A deal brokered by Idaho House Majority Leader Mike Moyle and U.S. Congressman Raul Labrador nearly succeeded in repairing a rift in the Republican Party and may re-emerge, Moyle said Monday.
Embattled GOP Chairman Barry Peterson had agreed to drop his re-election bid and the State Republican Central Committee could meet soon to revive the effort, Moyle said.
"They were close," said Moyle, of Star.
Moyle initiated talks several weeks ago, which culminated in three hours of discussions in Labrador's Moscow hotel room late Friday at the state convention in Moscow.
An agreement would have put Sen. Russ Fulcher of Meridian and Pocatello businessman Doug Sayer together at the top of GOP leadership.
One iteration would have made Fulcher - who lost to Butch Otter in the May 20 gubernatorial primary - party chairman and Sayer first vice chairman. Another had the roles reversed; a third had Fulcher as chairman and Sayer as finance chairman. Moyle also proposed a co-chairmanship.
Sayer rejected the plan, but told the Statesman on Monday he's willing to be part of a compromise at the State Central Committee.
With no agreement, last weekend's contentious convention adjourned in chaos Saturday without completing any business, such as electing officers or passing a platform, resolutions or rules.
OTTER ON THE HORN
Sayer said he consulted Gov. Butch Otter, who had returned to his home in Star after addressing the Moscow convention at lunch Friday. Otter was ill and stayed in touch by phone.
"He was consulted and being briefed," Sayer said. "I was asking for advice and counsel from a number of different individuals. But in the end, I said no. It was me that was running for chairman, and I had to make that decision, and I said no."
Sayer said he couldn't agree because the plan depended on convention delegates - including those from Ada, Bannock and Power counties being stripped of voting rights by the Credentials Committee - swallowing the back-room arrangement. Sayer wanted the delegates in Moscow to be free to vote for their own choices for party leaders.
"You would in fact be disenfranchising people - wouldn't be giving them the opportunity to vote their conscience," Sayer said.
House Speaker Scott Bedke, of Oakley, said he agreed with Sayer as discussions broke down shortly before midnight Friday.
"I stood by Doug and the process," said Bedke. "Each county chose their delegates and we needed to honor their choice."
Moyle said he remains hopeful a compromise will be struck.
"If they hadn't adjourned that meeting and stuck it out, we would have had a solution by the end of the day," he said.
Peterson did not respond to a request for comment Monday, but told the Spokesman-Review's Betsy Russell, "It's being worked on."
Labrador declined comment, except to confirm the nature of the talks.
Fulcher said he remains available, but only if he's a consensus pick.
"I would not do it if there wasn't unity around it, because that just adds to the fight," Fulcher said. "I wasn't going to run for it, I wasn't going to run against somebody for it."
Secretary of State Ben Ysursa said convening the State Central Committee is the logical venue. The committee's next regular meeting isn't until January, so a special meeting would be necessary.
Fulcher said extending Peterson's term another two years without an election is unwise. "I don't think we can wait two years. I think that is detrimental."
Ysursa said Republicans need to keep their eyes on the ball.
"There has to be a rational, reasonable compromise before the party goes forward," Ysursa said. "Remember, the main goal is to keep Republicans in office. This doesn't help."
Dan Popkey: 377-6438, Twitter: @IDS_politics