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Posts published in “Jones”

A battle for the soul

Those who keep abreast of Idaho politics are aware that there are presently two major factions of Idaho’s Republican Party. There are the traditionalists, who have a conservative outlook but believe in reasonable, problem-solving government. Then there are the upstarts, who seem to believe that government is inherently bad, unless it is serving their narrow interests. A struggle for control of the GOP has been going on since the turn of the century and may finally be decided in the 2024 general election.

The traditionalist faction held sway over the party until 2008, when the upstart faction deposed the party chair and began tightening its grip over party machinery. The GOP primary election was closed to all but registered Republicans. The party took a hard right turn with strong support from dark-money, right-wing groups like the Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF).

The upstarts have yet to take over the governorship, but it is not for lack of trying. Their candidate came within five percentage points of winning the GOP primary contest for Governor in 2018. They have had much better luck in legislative races and now command majorities in both houses of that body. Their candidates have a tremendous advantage in primary races because they control the party structure. In this one-party state, a win in the GOP primary almost ensures a win in the general election.

The traditionalist faction has gotten behind a voting system that will break the upstart control over the GOP and allow traditional Republicans to compete in open elections. The Open Primaries Initiative, which has the support of a wide swath of traditional Republicans, will likely be approved by Idaho voters next year. It will break the stranglehold of the upstarts over who gets elected to public office.

The upstarts, under the leadership of GOP chair Dorothy Moon, have been lambasting the initiative with increasingly outlandish claims. They proclaim that it will result in Democratic control of Idaho, ignoring the fact that their claim is mathematically impossible. The current voter registration figures tell the tale–12.7% Democrat, 58.2% Republican and 27.5% unaffiliated. Moon has not explained how the Dems can take control of the state with their tiny minority of registered voters. She knows that the real threat to her control of the GOP is from Republicans like Butch and Lori Otter and the wide array of traditional Republicans who have had their fill of her and her cadre of culture warriors. They support the initiative to restore responsible governing in Idaho.

Moon may not realize that she and her IFF-supported legislators will be a major factor in voter approval of the initiative. She has twisted party rules in what has been characterized as a “systematic conspiracy” to control local party leadership, most recently in Bingham County. She has stuffed the state party ranks with loyalists, excluding any factions that do not fall in line, most recently women and young people. Former First Lady Lori Otter pointed to Moon’s misconduct in this regard as a reason for supporting the initiative, saying, “shame on Dorothy Moon.”

Misbehavior by Moon’s followers in the 2024 legislative session will also drive voter support for the initiative. Being an election year, they will be unable to resist following their usual agenda of creating a maximum amount of fear, outrage and chaos in the Legislature. Meaningless culture war issues will remind voters of those good old times when traditional Republicans worked with Democrats to actually get something done to address real problems, like fixing dilapidated schools, rebuilding infrastructure, providing meaningful property tax relief and shoring up Idaho’s struggling child care system.

In the meantime, the Take Back Idaho organization will swing back into action in next year's GOP primary to support traditional Republicans and oppose the upstarts who are just committed to stirring up trouble. That will be an interim measure to reinstate some responsibility and pragmatism into the governing process, but the Open Primaries Initiative will be the decisive blow to the troublemaking upstarts.


A liberal plot?

Dorothy Moon, the head of the dysfunctional branch of Idaho’s Republican Party, has declared war on the Open Primaries Initiative. She’s made false claims that it will be confusing to voters, give rise to voter fraud, turn Idaho liberal, reduce voter turnout and destroy the Republican Party. The initiative is modeled after the Alaska system which worked very well in last year’s elections. Voters were not confused, there was no fraud, Republicans did quite well and turnout was not reduced. It won’t destroy the Republican Party, but it will open up the GOP primary and allow reasonable, traditional Republicans to take back control of their party.

In a September 13 press conference, former First Couple, Butch and Lori Otter, expressed strong support for the Open Primaries Initiative. They were joined by 114 other long-time Republicans who are sick at heart with what has happened to their party since the primary was closed in 2011.

