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Eye On Boise

‘Realm of chaos’: Idaho presidential ballot to show different Constitution Party nominee than other states

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BOISE – Never mind that the national Constitution Party has nominated Darrell Castle of Tennessee as its presidential candidate. When Idaho voters go to the polls in November, they’ll see the Rev. Scott Copeland of Texas on the line for the Constitution Party’s nominee.

Copeland won Idaho’s first-ever Constitution Party presidential primary in March, taking 51.5 percent of the 485 votes cast. The second-place finisher in that state contest, J.R. Myers of Alaska, is on Idaho’s ballot as Copeland’s running mate.

But Idaho was the only state that actually held a Constitution Party primary. Utah held county caucuses for the conservative third party; it split its delegates between Copeland and Castle. The rest of the states simply sent delegations to the party’s national convention in Salt Lake City, where Castle was nominated after a “Draft Darrell Castle” movement was launched.

Castle didn’t run in Idaho’s primary, nor did he come to the state to campaign or participate in the state party’s first-ever presidential debate in Boise in February, which drew three hopefuls – Copeland, Myers, and Patrick Anthony Ockander of Texas.

“Mr. Castle is the insider, or the party elite or the establishment, if you will, in the Constitution Party,” said Floyd Whitley, state party chairman for Idaho. “He apparently did not believe he needed to compete in Idaho, because it was his party, so to speak.”

Castle said Friday that just as he’d planned to launch his campaign late last summer, he was diagnosed with melanoma and had multiple surgeries, followed by various complications. “That whole thing took me on into March, and in the meantime, I had withdrawn from the race because I didn’t know what situation I was going to be in.” The deadline to file for the Idaho primary was Dec. 9. “I missed it,” he said.

His wife and campaign manager, Joan Castle, said he got a clean bill of health in March, and “people wanted him to run - so that’s what happened.”

Castle was the Constitution Party’s vice-presidential nominee in 2008 when Chuck Baldwin was the presidential candidate, and served three terms as vice-chairman of the national party.

 “The selection process is faulty,” Whitley declared. “You cannot operate a representative party this way, by declaring in secret selection committees, and that’s how they do it, or how they have. That defies the Constitution right there.”

Under Idaho state law, the presidential nominee certified by the state chairman is the one who goes on the ballot. “We accepted that as their candidate,” said Betsie Kimbrough, state elections director in the Idaho Secretary of State’s office.

Castle’s campaign also contacted the Secretary of State’s office, and requested an analysis of whether he could get on Idaho’s ballot as an independent. Secretary of State Lawerence Denney ruled that if Castle followed the requirements for an independent candidate – filing a declaration of candidacy and turning in at least 1,000 valid signatures of Idaho electors by Aug. 25 – he could be listed as an independent.

“I believe he is gathering signatures – I’ve heard from a couple of counties,” Kimbrough said. But none have been turned in to the state yet.

Castle said Friday that he expects to make the deadline to run in Idaho as an independent. “That effort is very close – I have every reason to believe that we’ll make it,” he said.

He said it was a “great disappointment to me” that Idaho wouldn’t put him on its ballot. “I’m trying to save the country,” he said. “This campaign is not about me personally; it’s about the principles that I uphold. I’m out here trying to tell people that the Constitution is in danger and the rule of law is in danger.”

Castle said he’s now on the ballot in 22 states, and is working on more.

But Whitley said, “People in Idaho, they deserve an opportunity to say who their candidate is, not just have the party machinery tell them, ‘Oh, you’re just going to vote for this guy.’”

In the last presidential election in 2012, Constitution Party candidate Virgil Goode took 0.3 percent of the vote in Idaho – half as much as Dr. Jill Stein, the Green Party nominee, who ran as an independent because her party doesn’t have ballot status in Idaho. She took 0.7 percent.

Whitley said Castle had “every opportunity” to compete in Idaho. “We encouraged him – I’ve got emails to prove it.”

He said, “When your own guys are advocating how they want to follow the rules in the Constitution, and then they do this kind of stuff, you don’t have anyone standing up for doing what is right. … It’s got to be stopped if these guys want to be a legitimate national party.”

Idaho’s Constitution Party had its own internal dustup two years ago, when the party’s state convention rejected its own candidate for governor, Steve Pankey, over his support for same-sex marriage. However, Pankey remained on the ballot as the party’s nominee; there was no statutory provision for removing him. Pankey received 5,219 votes for governor – 1.2 percent.

Idaho’s Constitution Party now has 2,392 registered voters, according to records in the Secretary of State’s office.

Whitley, a retired forester and soil scientist from Idaho County, said glumly, “When you get into third party, you’re getting into a realm of chaos.”

Eye On Boise

News, happenings and more from the Idaho Legislature and the state capital.