Capitol & State

2nd candidate for GOP chair is Cassia County rancher, critic of Peterson

Cassia County Republican Chairman Doug Pickett says well-funded Democrats pose a "serious and credible threat" in the Nov. 4 election and that it's time to unify the GOP.

Pickett, 43, announced his candidacy to replace Idaho GOP Chairman Barry Peterson in a letter this week to the State Central Committee.

"While many important philosophical differences persist in our party, the time for debating these differences, for this election cycle, has passed," Pickett wrote. "It is now incumbent upon each of us as State Central Committee members to set aside grievances and work together in our common purpose."

Pickett, a party activist for 14 years, has also served as a precinct committeeperson, youth committeeperson and state committeeman. In 2012, he received 44 percent of the vote against then 22-year veteran Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, co-chairman of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee.

Pickett said he was motivated to run in the post-redistricting contest to secure a Senate seat for a Cassia County lawmaker. In victory, Pickett said, Cameron was gracious, setting an example for how the party apparatus should be run.

"We had a spirited race," Pickett told the Statesman Thursday. "At the end of the day, we were able to shake each others' hand and say, 'We're Republicans. Let's move forward together.' And that's what we need to have in this party today."

On Wednesday, Steve Yates of Idaho Falls announced his candidacy for the chairmanship. Yates won 49 of the vote against three-term Rep. Jeff Thompson in May.

Yates is neutral on the question of which of two scheduled Central Committee meetings should settle the dispute over the chairmanship, Aug. 2 or Aug. 9.

But Pickett says Peterson's term expired in June when the GOP convention adjourned without electing a chairman.

"I've maintained the position we have no chairman at this time," Pickett said. "We need to move forward and get our leadership in order."

A petition by members of the Central Committee prompted Vice Chairman Mike Mathews to set an Aug. 2 meeting at the Red Lion Downtowner in Boise to elect a chairman.

Peterson is suing to block that meeting, with a hearing set July 29 in Twin Falls. Peterson has called for a Aug. 9 meeting at the Capitol.

Should Peterson win his lawsuit, Pickett said, "we'll certainly abide by that."

Though a member of the Central Committee, Pickett skipped the convention in Moscow. An LDS bishop, he was performing a wedding.

"I want to be part of an organization that's unified and strong," Pickett said. "We have that capability when we have strong leadership and people who are willing to act as a chairman ought to and allow the facilitation of ideas and discussion and allow us to vote on things as a unified party."

Peterson changed the locks at party headquarters in Boise after the non-decision at the convention and hastened the departure of former Executive Director Trevor Thorpe. Should Peterson be displaced and refuse to surrender control, Pickett said, "We'll deal with that after the Aug. 2 meeting."

Pickett has a bachelor's in economics from Brigham Young University. With two brothers, he runs Pickett Ranch and Sheep Co., a fifth-generation operation that traces its roots to their great-grandfather Moroni Pickett, who came to the Oakley area in 1881.

They raise wheat, potatoes, range-fed lamb and certified Angus beef on federal allotments in Idaho, Utah and Nevada.

Pickett and his wife, Brady, have three boys, aged 9 to 15.