Otter said he supports the initiative because it would remove control of primary elections from a small group of party functionaries. He said: “The right to vote is one of the most precious rights that Americans have. Every registered voter should have the right to weigh in on choosing our leaders. Independents, including a lot of military veterans, have been excluded from having their say because of the closed GOP primary.”

He continued: “The system worked well in Alaska in 2022. The idea that the system will hurt the Republican Party was debunked by the election results. The Republican Governor and US Senator were both re-elected and Republicans had ‘one of their best statehouse showings ever,’ according to the Cato Institute.”

Lori Otter said she was concerned about the GOP leadership’s marginalization of women and young people. “Taking away the State Central Committee votes of Republican women and young Republicans is a step in the wrong direction. The official party has become what the party chair calls a ‘private club’ that can purge or censure those who do not follow the party line. The idea that the party can censure or discipline its own governor and other GOP officeholders is counter to the basic principles of our party.”

Former Lt. Governor Jack Riggs said that traditional longtime Republicans in North Idaho “have largely been pushed out of the GOP. The party apparatus has been taken over by bullies who don’t seem to have any interest in addressing the real issues confronting the state. They dwell on national culture war issues–villainizing librarians, doctors, teachers and traditional conservatives–while ignoring roads, infrastructure and public schools. The Open Primaries Initiative will change all of that, as they well know. It threatens their unholy grip on power and that’s why they are fighting so hard against it.”

Regarding the issue of administering elections under the initiative, Chris Rich, who served 13 years as Chief Deputy to the Ada County Clerk and then 8 more years as elected Clerk, said: “Idaho election officials will be able to honestly and accurately tabulate the election results under the initiative. Given the appropriate tools, the clerks can manage most any election. We are every bit as capable as the election officials in Alaska and Maine, both of which have ranked-choice voting.”

Former Senator and Idaho Veterans Services Administrator Marv Hagedorn said, “the initiative will give all veterans the right to vote in the primary election. Almost half of America’s veterans consider themselves independent voters. They can’t participate in the GOP primary unless they register as Republicans and the present party leadership is trying to make it harder for folks to do that. Veterans have earned the absolute right to vote in any election they so choose.”

Seems to me that Butch, Lori and the 114 other traditional Republicans have made the better case. The Open Primaries initiative is not a liberal plot to take over the state, but a reasonable step toward restoring responsibility and pragmatism to governing in the Gem State. We have suffered being the laughingstock of the nation for long enough.



Standing up for public schools

Having followed public affairs in the Gem State since 1966, I have always believed that most Idahoans are practical people who appreciate and support reasonable, pragmatic political leaders. They generally can see through those who seek to gain political power by stoking fear and outrage, which is the hallmark of the dark-money supported Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF). Traditional Idahoans are slow to anger but, when they get their feathers ruffled, they are not reluctant to toss out political charlatans.

And, boy did the voters of West Bonner County School District (WBCSD) rise up and repudiate the IFF-supported trustees who took over the board in a low-turnout election in 2021. Keith Rutledge and Susan Brown, together with a third IFF-supported trustee, have had WBCSD in turmoil ever since that election. Most notably, they hired Branden Durst, an unqualified IFF henchman, as superintendent of schools. It all came to a head on August 29, when a massive voter turnout recalled those two trustees in a landslide vote exceeding 60%.

After the election, Mr. Durst hatched a desperate scheme to tie the hands of the incoming trustees and keep his job. He was taken to court for trying to overturn the will of the voters. The judge correctly saw the maneuver as an effort to subvert the law and brought it to an abrupt halt.

The alarm bells at IFF should be ringing because Idahoans have awakened to the fact that it and its followers have nothing to offer in the way of sound public policy. They thrive on creating conflict and division with non-issues. Idaho teachers are not teaching critical race theory or grooming kids or teaching a “woke” agenda, whatever that is. They are doing their level best to educate our kids, often without adequate resources. That’s just what the teachers were doing at WBCSD before Durst came on the scene.

