Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eye On Boise

GOP state committee woman: ‘Stop hiding behind the Republican banner’

Ann Wheeler, a longtime GOP activist and Republican Party state committee woman from Power County, has sent out an op-ed piece to Idaho newspapers decrying the tactics of the tea party wing of the Idaho Republican Party, saying longtime GOP stalwarts like herself are wrongly being branded as “RINOs,” or Republicans in Name Only.

In addition to her current service on the Idaho Republican Party Central Committee, Wheeler has volunteered on numerous GOP campaigns over the years, including serving as the Power County chairman for President George W. Bush’s campaign in 2000. Her husband, former Sen. Ralph "Moon" Wheeler, R-American Falls, served four terms in the Idaho Senate and two in the House. “I challenge the ultraconservatives to gather their hardy band of true believers, stand up, step out, and form their own party,” Ann Wheeler writes. “If they are so sure that their way is the right way, convince the voters to elect them. Stop hiding behind the Republican banner!” Click below for her full article.

Op-ed piece by Ann Wheeler

The "silly season", i.e. the election cycle, is here again.  We are bombarded with political ads, charges and counter charges claiming one thing or another, and are inundated with political mailings. Since most of this in the 2014 primary season is centered on Republican contests, I'll address that.

Two races at the top of the ticket ask us to choose who's conservative, who's liberal, who's in tune with Idaho and who's "out of touch".  Recently there has been a question of "purity" within a wing of the party regarding the qualifications of Republican candidates who wish to run for office, at both the national and state levels.  That ultra conservative wing is commonly referred to as the "Tea Party." Some Legislative races have this purity theme as well.

The Tea Party movement started out as an effort to reduce federal spending and taxes during the economic downturn in 2009. It has expanded to include things that have nothing to do with either spending or taxes. Unfortunately the Idaho Republican platform reflects some of these strange ideas. One is to repeal the 17th Amendment to the US Constitution, (which Idaho's own Sen. William Borah helped pass. It was ratified in 1913). It was in response to the corruption involved with the appointment of William Clark of Montana, who literally bought the US Senate seat. There had been other such cases, and other calls for reform, but the Clark case provided the final impetus.  I know of no one who would willingly give up the right to elect his or her own US Senator, which  the 17th Amendment allows.

Those who do not adhere strictly to the litmus test imposed by the current platform are dubbed "RINO"-Republican In Name Only. You may be a RINO if:

You think that reaching across the aisle to find a solution to a problem is an OK thing to do.

You think that "compromise" is not a dirty word.

You can be pragmatic occasionally, instead of strictly toeing the ideological line.

Of note-Both Sen. Fulcher and Bryan Smith signed on in full with the Republican Platform. Gov. Otter and Rep. Simpson did not, and listed their disagreements with certain planks. In the race for Lt. Governor, Mr. Chmelik agreed with the entire platform. Lt. Gov. Little did not, expressing his disagreements in a letter.  

Also of note-The Republican Party has a primary open only to registered Republicans- a plank in the platform. Sen. Fulcher has invited Democrats to come into the primary and vote for him. Both Gov. Otter and Rep. Simpson opposed the closed primary, as have many in the Republican Party.

I am sure I wear the RINO tag. I resent that, as do many hundreds of other Idahoans. For years, (over 45 in my case) we have contributed money, and time by doing the grunt work in the trenches, going door to door for candidates, manning booths at fairs, bundling campaign materials, setting out signs, collecting those signs in a timely manner, and a myriad of other campaign tasks, only to be labeled "impure" by those who have decided that the party needs to be purged. Do I agree with all the political decisions made by Rep. Simpson, Gov. Otter, and Lt. Gov. Little? No, I do not. Do I believe in throwing the baby out with the bathwater? No, I do not.

I challenge the ultraconservatives to gather their hardy band of true believers, stand up, step out, and form their own party. If they are so sure that their way is the right way, convince the voters to elect them. Stop hiding behind the Republican banner!


Ann Wheeler

Power County Republican State Committeewoman

American Falls


Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

Follow Betsy online: