Though entitled to 33 positions on the committees at the state convention, Idaho Republican Party Chairman Barry Peterson named just four Ada County delegates.
Peterson said he never saw Ada County Chairman Fred Tilman’s June 6 letter designating his 33 choices, which are entrusted to Tilman under party rules.
Peterson said Gov. Butch Otter and his allies seeking to replace him as party chairman should have ensured that Tilman’s letter reached the party before committee assignments were released Wednesday afternoon. The convention begins Thursday and ends Saturday.
“It’s a rough-and-tumble business,” Peterson said. “If they’re going to play, the rules apply to everybody. I don’t have to hold their hand. They wear a lot bigger pants than I wear.”
“Come on,” Tilman said. “This is absolutely bizarre. I guess that tells me we’re going to send everything certified mail and have the party chairman sign for it.”
Ada County, with 26 percent of Idaho’s population, is entitled to 16 percent of the delegates, or 102 of 644.
Peterson assigned one Ada delegate to each of four committees — Credentials, Platform, Resolutions and Rules. Of the 118 committee slots allocated to counties, Ada’s four represent just 3 percent.
Peterson declined to say why he appointed one Ada delegate to each committee if he didn’t receive Tilman’s required designation letter. Peterson put Joel Robinson, father of Liberty Caucus official Jason Joel Robinson and the GOP Senate candidate in District 16, on the Credentials Committee.
“Yeah, I’m listening,” Peterson said. “But you’re going to be doing all the talking.”
Another 46 slots are allocated to legislative districts and designated by district chairs; Ada County got nine of those, or 20 percent.
Accounting for both categories, three of the 40 members of the Credentials Committee are from Ada County. That’s where former Boise Sen. Rod Beck’s challenge to the seating of the 102 county delegates will be heard Friday morning. Beck says a “secret” delegate slate loyal to Otter was elected May 29 contrary to party rules.
“It’s a power struggle, there’s no question about it,” said Tilman, a former House Education Committee chairman and Ada County commissioner. “He’s (Peterson) doing anything and everything he can trying to maintain his leadership.”
Peterson, co-owner of a Mountain Home lumber and hardware store, faces two announced opponents in his bid for a second two-year term: sheep breeder Mike Duff, of Blackfoot, and Premier Technology co-founder Doug Sayer, of Pocatello.
Peterson agrees with Tilman that the stakes are control of the state party, citing the involvement of Otter and lobbyists in precinct committee races.
“If they can take over a county like Ada County, then by the same token they should be wise enough to catch up to the party rule that requires their chairman to submit the names if they want to be on these committees,” Peterson said.
Tilman said he had been keeping an open mind about the state chairmanship, but Wednesday’s doings settled things.
“There’s only one way to fix it in my opinion,” he said. “We’ve just got to get new leadership.”
The Credentials Committee is co-chaired by two Peterson allies, Rep. Judy Boyle, of Midvale, and Shoshone County Chairman Chuck Reitz, a former member of the Constitution Party.
Other members include Peterson’s business partner, Jace Prow; Beck’s brother, Doyle; losing 2nd District congressional candidate Bryan Smith; outgoing Sen. Monty Pearce, of New Plymouth; outgoing Rep. Lenore Barrett of Challis; and Lynn Hawkins, wife of former Sen. Stan Hawkins, of Ucon.
The Credentials Committee recommendation must be ratified, rejected or amended by the full convention. Beck, however, said that if the committee bars the Ada delegates, they won’t be eligible to vote on the floor.
“Obviously, we are very underrepresented by anybody’s interpretation,” Tilman said.
Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, of Idaho Falls, has served as both chairman of the convention and parliamentarian in the past. He has hopes for an equitable outcome.
“Always err on the side of inclusion,” Davis advised. “You’ve got to make sure that folks can participate.”
Dan Popkey: 377-6438, Twitter: @IDS_politics