I’ve spoken with a wide array of traditional Idaho Republicans in the last couple of years about the political trajectory of our state and they are sick at heart with the conflict and turmoil stoked by IFF and its minions. WBCSD patrons took care of addressing that very issue in their school district recall election. I am convinced by what I hear from my Republican friends that we will see much of the same reaction across the state in the 2024 elections. A number of disruptive Republicans will be defeated in the primary election by responsible Republicans. And, the people will adopt the Open Primaries Initiative (OPI) in the general election as a permanent means for ridding Idaho of IFF’s hard-edged, non-productive style of politics.

There will be a furious fight over the initiative in the coming month because IFF’s big guns, Brent Regan of Coeur d’Alene and Bryan Smith of Idaho Falls, know it will destroy the iron grip they have on the extremist branch of the Idaho Republican Party. As Mr. Smith said in Idaho Falls on August 23, “If Idaho gets ranked-choice voting, we’re finished. It’s that simple.”  The OPI will hit the IFF and its minions much like the WBCSD voters hit the IFF trustees in the recent election.

One of the reasons the extremists have not been dealt with already is that many Idahoans have had an inflated view of their numbers. They are much louder and more in your face than the majority of Idahoans. Plus, they seem to have an element of menace about them that causes sensible, conflict-averse folks to hunker down. The WBCSD election revealed that even in a conservative community, the reasonable folks greatly outnumber the conflict minded.

People across the state should take heart that they can stand up, speak out and vote the disrupters out of office, replacing them with officials who will deal with the real problems facing the state and its communities. We all owe the good folks of West Bonner a heap of thanks for showing us the way.


Fair warning to the patrons

The Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF) may be coming to your school district to carry out its publicly-proclaimed goal of getting the government out of the business of educating our kids. Just witness the disintegration of the West Bonner County School District (WBCSD) in Priest River at the hands of an extremist-controlled school board.

Keith Rutledge and Susan Brown were elected to the school board in 2021 with IFF’s support. Along with a third IFF-supported trustee, they have had WBCSD in turmoil ever since. They refused to support a school levy in May that was intended to cover about a third of the district’s operating budget. That put the district in a real financial bind.

The trio then voted in June to hire an unqualified individual, IFF employee Branden Durst, as school superintendent. For inexplicable reasons, they have failed to pursue an emergency certification that might allow Durst to legally act as superintendent until he can become qualified for the position. On August 16, the State Board of Education notified Rutledge that the “board’s decision to allow an uncertified individual to serve as superintendent violates Idaho law.” The notice outlined four other board deficiencies.

WBCSD has reportedly lost 33 employees in recent months because of the board’s actions. Not to worry, though, because Durst is hiring right-wing zealots to replace some of them. They include Melissa Reilly, who appears to share the bigoted view of her white nationalist husband Dave Reilly, and Brandy Pardee, a leader with “Stop Idaho RINOs.” As far as the failed levy goes, Durst is glad it failed. The board majority seems to be fine with all of the upheaval Durst has visited upon WBCSD, which may account for the fact that school patrons were able to get a recall vote scheduled for Rutledge and Brown for August 31. It would obviously have been better if more school patrons had gotten out to vote in 2021 to keep the IFF candidates from seizing control.

School board elections are coming up soon in many school districts across the state and it is almost a certainty that the IFF or some like-minded folks will try to get disruptive candidates like Rutledge and Brown elected. How better to accomplish the goal of deconstructing public education in Idaho?

More than ever, Idahoans will need to check out the credentials of those running to control their local school board, so as to ensure that only candidates who are dedicated to making schools and kids successful are entrusted with these important positions. Some of those Idahoans can help their local schools by becoming candidates themselves.

The best way for citizens of good faith to protect our schools is to step forward to serve or urge others to do so. A candidate needs to be an elector of his or her school district and a resident of the trustee zone in question. Candidates may file, starting August 28, but must file no later than 5:00 pm on September 8. Additional information on how to file can be obtained from the clerk of their local school district board.

School elections are not the only important elections to be held on November 7. Cities and some independent districts will be holding elections and, given the desire of organizations like IFF to stack such positions with extreme-right candidates, it is important that reasonable, pragmatic candidates step forward for those positions. Also, conscientious voters must inform themselves to ensure that disruptive individuals like those who seized control of WBCSD do not obtain the reins of power.


