In Washington, D.C., Congressional Republicans have driven the House of Representatives through a leaderless fortnight. The splintered party made history in ousting a House Speaker. Then the federal government nearly shut down, and could do so again a month from today if Congress can’t pass a funding bill.
But Idahoans don’t need to look over the Rockies to find Republicans at battle with each other. In most of the state, the party that has dominated Idaho politics for decades is losing cohesion, and finding its most prominent political adversaries within its own ranks.
In Congress, Republicans weigh their differences knowing that Democrats are waiting to snag lawmakers’ seats as collateral damage. But in Idaho, “battleground” districts are rare, and even if primary elections are opened to all candidates, no one is expecting a “blue wave.” Even a purple wave is so far off the horizon that Republicans are endorsing the open primary ballot initiative.
As far-right politicians have found welcome across the U.S. in recent years, old school GOP politicians have bargained to maintain control of conservative politics. That dynamic is well established in Idaho.
Currently, the far right holds one of the most coveted leadership roles with Dorothy Moon as the Idaho GOP’s chairwoman. Moon has allied herself with white nationalists, falsely claimed that Pres. Biden lost the 2020 election, and supported anti-government activists. She’s also been criticized and sued by several of her fellow Republicans in just the last month.
Ada County GOP Resignations
In early October, six members of the Ada County Republican Central Committee resigned, blaming several measures implemented in the last year since Moon won the party’s leadership.
“The state party no longer embraces grassroots voters and candidates but has created a new oligarchy that values control, ‘purity testing,’ and bullying tactics that are un-Republican,” they said in a news release. “The energy of the party is more about infighting than collaboration — more about beating each other than beating Democrats.”
The “purity testing” is a reference to a new rule passed this summer that bars any voter who changes their political party affiliation from voting in Republican elections for 12 months.
The “bullying” tactics might refer to several practices, but certainly include a recent bout of censuring that far-right county Republicans have leveled against moderate Republican legislators.
Rep. Lori McCann is one of several Republican legislators who returned to their districts after this year's legislative session and was censured by their local party for their votes. (Idaho Statesman / Getty)
One Mountain Home Republican lawmaker told City Cast Boise that the censures are part of a “fall in line” approach that the party has taken with legislators.
“The purpose of the [county] central committee is to get Republicans elected to office in the general election. So what you have is this complete shift, a complete turning on its heels of the top-down mandate instead of the ground-up.”
Bingham County GOP’s Lawsuit
In eastern Idaho, the Bingham County Republican committee is pushing against the control of the state committee. The county’s party leadership sued Moon in September, alleging that she attempted to improperly invalidate an election to replace the county committee chair, and accused her and others of trying to hand-select party leadership around the state.
“This is a continuation of a systematic conspiracy by Moon and her allies in the party to declare void the elections of persons with whom they don’t agree and re-vote under circumstances carefully manipulated and choreographed to elect persons sympathetic to Moon and her aims,” the committee wrote.
In the ongoing case, a judge stopped the Idaho Republican Party from electing a new chair in Bingham County via special election.
Moon’s Battles Part of Years-Long Divide
These divisions are just the latest manifestations in the Idaho GOP’s internal struggles.
Only two years ago, a back-and-forth over masks between Gov. Brad Little and former Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin made national headlines — and the cast of characters has changed several times since.
Despite the lawsuit and resignations, the GOP remains at Idaho’s political helm. Knowing that it would take a revolution for anyone to wrest Idaho’s reins from the GOP, how far will the party’s divisions go? Who will get caught in the crossfires, and what priorities will get forgotten?