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Wednesday, July 8, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Idaho

Politics prompts Idaho Fish and Game chairman to quit

UPDATED: Sat., May 30, 2020

By Eric Barker Lewiston Tribune

LEWISTON – Idaho Fish and Game Commission Chairman Jerry Meyers won’t seek a second term on the board, saying he has grown tired of not being able to participate in Republican primary elections.

In doing so, Meyers became the second commissioner in the past year whose service has come to an early end because of the confluence of Idaho’s law requiring no more than four members of a single party serve on the Fish and Game Commission and closed Republican primary elections.

Meyers, of the tiny town of North Fork near Salmon, has served on the commission for four years and was appointed by then-Gov. Butch Otter as an independent, or unaffiliated, meaning he is neither a Republican nor Democrat. His current term expires at the end of June.

The statute limiting the commission to four members of a single party led many Republican governors to sometimes select unaffiliated commissioners rather than choose Democrats. But that practice became more difficult in 2012, when the Idaho Republican Party closed its primary elections to all but registered Republicans. In deeply conservative Idaho, the Republican primary is viewed by political observers as the default election for many state and local races. Sitting it out means missing out on the opportunity to help choose who will ultimately serve in both local and statewide positions.

Meyers said in an email to his fellow commissioners he can no longer sit on the sidelines.

“I agreed to be unaffiliated for four years in order to comply with the statute and have diligently abided by that commitment,” he wrote. “During the last four years I realized how important it is to be a part of selecting the candidates that will govern us. I cannot give up my voting rights for another four years with an unaffiliated declaration, nor can I say in good conscience that I am a Democrat.”

Meyers said the resignation of Brad Melton, of Lewiston, did not influence his feelings on the matter. Melton was appointed to the commission by Gov. Brad Little last September. He opted to step down in January when state Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, raised his history of voting in closed Republican primary elections prior to his appointment.

Meyers also noted because of the restrictions on meetings and social gatherings associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, he has become comfortable using remote meeting software such as Zoom. He anticipates using the software in his mediation business and said doing so will allow him to spend winters in Arizona.

“The sportspeople deserve a commissioner who will be available locally to address their concerns and attend their meetings. I could not feasibly fulfill that responsibility if we were in Arizona,” he wrote.

Meyers’ decision not to apply for a second term will mean Little has two seats to fill on the commission. Little has yet to fill the seat vacated by Melton. It could also fuel legislation championed during the 2020 legislative session that sought to end the political party affiliation requirement. A bill pushed by Rep. Paul Shepherd, R-Riggins, that would have ended the practice passed the House but stalled in the Senate.

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