Sarah Palin and ranked choice

The Dorothy Moon faction of the Republican Party has enlisted Sarah Palin to speak in Idaho Falls on August 19 about the supposed evils of ranked-choice voting. Palin’s 2022 loss of her statewide race for Congress should provide a ray of hope to the vast number of reasonable, pragmatic Idaho Republicans who feel they have been pushed out of their party by Moon’s narrow, super-committed extremist branch of the GOP. Palin did not lose because of ranked-choice. Rather, she simply fell out of favor with Alaska voters.

The reliably-conservative CATO Institute points out that, while Palin was losing her election bid, Alaska Republicans were “having one of their best statehouse showings ever.” The state’s GOP governor and senator were re-elected and Republican candidates did just fine in legislative races. Palin was viewed as having neglected Alaska and its important concerns, while her opponent had a record of working across the aisle to advance Alaska’s natural resource interests. Alaska races became more civil, competitive and issue-oriented with ranked-choice because candidates had to campaign to a wider audience of voters, instead of just the ones farthest to the right.

In contrast, since the Idaho GOP closed its primary in 2012, right-wing extremists have seized control of most of the party structure. Primaries have become divisive, focusing mainly on made-up culture war issues that do nothing to address serious problems facing the state. With the heavy-handed support of the so-called Idaho Freedom Foundation and out-of-state dark money, extremist candidates have been able to make elective office almost unattainable for responsible, pragmatic Republicans. I believe that traditional Republicans outnumber the extremists, but the extremist branch is much louder, adept at weaponizing non-issues and continually grasping for more power.

Centralization of party control amongst a small group of party bosses is the hallmark of Moon’s agenda. Purging a variety of loyal Republicans is a step toward Moon’s self-proclaimed goal of turning the GOP into a “private club” that most Idahoans can only observe from the sidelines.

Now, the Latah County party bosses are subjecting Representative Lori McCann, an exemplary legislator, to a grilling to see if she measures up to their extreme-right view of the world. She will undoubtedly be censured or reprimanded if it turns out that she uses her brain. Nothing like that would happen to Senator Dan Foreman, who is a disgrace to his legislative office. Incidentally,  ranked-choice voting could weed out extremists  like Foreman. Indeed, a far-right group, Action Idaho, has described how ranked-choice “would have sunk conservatives,” like extremists Chris Trakel, Elaine Price and Joe Alfieri in the 2022 primary.

The closed GOP primary resulted in Idaho’s 2022 loss of responsible Republican legislators like Senators Jim Patrick, Carl Crabtree, Jim Woodward and Jeff Agenbroad, as well as Representatives Greg Chaney, Paul Amador, Scott Syme and Jim Addis. Other reasonable Republicans could fall to the extremists in future elections unless the Open Primaries Initiative is enacted by the people.

Some have said they would prefer a top-two primary like those in Washington and California, or an open primary like Idaho had from 1930 until 2010. However, it does not make sense to hope that someday one of those options will magically materialize. The extremist-controlled Legislature will never enact an election reform measure that will break the grip of the extremists on Idaho elections. Reform can only come by way of a voter initiative.

There are only two ways forward in the foreseeable future. Either we continue with the dysfunctional closed GOP primary that has turned the Idaho political arena into a pointless gladiator spectacle, or we opt for real reform via the Open Primaries Initiative. The initiative may not be perfect in everyone’s eyes but it will be a major victory for the many thousands of traditional Republicans and independent voters who yearn for a return to reasonable, responsible governmental leadership in the Gem State.


Maligning a judge

The publicist for Attorney General Labrador recently maligned federal judge Lynn Winmill for his July 31 decision prohibiting the AG from prosecuting doctors who refer patients to other states for abortion pills and services. Labrador sent an opinion letter to a legislator on March 27, saying that Idaho doctors could be charged with a felony for doing so. For reasons unknown, Labrador withdrew the letter seven days later.

Planned Parenthood sued Labrador to prevent the enforcement action called for in his letter. When the matter was argued before Judge Winmill on April 24, Labrador’s Deputy AG (DAG) claimed that doctors would not face charges because the letter had been withdrawn. However, he asserted that Labrador would not disavow the opinion. The DAG tied himself in knots trying to explain why doctors would not be prosecuted even though Labrador stood by his opinion letter.

