Groups split over their GOP support

The opposite wings of the party have decidedly different advice for voters in this May's primary.

dpopkey@idahostatesman.comApril 30, 2014 

A PAC founded by North Idaho businesspeople is supporting Gov. Butch Otter's re-election. A new libertarian PAC is backing challenger Sen. Russ Fulcher.

The North Idaho Republican Political Action Committee and the Republican Liberty Caucus of Idaho PAC offer plenty of contrary advice on other statewide races and the Legislature.

The North Idaho group focuses on northern counties and was founded to support "reasonable" Republicans. In its first election two years ago, the group had a 6-1 record in legislative races and helped defeat scandal-plagued Rep. Phil Hart. The group has upped the ante in 2014 by targeting five tea party-friendly GOP lawmakers for defeat, supporting five incumbents and endorsing in two races for open seats.

The North Idaho group formed to respond to claims that business-backed lawmakers were RINOs - "Republicans in Name Only." The PAC opposes the GOP platform's call to have legislators elect U.S. senators, abolish the Federal Reserve Bank and return to the gold standard.

The two groups exemplify the battle for control of the Idaho Republican Party, pitting libertarian and tea party loyalists against Otter allies. The conflict reaches from the top of the ticket to hundreds of precinct committee races.

The Idaho branch of Liberty Caucus, established in 2012, is affiliated with the national Republican Liberty Caucus, founded in 1991 by former members of the Libertarian Party.

The North Idaho PAC endorsed all four GOP incumbents statewide who face primaries: Otter, Lt. Gov. Brad Little, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and Controller Brandon Woolf.

The Liberty Caucus backs their challengers: Idaho County Commissioner Jim Chmelik over Little; Boise lawyer C.T. "Chris" Troupis over Wasden; Boise businessman Todd Hatfield over Woolf; and Fulcher.

For the open secretary of state job, the business group endorses Ada County Chief Deputy Clerk Phil McGrane, while the Liberty Caucus backs Rep. Lawerence Denney. The other GOP candidates are Evan Frasure and Mitch Toryanski.

The Liberty Caucus endorsed John Eynon for superintendent of public instruction over Andy Grover, Randy Jensen and Sherri Ybarra. The North Idaho PAC made no call in the race, but it is backing challengers to lawmakers who opposed Otter's state-run health exchange.

Their endorsements go to Patrick Whalen over Sen. Bob Nonini, of Coeur d'Alene; Terry Werner over Rep. Ron Mendive, of Coeur d'Alene; Fritz Wiedenhoff over Rep. Vito Barbieri, of Dalton Gardens; Rick Currie over Rep. Kathleen Sims, of Coeur d'Alene; and Shauna Hillman over Rep. Shannon McMillan, of Silverton.

Liberty endorsed nine challengers: Scott Smith over Sen. Brent Hill, of Rexburg; Danielle Ahrens over Sen. Shawn Keough, of Sandpoint; Sage Dixon over Rep. George Eskridge, of Dover; Toby Schindelbeck over Rep. Luke Malek, of Coeur d'Alene; Lee Rice over Sen. Todd Lakey, of Nampa; Robert Muse over Rep. Rick Youngblood, of Nampa; Diego Rodriguez over Sen. Fred Martin, of Boise; Lance Earl over Rep. Kelley Packer, of McCammon; and Ron Nate over Rep. Doug Hancey, of Rexburg.

Dan Popkey: 377-6438

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