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Eye On Boise

Otter says he rejected deal to seat delegates in exchange for his endorsing Fulcher for chairman

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter says he was contacted in his hotel room in Moscow after midnight Thursday night about a deal to resolve the split over the GOP party chairmanship at the tumultuous state party convention that concluded Saturday. “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 told Eye on Boise today. “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.’”

The governor said, “I made about five phone calls back.” Otter said he spoke with Mike Moyle, Bart Davis, Scott Bedke and Doug Sayer. He said he concluded, “I couldn’t tell those delegates who to vote for, and I couldn’t bargain away that democratic process that we were trying to provide for with the selection of delegates.”

Otter added, “There were all kinds of things going around, but the only deal they asked me about was the one I just described. … I responded back to everybody that called me, and said I had a real problem with being a majority of one on the credentials committee.” If the delegate selection was improper as some charged, he said, “How can you make it legitimate just by making a deal?”

As to what should happen next, Otter said, “I think we ought to follow the rules. My understanding is the rules say the chairman of the party is elected for a two-year period from one convention to the next. That’s a term limit.”

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna added, “Yeah, we don’t have a chairman right now.” He said the party also lacks a first and second vice chair now. “What we have is a national committeeman and national committeewoman,” Luna said. “They’re elected to four-year terms. But we do have a central committee.” Said Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, “Right now, it’s in the central committee.”

When Ysursa noted that central committee in normal times wouldn’t meet again until January, Otter said, “Well, this is abnormal times.”  Otter said even if the election of the chairman goes to the central committee, “That’s a lot closer to the grass roots with the precinct people and the delegates deciding that, than they are if the governor hand-picks.”

Meanwhile, the party requested a legal opinion from attorney Jason Risch about the status of its chairman after the failed convention, which bogged down over the question of seating delegates and never did any business, including electing a chairman, passing resolutions or adopting a platform.

Risch’s analysis concluded, “After considerable research and based upon the applicable facts, it is my legal opinion that there is no provision for automatically extending the terms of the officers of the Idaho Republican Party.” So the chairman, vice-chairs, secretary and treasurer positions for the party are now vacant, he found. “The rules provide that the state central committee has the authority to fill vacancies occurring in these offices.” You can read the full analysis here.


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.

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