Doug Sayer’s challenge to Idaho Republican Chairman Barry Peterson represents “money elite interests” and his election would sharply depress turnout in the GOP’s tea party wing, says Mike Duff, the third candidate for chairman.
“If they choose the faction Doug represents they’re going to watch 35 (percent) to 40 percent of the Republican base stay home in November,” Duff said Tuesday as he makes his final push towards Saturday’s state convention vote.
Sayer, a GOP state committeeman in Bannock County, is co-founder of Blackfoot-based Premier Technology, which employs 300 people who make equipment for the nuclear, food, chemical and aeronautics industries.
Gov. Butch Otter has not made an endorsement but Sayer, a former board member of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, has emerged as the establishment candidate. Sayer, 51, accompanied Otter on his 2010 trade mission to China and his older brother, Jeff, is Otter’s commerce director.
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Sayer has served on a series of business and technology advisory boards and is currently a director of IGEM, the Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission, which makes state grants for higher education and business development.
But he says he isn’t relying on his connections with the Otter administration.
“I don’t want to be the guy who got elected because he had a relationship with somebody,” Sayer said. “I want to be chosen because of my professional skills and leadership ability.”
Duff says Sayer is driven by personal ambition, including aspiration for elected office.
"It's interesting to me that someone who has never had any practical input into our party now wants to be the head of it," Duff said. "It takes an indescribable confidence in one's self to go from being nothing in the party to taking over. A vote for Doug Sayer is a divisive vote."
Sayer is currently a member of the state GOP Central Committee and has contributed to GOP candidates including Sen. Jim Risch and Reps. Mike Simpson and Raul Labrador.
"He may support a lot of Republican candidates with his checkbook," Duff said. "To come out of the blue with minimal state party experience and run for chairman is a stretch that the grass roots of the party is going to look at pretty closely."
Sayer said he wants to improve the party's management, marketing and fundraising efforts after two years of controversy under Peterson. "I want to be in a position where I can have a positive influence," Sayer said. "And I think that this chairmanship is that opportunity."
For more on this story, pick up Wednesday's Idaho Statesman print edition or check online.