Tuesday, May 28, 2024
54.0°F

Smaller Idaho GOP committee to play larger role selecting national delegates

by CLARK CORBIN / Idaho Capital Sun
| April 16, 2024 1:00 AM

Thanks to a series of deadline issues, the responsibility for selecting about 20% of the delegates to the Republican National Convention that normally fell to a broad group of Republicans at the state convention will now be handled by a much smaller executive committee chaired by Idaho Republican Party Chairwoman Dorothy Moon.

The delegates will be sent to the July 15 Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, which is where the Republican Party is expected to officially nominate its candidate for president. 

The Idaho Republican Party’s 17-member executive committee, of which Moon is the chair, is scheduled to confirm the delegates during a meeting at 11 a.m. Saturday at Crane Creek Country Club in Boise, according to two Idaho Republican party officials and documents obtained by the Idaho Capital Sun. 

In past presidential election cycles, hundreds of Republicans who attended the state convention as state delegates got to vote on selecting the delegates to the national convention. 

Part of the issue is that because the Republican Party does not control the White House, its national convention will be held first this year. The issue arises with Rule 16 from the Rules of the Republican Party. That rule states, in part, that no primary election, caucus or convention for selecting delegates to the national convention shall occur “less than 45 days before the national convention is scheduled to begin.”

The Republican National Convention is scheduled to begin July 15, which means the deadline to select delegates is May 31. The problem is the Idaho GOP Convention doesn’t begin until June 13, well after the Republican Party’s deadline to name delegates.

In a written statement to the Idaho Capital Sun, Moon and Brent Regan, the rules committee chairman, said the Idaho Republican Party made new rules to respond to the deadline issue and is following those new rules.

“We have gone through a very deliberate process sanctioned by the RNC,” Moon wrote. 

Regan also wrote that Moon will vote only to break a tie on the executive committee and does not have the authority to pick any delegates by herself.

“The chairman does not have the authority or mechanism to select ANY of the delegates,” Regan wrote, capitalizing the word “any” to add emphasis. “A review of party rules will show that whoever claims otherwise is either ignorant or malicious.”

Why does it matter who picks delegates for the national GOP convention?

Idaho gets 32 delegates at the Republican National Convention this year, and being a delegate is a big deal in political circles. National conventions can feature a roaring, party-like atmosphere that is televised nationally, where delegates would typically cheer on a series of high profile speeches from the party’s A-listers and rising stars and then hear directly from the party’s nominees for president and vice president. 

“If you like politics, it’s a great place to be and be participating,” said Cindy Siddoway, who represents Idaho on the Republican National Committee and has participated in multiple Republican national conventions. 

“It does cost to go, but it is a wonderful opportunity to participate in history,” Siddoway added. 

The change in selecting delegates is happening as some longtime Republican officials say Moon and her supporters are purging officials from the Republican Party who do not fall in line and agree with them. For example, during the Idaho Republican Party’s 2023 summer meeting in Challis, the party stripped executive committee voting rights from the Idaho Federation of Republican Women, the Idaho Young Republicans and the Idaho College Republicans. That’s the same executive committee that is being asked to sign off on the new delegates to the Republican National Convention.  

Although the Idaho Republican Party’s executive committee is going to consider confirming the list of delegates Saturday, two Republican officials — Region Six vice chair Trent Clark, who is a former chairman of the Idaho Republican Party, and Siddoway, told the Sun on Tuesday they have not yet seen the list of delegates. 

“The selection of delegates needs to follow the rules,” Clark said in an interview Tuesday. “For 137 years, we’ve been having our convention to name our delegates, even before we were a state.”

Siddoway said she has always known delegates to be picked at the state convention, which she supported. 

“In my knowledge, it has never ever been done this way, but they are trying to meet all of the deadlines,” Siddoway told the Sun. 

“I wish we could have done it through a convention the way we normally do,” Siddoway added.

Six other Idaho Republican officials expressed concern about the delegate selection issue in a March 26 letter that was sent to Idaho Republican Party Treasurer Steve Bender and obtained by the Sun.

In the letter, the six Idaho GOP officials said they have a duty to make an inquiry “when a problem exists or a report on its face does not make sense,” citing the Idaho attorney general’s office’s guidance for nonprofit board membership. In their letter, the six officials said the early deadline issue was a topic of a discussion at a January 2023 Republican National Committee meeting held in Dana Point, California, which would have given Moon and Idaho Republican Party officials 18 months to come up with a plan to move up the state primary election and state convention. 

“Several states, and the District of Columbia, consulted with the (Republican National Committee) at the Dana Point meeting to resolve early deadline challenges,” the six GOP officials wrote, before switching to all capital letters in the next sentence. “WHY DIDN’T IDAHO?”

The six Idaho Republicans who signed the letter were state committeewoman Marsha Bjornn from Madison County, state committeewoman Shellie Blanchard from Fremont County, Bannock County Chair Char Tovey, Jefferson County Chair Kaye Field, Caribou County youth committee chair Christin Clark and Clark County Chair Connie Barg.

In his written statement Regan, the GOP rules committee chair, said the Idaho Republican Party’s state convention is as early as it practically can be. Part of the reason is because of how political parties are made up. The Republican Party’s county central committees are responsible for sending delegates to the state convention. But the county central committees are made up of locally elected precinct committeemen, who are elected in the primary election every two years. The date of the primary election is May 21 this year, and there was not enough time to allow the new precinct committeeman to take office, organize at the county central committee level, select delegates to the state convention and have the state convention begin before the May 31 deadline to select delegates for the national convention.

“We discussed the 45-day (May 31) deadline for submitting delegates with the RNC, but they were unable to accommodate a delay due to the need to conduct background checks and other security measures,” Regan wrote. “If we miss the deadline we lose all but 12 of our delegates (under) RNC Rule 17a. Clearly, moving the primary and or moving the convention to an earlier date is not practical.”

Why is there an early deadline for naming delegates to the Republican National Convention?

Most of Idaho’s delegates were already picked by former President Donald Trump who Idaho Republican Party officials said won the March 2 Idaho Republican Presidential Caucus. 

But the party does get to pick about 20% of the delegates. This year, that includes six delegates that are split between the state’s two congressional districts. Normally, those are the delegates that would be selected by a broad group of Republicans at the state convention, if not for the 45-day deadline. 

For example, the 2021 version of the Idaho Republican Party’s rules states that the remaining 20% of delegates are selected by the nominating committee at the Idaho State Republican Convention, where they are voted on on the floor. 

Idaho state law also states that at the state party conventions, each political party may “in the year of presidential elections … elect delegates to the national convention in the manner prescribed by national party rules …” 

But faced with the deadline issue, the Idaho Republican Party’s state central committee changed its rules for nominating delegates instead of pushing for an earlier primary election and an earlier state convention to meet the 45-day deadline. 

The latest version of the Idaho Republican Party’s rules, adopted in January, says that rather than selecting the remaining 20% of delegates at the convention, the nominations committee of the Idaho Republican Party will select the delegates, which “shall be confirmed at a special meeting of the executive committee.” The new rule also states the Idaho Republican Party chairman, who is Moon, will serve as the delegation chairman responsible for sending the list of delegates, alternates and guests to Republican national party headquarters by the deadlines unless the delegation selects a different chairman based on a majority vote.