The precinct wars

Most years, the job of precinct committee person (each major party has them) flies quietly under the radar. In Idaho (and some other places), not this year.

Across Idaho, battles for precinct committee positions have erupted, reflecting an ideological struggle inside the Republican Party.

One of the problems Idaho Democrats long have had is the lack, in many places, of precinct leaders. These are important, basic, building-block positions for party organization, important for local organizing and choosing local party leaders, and sometime filling vacancies for offices like state legislator. In Idaho, the Republican Party long has outshone the Democrats in getting many more of those spots filled. (Neither party fills them all.)

Ordinarily, only one person runs for nearly all precinct committee spots, but this year Republicans had an unusually large number of contests, in places around the state. They became intense enough that I spotted something I’ve not seen before, in any year – a campaign web site devoted to one precinct, aimed at one political party. (It is Kootenai County precinct 61; the web writers describe it as “A resource for the republican party members of precinct 61.”

In Twin Falls County, the Republican Liberty Caucus ran a slew of challenges to often-veteran precinct officers, and won almost a third of the seats. The mainstream party leaders expressed relief that the challengers hadn’t won a majority, but they’d better not count on the fermet to ease off soon. Many races were competitive; one was decided by a coin flip.

Another coin flip came in Ada County, home to a large pile of contests, where Roger Brown, a Ron Paul activist, unseated governor’s aide Roger Brown. In another race, a party nominee for state legislator lost a precinct office. One of the most prominent Paul backers in the county, former legislative candidate Lucas Baumbach, was defeated. But Paul backers won more than a third of the precinct seats in the Ada County party organization, enough to have impact.

Overall, the Paul forces fell short of the statewide precinct numbers they would have needed for their more ambitious projects, like the attempt to shift Idaho national convention votes to Paul from Mitt Romney. (That one never felt like much of a starter.) In Bannock County, a county meeting projected by one veteran county party official, Jim Johnston, as “a bloodbath”, turned out sedate.

But getting even a third of the votes in a county organization has its uses. Here’s an indication how.

Kootenai County Republicans earlier this year asked Texas congressional candidate Richard Mack to speak to the party’s Lincoln Day dinner. After the invitation was made, 14 precinct committee members sent a letter to the local party leadership objecting to Mack, saying his “support of the Republican Party and Republican Party candidates is inconsistent, intermittent and questionable.” The battle raged for a while and went public. Eventually, the Mack invitation held up, he spoke, and the event was held without incident. Not without trepidation on Mack’s part: He told reporters he had never felt as unwelcome as he had before coming to Coeur d’Alene.

It doesn’t take a majority to create a civil war. Just ask the South.

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  1. […] Paul. Precinct battles in ID: “It doesn’t take a majority to create a civil war. Just ask the South.” MA: Regulars move to invalidate (Paul-dominated) caucus […]

    May 29, 2012

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