I got subsequent calls from other Republicans.”

The cutout was displayed at the GOP booth at the fair from Friday night, Aug. 24, to Saturday afternoon, Aug. 25, when it was taken down and put away, but still brought out for booth visitors who wanted to have their pictures taken with it outside the booth.

Among those taking issue with the display were Ullman and Democratic Ada County Commission hopeful Diana Lachiondo, both of whom called it inappropriate and said it appeared to promote violence against women.

Davidson said he heard from lots people who were upset about the cutout, and deemed it “tacky and juvenile.”

He said he ordered it from a website that had “every cutout in the world,” and picked that one because “I thought it was the funniest.”

“I still don’t think there was anything wrong with that cutout,” Davidson said late last week. “I think it was funny and it’s satirical. I think they’re trivializing violence when they make that comparison.”

He added, “I think it’s just an example of the hyper-polarized nature of our political system that stuff that would’ve gone in the past, 10 years ago … we get a blowback on it.”

Davidson was appointed Ada County GOP chair in January and elected to a full term this past spring; he’s been a GOP precinct committeeman since 2010. Prior to becoming active in the Republican Party, Davidson chaired the Libertarian Party of Idaho, and pushed pro-marijuana local ballot initiatives in Hailey. He also founded and chairs Idahoans for Liberty.

When he won his current party post, Davidson declared on Twitter: “I’m the newly-elected Ada County Republican Central Committee Chairman. Stay tuned for an all new, all different Ada County GOP!”

Warbis moves to tax commission

Mark Warbis, former communications director for Gov. Butch Otter, is now the public information director for the Idaho State Tax Commission, replacing Doreen Warren, who retired after three decades with the agency. Warren, formerly the revenue operations manager for the tax commission, headed up the taxpayer resource unit that was created in a reorganization several years ago to focus on customer service.

“She took that and helped shape that,” said Ken Roberts, tax commission chairman. “And then Mark applied, and he had, I thought and the commissioners thought, some really good vision about what kind of customer service and outreach we should have. So we took advantage of his talents, and he’s doing great.”

Warbis started his new position July 30; his salary is $91,000 a year.

He’s not being replaced at the governor’s office; instead, press secretary and spokesman Jon Hanian has been promoted to communications director in addition to his other duties.

Endorsements, endorsements

Endorsements announced this week in Idaho state races include Paulette Jordan being endorsed in her Democratic bid for governor by Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii and by Boise Mayor Dave Bieter; Janice McGeachin endorsed in her Republican bid for lieutenant governor by former Idaho GOP Lt. Gov. David Leroy; Kristin Collum endorsed in her Democratic bid for lieutenant governor by Conservation Voters of Idaho; and Cindy Wilson endorsed in her Democratic bid for state superintendent of schools by the Idaho Education Association.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.