Memorial set at Crystal Ballroom for Idaho GOP official

Dedra Morris, the state party's rising star, died Sunday in a car crash.

dpopkey@idahostatesman.comApril 24, 2013 

Dedra Morris, 22, was an administrative assistant for the Idaho Republican Party. She died in a rollover on Interstate 90 in eastern Washington. Morris and a friend were returning to Spokane after attending a Supercross motorcycle race in Seattle when the accident occurred about an hour west of their destination.

The driver, former Boise State student Joseph "Jay" Branda, fell asleep at the wheel shortly before 3:30 a.m., according to the Washington State Patrol. The car, which belonged to Morris, crashed near Ritzville. Branda survived. Both were wearing seatbelts; alcohol and drugs were not a factor in the accident, police said.

Morris, of Boise, was a former president of the College Republicans at Boise State, where she graduated with a bachelor's in political science in 2012.

A memorial will be held Friday from 3:30 to 5 p.m. at the Crystal Ballroom on the second floor of the Hoff Building at 8th and Bannock streets in Downtown Boise.

"Dedra was a very special, wonderful woman," said Jonathan Parker, the former executive director of the Idaho GOP. "She brought a lot of smiles to many people's faces."

Parker hired Morris as an intern in 2010. He was so impressed with her performance, he created a paid position, which Morris held while she continued her studies.

When Joshua Whitworth replaced Parker as executive director eight months ago, he relied on Morris. "She was my wingwoman," Whitworth said. "She was a bright presence for everyone."

Six friends are organizing the service: Parker, now a lobbyist; Shoni Pegram, a special assistant to Gov. Butch Otter; lobbyists Jesse Taylor and Colby Cameron; and former congressional aide Phil Hardy, who does commentary on 580 KIDO radio.

Said Hardy: "Her role in the party cannot be understated. She knew everyone and was the glue that kept it going. And she knew her policy and had strong opinions. She was going to be a leader."

Morris was from Yerington, Nev., a town of about 3,000 people southeast of Reno. She was the first child in her family to go to college, Parker said.

She is survived by her mother, Brenda Sellers, of Yerington, father Carl Morris of Boise, grandmother Amy Morris of Nampa and stepfather, Pat Bonse, of Yerington. She also is survived by three brothers and three sisters. Funeral arrangements in Yerington are pending.

Morris and Branda dated while at Boise State and remained friends. Branda invited Morris up for the weekend and bought tickets for the Monster Energy Supercross, which drew 54,000 fans to CenturyLink Field in Seattle Saturday night. "She loved motocross," Parker said.

Dan Popkey: 377-6438, Twitter: @IDS_politics

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