Precinct Committeeman Geoff Schroeder so loathes the new closed primary that he withdrew his GOP affiliation the morning after he won his second term as an Elmore County precinct committeemen in May. The 46-year-old former Mountain Home city councilman re-registered as unaffiliated.
Idaho GOP Chairman Barry Peterson, who served six years as Elmore County chairman before his election to the top state office in June, noticed. As a precinct committeeman, Peterson remains a member of the Elmore County committee.
Hes chosen by his own actions which way he wants to go, Peterson told the Elmore GOP Central Committee at its Aug. 23 meeting. Let him go.
Schroeder says hes never been anything but a Republican, but objects to the closed primary that set a record low turnout of 24.4 percent on May 15.
He said the GOP is leering over ... a list of who is and who isnt declared as a Republican, a creepy aspect of government that is done by people like Saddam Hussein and Adolf Hitler. Im not going to be a part of it.
Schroeder cites his 22 years experience as an Idaho Army National Guard soldier, including a year in Iraq where he helped provide security for the landmark 2005 election. Its made me very passionate about voting.
Schroeder, retired from the Army, is now a Boise State philosophy student. He sports ATHEIST personalized license plates and wore a Charles Darwin T-shirt as he sat next to Peterson at the August meeting. In tow was a friend, videotaping the proceeding.
Chairman Peterson said Schroeders conduct is the sort of pirating that prompted the GOP to close its primary to non-Republicans. Peterson himself once switched parties to run as a Democrat to highlight the indiscipline of Idaho election law.
He took himself out of the party, Peterson told the committee. He put it in writing.
But Peterson failed to persuade the 18-member Central Committee to remove Schroeder, who came armed with an Aug. 16 letter from Attorney General Lawrence Wasdens office saying the committee didnt have authority to remove a duly-elected committeeman.
Theres nothing that we can do, said Committeewoman Courtney Ireland, making a motion to end the discussion after 45 minutes. This is exactly what he wanted to do: get people in an uproar.
The committee agreed and dropped the matter, though it passed a motion by Peterson to censure Schroeder for behavior unbecoming a member of the GOP.
Schroeder, who put the video of the meeting on YouTube, pronounced himself satisfied for having brought attention to the GOPs internal conflict.
Among those long opposed to the new law are Gov. Butch Otter, Secretary of State Ben Ysursa and Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill. The Idaho Association of Commissioners and Clerks, which represents elected officials from the 44 counties, urged the GOP to lift the party rule that closed the primary. For the 2014 primary to be reopened to independents, the party must act by December 2013.
Instead, the party at the same June meeting that elected Peterson chairman passed a non-binding resolution asking the state Central Committee to study the impact of the closed primary and its effect on turnout and GOP success in the Nov. 6 general election.
Peterson said hell review the resolution after the election, but senses no erosion in support among party regulars. He estimates just one-quarter to one-third of the state committee backs returning to an open primary.
Peterson has alerted colleagues to Schroeders caper and said a legal fix may be necessary in the 2013 Legislature.
Sen. Tim Corder, R-Mountain Home, has clashed frequently with Peterson, who engineered the Elmore County GOPs endorsement of Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, in the GOP Senate primary against Corder that the more conservative Brackett ended up winning.
Corder requested the attorney generals letter that aided Schroeder and predicts the fight over party loyalty is far from over. While some may seek to repeal the open primary, Corder said other Republicans wish to further narrow the nominating process, shifting authority to pick general election candidates to party committees.
There are some within the party who want the central committee to say who can be the candidate, who can say theyre in the party, who is pure enough, Corder said.
Dan Popkey: 377-6438, Twitter: @IDS_politics