GOP won't consider disputed nominating process

By John Miller

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, July 14 2011 11:07 p.m. MDT

BOISE, Idaho — A proposal to require Idaho Republican candidates to first be vetted by GOP leaders before they can participate in primary elections won't make the agenda of an important party meeting in Moscow this weekend, after all.

At the state GOP Central Committee confab Friday and Saturday, however, party honchos are still due to vote on whether Idaho Republicans should hold a "Super Tuesday"-style caucus in 2012, to boost Idaho's political importance to GOP presidential candidates looking to woo delegates.

Former state Senate Majority Leader Rod Beck had wanted Idaho's dominant party to have a nominating model similar to Utah's to be considered at the meeting.

But Beck's plan proved too unpopular with some Republicans who first want to test their new closed primary, passed by the 2011 Legislature, that's aimed at stopping crossover voting by Democrats.

"I would hope we would allow the new law, which just went into effect July 1, about our closed primary to go into effect and work, to see how that shakes out, instead of already trying to tweak it," said Secretary of State Ben Ysursa in a recent interview in advance of the Moscow meeting. "Let's get some operating experience first."

Beck, a regional GOP chairman from Boise in southwestern Idaho, was instrumental in the federal court battle that eventually forced Republican lawmakers in the 2011 Legislature to adopt the closed primary law. He said he still supports the idea of having candidates vetted by party members, too, but conceded the plan was likely too ambitious an issue to take on this coming weekend.

"It just needed more work," Beck told The Associated Press. "I think it's a good idea for the party to have this capability. But we have all these other issues going on that are monumental in scope."

He's referring to the rule proposal aimed at allowing Idaho to participate in a "Super Tuesday"-style caucus next year when GOP leaders nationwide nominate a challenger to President Barack Obama, something that's resonating in Idaho Republican ranks.

Idaho GOP members, among the most stalwart red voters in America, have long lamented the state's low standing among Republican presidential hopefuls as a stop on the campaign trail, largely because the nomination is largely sewn up before Idaho's May primary election.

Participating in a caucus next March 6 could lure candidates like Mitt Romney and Michelle Bachman who would be eager to woo the state's current 32 delegates to the Republican National Convention.

That's more delegates than states like Iowa and New Hampshire, two important early voting states for presidential candidates, said Idaho Republican Party Executive Director Jonathan Parker on Thursday.

"I do believe Idaho for the first time in many years will be of importance to Republican candidates," said Parker, who is optimistic the "Super Tuesday" proposal will be met with enthusiasm by the Central Committee.

Among other new proposals on the docket of Idaho's dominant political party: a so-called "loyalty oath," included in the party's platform at its 2010 convention, in which candidates for elected office will be asked before primary elections to sign a statement saying they support the GOP platform — or list the areas where they disagree.

Additional resolutions would urge Idaho to forbid the state land board from buying storage businesses, a move last August that some GOP members say put the state in competition with the private sector; to set up a commission to explore allowing the state to use gold and silver as legal tender; and for Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter to disclose Idaho's economic ties with China, which some conservative GOP members fear may be encroaching on the state.

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