In his July 31 decision, the Judge hinted that Labrador might have won, had he simply given assurance that he would not be filing criminal charges as implied in the letter. His DAG’s refusal to disavow the letter might be characterized as Labrador conceding the need for injunctive action or, in more graphic terms, shooting himself in the foot.

It took a lot of nerve, then, for Labrador’s publicist, Beth Cahill, to imply that the judge’s decision was based on bias for Planned Parenthood. She proclaimed: “In his 28-year career you’d be hard-pressed to find a time when Judge Winmill has ruled against Planned Parenthood, so his decision is not surprising. Judge Winmill wants to restrain a power we don’t possess.” She is wrong on both counts. First, Judge Winmill’s past decisions regarding Planned Parenthood have been correct on the law. Second, given the broad overreach and poor wording of Idaho’s abortion statutes, the AG does have the apparent “power” to bring charges as per his letter, even though there are serious questions about whether the charges would stand up in court.

The publicist for the largest law firm in the state has no business maligning the judiciary in Idaho, particularly when her claims are false. The AG lost in court because of bad lawyering, not because of any bias or misconduct by the judge. Even if the judge had erred, the AG is an officer of the court and should not use the power of his office to unfairly malign the judge. Judges don’t have the ability to respond to unfair charges.

And we should not lose sight of the fact that a judge who stands up for the rule of law often makes decisions that go against his personal values. Judge Winmill was called upon to do just that in 2011 when he ruled that the Republican Party could exclude all but registered Republicans from its primary election. Reading between the lines, it was clear the judge had trepidations about the decision. He said the closed primary would have the “very real and immediate effect of…producing more ideologically extreme candidates.” He obviously ruled based upon his view of what the law required, setting aside any personal beliefs. That’s what judges do when they respect the rule of law.

The extremists have rejoiced over Judge Winmill’s closed primary decision, using it to oust reasonable Republicans and put extremists in control of the GOP. Party chair Dorothy Moon now proclaims that the Party is a “private club” and has the right to purge anyone who has the courage to stand up to her extremist branch of the Party.

The public should not put up with lawyers or law firms that falsely scapegoat judges for their own failings. In over 50 years as an Idaho lawyer, I’ve known of a few lawyers who blame the judge when they lose in court because of their bad lawyering. It is a blight on the profession. All lawyers are officers of the court and expected to comport themselves with dignity toward the judiciary. To have the Attorney General’s office falsely questioning the integrity of a judge through its megaphone is a violation of that ethical duty. Those who support the rule of law should call out that kind of abusive conduct. In the meantime, the AG’s office should make a sincere apology to the judge.


The dreaded one-subject rule

Believe me, the last thing I want to do is drive readers to distraction by delving into an obscure and frequently ignored provision of Idaho’s Constitution. Article 3, section 16 of that revered document says that every legislative act “shall embrace but one subject and matters properly connected therewith.” The one-subject rule also applies to initiatives proposed by the people. It means you can’t combine two or more separate subjects into the same proposal. For example, it would clearly violate the one-subject rule for a bill to set both speed limits and property tax rules.

The Legislature does not always pay attention to the one-subject rule but, so long as nobody challenges their failure to comply in court, they get away with it. And violations can be either inadvertent, where nobody gives any thought to the rule, or deliberate, where someone places an unpopular provision in a bill that has broad support. Since every bill can be amended, the deliberate maneuver does not always work so well.

An example of a bill that could either have been inadvertent or deliberate is House Bill 782 in the 2022 session. It tied a stingy pay raise for judges under Title 59 of the Idaho Code to drastic changes in the method of selecting trial and appellate judges under Title 1 of the Code. Lawyers and judges were fearful that the changes would politicize the selection process. Unless those changes were made, the judges would be the only state employees not getting a 7% cost-of-living pay increase. The bill passed but, seeing the havoc it would create for judicial appointments, Governor Little vetoed it.

