Why your vote in May matters: The future of the Idaho Republican Party is on the ballot

By Luke Russell
Co-founder, North Idaho Republicans

Luke RussellThe American political party system is much more than just the elected officials at the top of the ballot like the President, members of Congress and State Governors.

The foundation of our political parties’ rests in our neighborhoods; referred to as precincts across the entire United States. Idaho has 975 neighborhood precincts and 73 of those are in Kootenai County. Voters in neighborhood precincts from across each county in Idaho elect Precinct Committeeman (PC’s) to represent them on their Party’s County Central Committee.

Every two years these party positions are on the May primary ballot, but rarely is there any competition or even information about who the candidates are, or what they actually do. Two years ago, only 12 out of 73 seats were contested, and several of the precincts were vacant with no one running at all. In Kootenai County, there haven’t been any serious challenges for precinct committeemen for 10 years. But this year voters are in luck, because in this May election there is a choice for nearly every precinct position in the county.

For many years, agenda driven people who wanted to change the already conservative political climate in Idaho to something extreme have successfully managed to get elected to these precinct positions. Their end game seems to be to influence and control every partisan and non-partisan election in Kootenai County and Idaho by having a small group of people pre-select candidates instead of the voters.

Even though KCRCC chairman Brent Regan peddles the tale that Idaho is at risk of becoming a liberal blue state, the data doesn’t support this. According to our Secretary of State Phil McGrane, Idaho is one of the strongest and reddest states in the nation and those moving from California, Washington, and other states are “making it redder”. Kootenai County and Idaho haven’t voted Democratic for decades. The data accompanying Idaho’s newcomers indicate they are overwhelmingly conservative but not necessarily ‘conspiracy theory’ conservatives.

The KCRCC and its current PC’s have taken advantage of the voters by spoon-feeding us a list of “rated and vetted” candidates which were all too readily accepted by Republican voters who simply rubberstamped their recommendations at the ballot box.

Unfortunately, this endorsement system has created uninformed voters and produced poor and inexperienced candidates and elected officials. Rather than making all Republican candidate information accessible to voters and supporting the victor after the primary election, they have resisted development of an objective voter guide and created a special list to influence your vote. For too many years, that’s worked.

The lack of competition, coupled with their highly flawed system, has created a mess at North Idaho College, our assessor’s office, and local library boards by endorsing candidates in Kootenai County and the Idaho legislature who are ill-equipped to handle society’s most difficult problems. Instead, they simply vow loyalty and then inflate issues that are of little importance to most of us.

Since the implementation of the current KCRCC endorsement process, we have seen that the Precinct Committee members rarely exhibit any independent thought when more than one candidate runs for a specific office. The KCRCC, the Precinct Committee body, always has a unanimous or nearly unanimous vote for every single candidate they end up recommending. Since Brent Regan posts this information on social media, there hasn’t even been more than a handful of votes cast that deviate from the KCRCC pack.

Two years ago, only 44 out of 73 PC’s even participated in the process to select those who would be “anointed” to run on the party ticket in the Republican Primary. Almost every endorsement vote was 44 to 0. Three weeks ago, a very qualified and reasonable Coeur d’Alene area Republican candidate for the Idaho Legislature was entirely ignored with a vote of 57-0 in favor of a KCRCC pre-selected candidate, with not even one single independent thought.

When the KCRCC first implemented this rating and vetting process, most candidates took the opportunity seriously, but then found out that in reality the committee endorsement decisions had already been pre-determined. Primary election endorsements by KCRCC have done much more to divide the local Republican Party than to build it and ensure its future.

Our political parties cannot be successful without the influence and organization of our neighborhood Precinct Committee members. This May, you have a choice. You can vote to elect a Republican Precinct Committeeman in your neighborhood who will reflect your values and change the KCRCC, or just accept the status quo. This year, Precinct Committeeman will be the most important race on your ballot.