Idaho GOP to elect new chair, reconsider loyalty oath
By KIMBERLEE KRUESI
Jul. 18, 2017
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho's top Republican leaders are preparing to gather in the state's most conservative region to elect a new party chair and reinstate a loyalty pledge to the state party platform for candidates in light of the pending 2018 election.
The two-day Idaho GOP summer meeting starts Friday in Coeur d'Alene. Currently, the lead candidate for party chairman is Jonathan Parker, former executive director of the Idaho Republican Party from 2010 to 2012. However, Parker could still face last-minute challengers the day of the vote on Saturday.
"Fundraising, organization and winning at the polls are all things that I have had extensive experience with. I stand ready to assist our Republican officials and grassroots leaders over the next year to unify the party behind our message and our candidates," Parker said in a prepared statement.
The party has been without a full-time head since former Chairman Steve Yates decided to run for lieutenant governor in April.
Apart from voting on a new chairman, the agenda also includes voting on a possible rule change demanding Republican candidates — ranging from federal offices to state legislative positions — swear loyalty to the Idaho party platform.
The loyalty oath was first implemented in 2011 — while Parker was executive director — but recently dumped last year. Critics argued the pledge pitted Republican leadership against elected officials because some candidates were hesitant to promise allegiance to party politics above the concerns of their constituents.
The Idaho GOP platform contains traditional Republican principals, such fiscal responsibility, lowering taxes and protecting gun rights, but also mentions more far-right friendly policies. For example, the platform urges people to stock up on gold and silver, eliminate the popular election of U.S. senators and get the Legislature to simply nullify federal laws deemed to violate state sovereignty.
The proposal, nicknamed "integrity in affiliation" by its supporters, would require the chairman to publicly list which candidates either failed to pledge allegiance to the whole platform or took exceptions to parts of it. The party's more stringently conservative members argue loyalty oaths help weed out unfaithful GOP incumbents and help inform voters of candidates' beliefs — even though Idaho's Republican primary elections are already closed to non-GOP registered voters.
Republican leaders will also be asked to consider a resolution seeking to change how the state draws up legislative and congressional districts.
Currently, districts for Congress and the state Legislature are drawn every 10 years by a six-member commission answerable only to the courts. The majority and minority party leaders in each legislative chamber each select one person to serve on the commission; the state chairmen of the Republican and Democratic parties also each select a commissioner.
It's not uncommon for plans to get caught up in lengthy legal battles before settling on new district boundaries. To solve that, some Republicans are pushing to amend the Idaho Constitution to add a seventh member to the commission to help break ties.
If Republicans pass the rule change at the summer meeting, they must win a two-third's majority in both the GOP-dominant House and Senate and then a simple majority from voters in the general election for it to take effect.