I apologize for bringing up this arcane and generally boring provision of the law, but Attorney General Labrador made me do it. Mr. Labrador has made it a central part of his strategy to oppose the Open Primaries Initiative. Like most other political observers, he must be aware that his only route to the Governor’s office is to keep the closed Republican primary in place. It gives a substantial edge to the most extreme candidate, as demonstrated in 2018 when Janice McGeachin won the GOP primary for Lt. Governor over four other more reasonable and pragmatic candidates. Under the plan in the Open Primary Initiative, she and three other candidates would have been on the general election ballot, resulting in the election of a more responsible Lt. Governor.

The 2022 legislative races are also illustrative. Since Republicans win about 80% of legislative races in Idaho, the winner in the Republican primary is usually the general election winner.  Dan Foreman won the Senate seat in the GOP primary in District 6  with 2,792 votes, just 8.8% of the registered primary voters. Chris Trakel took the Senate seat from Greg Chaney in District 11 with 1,908 votes from just 9.4% of the registered voters. Brian Lenney took the Senate seat from Jeff Agenbroad in District 13 with 3,162 votes cast by 12.7% of the registered voters. With the Open Primaries Initiative, Senators Jim Woodward, Carl Crabtree, Greg Chaney, Jeff Agenbroad and Jim Patrick and Reps. Paul Amador, Jim Addis and Scott Syme would likely have retained their seats. They were replaced by extremist GOP candidates.

Despite the fact that the Open Primaries Initiative is wholly consistent with the Idaho Constitution, Labrador has raised a number of specious constitutional arguments against it, including the one-subject rule. Labrador has shown a distaste for reasonably and correctly interpreting the law and has already made it clear that he will distort the law to serve his political ambitions. He is dead wrong on the one-subject rule because the initiative deals with just one subject–elections. Based on his argument, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich would be a two-subject sandwich.

Idahoans need to be conversant with the one-subject rule because Mr. Labrador and other Republicans in the extremist branch of the GOP will be blasting away at the Open Primaries Initiative based on this and other flimsy constitutional grounds. Their sole purpose is to mislead and confuse voters into voting no. If voters arm themselves with the truth, the misinformation campaign will fail.


Their hearts belong in the sky

When Afghanistan fell to the Taliban in August 2021, Afghan aviators were ordered to fly their aircraft out of the country to keep them from falling into enemy hands. Over 300 pilots flew to surrounding countries, most of them having to leave their families behind. Many of those pilots have been resettled in the US, including 14 who now live in Idaho. They have been working multiple jobs in order to support themselves and their families back home. They would do much better if they could put their aviation skills to work.

Even though the Afghans received rigorous flight training from US and NATO forces and have flown thousands of hours, they must complete extensive ground and flight courses in order to qualify for aviation jobs in the United States. That’s where Russ Stromberg, a retired Marine aviator, and Global Talent, a Boise non-profit that helps refugees meet stateside licensing requirements for their occupational specialty, came together to provide a solution. The two have pioneered a project to help the Afghan pilots obtain the credentials to fly commercially in the US. A dramatic upgrade in pay will help the pilots get their families to America that much sooner. Bringing the pilots on line will help alleviate the nation’s unprecedented pilot shortage.

The first group of 5 pilots has been selected for the training program, which is contingent on Global Talent achieving its fundraising goal of $40,000. The pilots are enthusiastic about their prospects. One of them stated it this way: “Your heart belongs to the sky. You have to go back to the sky and serve.” Idahoans can help these pilots soar by supporting the program.

It should be mentioned that Afghan pilots were some of our most committed allies in the Afghan conflict. In addition to the dangers they faced in the air, they became Taliban assassination targets in their homes. The United States is honor bound to provide safe haven to them and to the thousands of other Afghans who put themselves and their families at risk by partnering with and protecting US troops.

Idahoans can help in that regard by urging our Congressional delegation to support the bi-partisan Afghan Adjustment Act (HR 4627 in the House and S. 2327 in the Senate). The legislation would provide a pathway to permanent residency for Afghans who only have temporary residence now and create pathways for continued relocation of those, like the pilots’ families, who were left behind. The legislation is strongly supported by a broad coalition of veteran, religious, business and legal organizations. Idaho’s entire delegation needs to add its support.

