Idaho’s GOP establishment wins delegates

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho’s GOP establishment scored several key victories this past week after local Republican central committees voted in new delegates who not only support the traditional GOP coalition but also seek to quash tea party influence.

The new appointments will play a critical role in the upcoming GOP convention. Leaders and delegates will vote on a new party chairman and discuss possible changes to the party’s platform and closed primary election policy.

The GOP establishment won key counties in the southern half of the state such as Elmore, Ada, Canyon and Twin Falls. In the northern half, however, tea party leaders and delegates retained most of their seats, including representatives in Kootenai County — the state’s third most populated county.

This means that rifts inside Idaho’s GOP, which have been a major conflict for the past few years, could come to a head at the June convention if delegates are asked to vote on key party changes.

On Thursday, the Ada County Republican Party pulled the power away from tea party supporters and elected establishment favorites like Fred Tilman, who was voted in as chairman. Tilman ousted Greg Ferch, who was a vocal opponent of Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s move to establish a state-based health insurance exchange.

Despite failing to win the majority votes during the May primary election in Ada County, all 102 delegates selected Thursday are Otter allies, said Rod Beck, a long-time tea party supporter.

“Otter’s forces are trying to ex-communicate their opponents,” Beck said, who failed to win enough votes to win a seat as a delegate even though he’s a GOP regional chairman. “You would think that in Ada County, where Otter lost, they would have sent someone to represent that. Instead, they chose to ignore that. It was a complete vanquishment.”

Earlier in the week, Twin Falls County Republicans also saw a win for the GOP establishment, said state Rep. Stephen Hartgen, R-Twin Falls. All 23 of the delegates headed to the convention do not have tea party ties.

“I think this was the classic case of push back,” Hartgen said. “That group did not carry the day.”