Capitol & State

Peterson hires Fulcher aide as new Idaho GOP executive director

The lights will stay on at the Idaho Republican Party, as Chairman Barry Peterson hired Judy Gowen as executive director Thursday.

Gowen, 25, was political director for Sen. Russ Fulcher's primary challenge to GOP Gov. Butch Otter.

She took the job after consulting with Fulcher, who got 44 percent of the vote to Otter's 51 percent. Otter allies are pressing to force Peterson out as chairman, with a State Central Committee meeting set for Aug. 2.

"I'm making sure the lights aren't turned off until then so we can elect Republicans in November," Gowen told the Statesman Thursday afternoon. "Someone needed to fill the hole."

The GOP phones went unanswered briefly Thursday, after finance chief Mary Tipps Smith quit and the party's answering machine told callers, "This mailbox is full and cannot accept new messages."

Gowen said Peterson phoned her Wednesday and interviewed her at the office Wednesday afternoon, Smith's last day. Peterson offered her the job and she took the night to sleep on it. She said accepted the job Thursday morning and arrived at work just 20 minutes late, about 9:20 a.m.

"I did a lot of deep thinking to make sure I made the right decision," Gowen said.  "I understand what I'm getting into. I just want to make sure Republicans are successful."

Added Gowen, "My focus is making sure there's not a dark mark on the Idaho Republican Party and making sure the day-to-day operations are met."

She replaces Trevor Thorpe, who left last week after Peterson changed the locks at the GOP office in the Hoff Building in Downtown Boise.

Gowen, who grew up in Oakley, is a semester away from finishing her bachelor's in business administration at Boise State. She captained the volleyball team and was student body president at Oakley High School.

She worked for the Mitt Romney presidential campaign in Florida from March to November 2012 and for the Republican National Committee in Washington, D.C., from June 2013 to November 2013.

She said Fulcher, a possible candidate to replace Peterson as chairman, did not press her to take the job.

"I asked for his advice but he left the decision up to me," she said.

Gowen helped organize a Fulcher thank-you tour that begins Thursday night in Payette. Fulcher will travel to Lewiston, Moscow, Coeur d'Alene and possibly Sandpoint over the weekend.

A decision on filling Smith's position as a second paid staffer hasn't yet been made, Gowen said. "Today, I'm drinking through the fire hose," she said.

Peterson did not reply to a request for comment.