Idaho has an outstanding resettlement program that has taken in an increasing number of Afghan refugees since the national refugee program was restored to health 2 years ago. Of the 1,270 refugees who arrived in FY 2022 (ending on September 30), there were 512 Afghans. So far in FY 2023, there are 120 Afghans among the 933 arrivals. The Idaho Office for Refugees oversees refugee resettlement in Idaho. Three resettlement agencies perform the hands-on work–the Agency for New Americans and the International Rescue Committee, both of which are in Boise, and the CSI Refugee Center in Twin Falls.

Each agency relies heavily on citizen involvement and can put community members to work welcoming and settling refugees, sponsoring events, helping find housing, providing cultural adjustment, supporting language programs and generally making newcomers feel at home in their new foreign setting.

Idaho’s refugee program is a demonstration that even in these contentious times we can come together to do important work, like helping beleaguered folks from other countries. The time, commitment and resources that Russ Stromberg has devoted toward training our Afghan pilot allies for new employment opportunities in America is a feel-good story for the times. And a gracious welcome for our Afghan friends who yearn to get back in the sky.


The GOP purge

Despite the fact that Idaho is a Republican stronghold and will likely remain such for the foreseeable future, the group that calls the shots for the Party, that wields power over who gets elected, is a small bunch of extremists. GOP chair Dorothy Moon and a group of like-minded culture warriors are working diligently to tighten their control over the entire Republican Party apparatus. Their avowed goal is to eliminate the independent-minded, pragmatic Republicans who believe the role of government is to deal with real problems like property tax relief, improving public education and improving civil discourse.

Moon and her extremist clique were able to defeat a number of responsible Republicans in the closed GOP primary in 2022, including former Senators Jim Woodward, Carl Crabtree, Greg Chaney, Jeff Agenbroad and Jim Patrick and former Representatives Scott Syme, Jim Addis and Paul Amidor. They will be training their fire on other Republican stand-outs like Rep. Julie Yamamoto and Sen. Dave Lent in 2024.

Knowing that whoever wins the Republican primary is almost assured of winning office in the general election, Moon and her clique are doing their level best to deny the Republican label to all but the candidates most committed to their narrow, far-right view of governing. That will further limit the ability of all other voters– traditional Republicans, independents and Democrats–to have any say in choosing state leaders.

On July 13, Bryan Smith, a member of Moon’s clique, regaled Bonneville County Republicans with what he called “tectonic” rule changes adopted at the GOP State Central Committee meeting in June. Party functionaries, most of whom are ardent extremists, would be able to call out, discipline and censure Republican elected officials who are believed to have departed from the borderline-crazy GOP Platform (including repealing the income tax, depriving people of the right to vote for U.S. Senators, abolishing the Federal Reserve Bank and making all abortions subject to murder charges from the moment of fertilization).

The Party also adopted a proposal to make it harder for voters to change their party affiliation so as to vote in the taxpayer-financed Republican primary. In keeping with the Party’s purge of suspect categories from positions of power, the Party zealots decided to deprive women and young folks of a vote on the Central Committee. Then the Committee adopted a vote of no confidence in Governor Little and 14 GOP legislators for their failure to support legislation allowing junk lawsuits against Idaho libraries.

The extremist branch of Idaho’s Republican Party has been engaged in a purge of all those who are considered suspect by the Moon Crowd and their dogmatic predecessors ever since the GOP closed its primary in 2012. As white nationalist Vincent James Foxx declared last year, a “real right-wing takeover is happening in Idaho and there’s nothing they can do to stop it.” Or, is there actually something Idahoans can do to stop the extremist takeover?

Actually, there is a sure-fire way for Idahoans to take their state back from the extremists who have degraded and embarrassed the Gem State on the national stage, turned us against one another and devoted their attention to gaining votes by creating outrage and fear over non-existent problems while ignoring the actual problems confronting our people.

The solution to almost all of these problems is the Open Primaries Initiative, which will be circulating around the state for signature as soon as the Idaho Supreme Court decides upon proper titles for the measure. Stay tuned to the information about how elections will be conducted under the initiative and how it will empower the people of Idaho to better govern themselves.