A Republican lawmaker in North Idaho is in trouble with some county GOP leaders in his district in a sign of growing tension in conservative Idaho politics.
The alleged transgression, according to the Bonner County Republican Central Committee? Siding with the incumbent Republican governor.
The Bonner County Republican Central Committee issued a resolution last month pushing for the removal of state Sen. Jim Woodward, R-Sagle.
The resolution along with Republican Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin’s announcement last month to run against current Gov. Brad Little could lead to a broader rift in the Republican Party ahead of the 2022 election cycle.
The Bonner County committee resolution, which was approved May 16, called for Woodward’s resignation because of his support for Gov. Brad Little’s “anti-freedom agenda.” It also claimed Woodward supported an expansion of government and voted against the Republican Party agenda, according to the Bonner County Daily Bee.
The resolution expresses concern over Woodward’s votes on a bill that would limit the governor’s power during a state of emergency unless there was legislative approval.
Woodward initially voted for the bill but later voted against overriding Little’s veto. In between the initial vote and the veto vote, Woodward told The Spokesman-Review he learned more about the bill. The result signed into law is “something everyone can be comfortable with,” he said.
Woodward said he didn’t want to comment on the resolution itself but added he believed the committee was a minority in these feelings.
“They have a difference of opinions on how we should be running things in state government,” he said.
Each county can have their own central committee that is affiliated with – but separate from – the state Republican party, said Tyler Kelly, director of external affairs at the Idaho Republican Party. If they want to pass their own resolutions, that’s their decision.
“The party is very diverse,” Kelly said. “You see that with a lot of political parties. Our job is to let every voice be heard.”
Statewide, a similar split among the party seems to be growing. McGeachin announced in May plans to run against Little after consistently criticizing Little’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Days later, while Little was out of the state, McGeachin used her power as acting governor to issue an executive order prohibiting any government entity from mandating face masks.
Little rescinded the order the next day.
It was the latest clash between Little, McGeachin and members of the Republican Party, with many voicing frustrations with stay-home orders and local mask mandates.
Kelly said it is not uncommon for politicians to run against people of their own party. There is a process for sorting that out, Kelly said, pointing to the primary election.
“It’s going to be a very exciting primary season,” he said.
Since the tea party movement began in 2009, Woodward said the split among the party continues to grow, and the pandemic and restrictions in place this past year only added to it.
“(The legislative session) was quite contentious,” he said.
In an op-ed for the Coeur d’Alene Press, former Bonners Ferry Mayor Darrell Kerby defended Woodward and criticized the resolution attempting to oust him. He called the authors of it “a group of these newly minted radicals who are trying to co-opt our party.”
Woodward said he believes he votes in line with the Republican platform most of the time. He said he would not be resigning because of the letter.
Almost 22,000 people voted him into office, and a request by 30 people to resign will not make him do so, Woodward said.
“I think it’s more appropriate that I serve in office,” he said.
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