By Kimberlee Kruesi Associated Press
MOSCOW, Idaho — Idaho Republicans failed to elect a party chairman or pass a platform as political infighting drowned out party leaders’ pleas for unity at the state GOP convention that wrapped up Saturday.
The theme of the three-day convention was “Freedom and Unity,” but the only measures delegates voted on Saturday were efforts to kick out contentiously elected delegates.
“This is as low as the party can go,” said Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador, who was appointed convention chairman. “We have hit bottom. I think the party has no choice but to go up from here.”
Republicans spent the final day of the convention hurling procedural challenges at each other for hours in an attempt to throw out or defend some divisive delegates.
The day before, the often-overlooked credentials committee approved throwing out nearly 20 percent of the delegation. While committee members said they were enforcing party rules, the delegates facing removal said the panel had been stacked with tea party favorites who were picking and choosing who could vote on a new party chair and changes to the platform.
Delegates were supposed to vote on platform amendments, including ensuring the placement of non-denominational Bibles in every classroom and removal of the provision demanding the repeal of the 17th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which allows voters to directly elect U.S. senators.
By Saturday, the general assembly became visibly angrier as the day went on, yelling out jeers as audience members held signs reading “Good riddance cronyism.”
By mid-afternoon, Labrador reminded the crowd that the convention was scheduled to adjourn at 3 p.m. Republicans approved leaving without voting on a single platform amendment.
“The whole convention was a travesty,” said Grant Loebs, a Twin Falls County delegate. “And that adjournment vote was a mercy killing.”
Mike Duff, a candidate for party chair, said he was also disappointed in how the convention ended. Many Republicans have been critical of current chairman Barry Peterson’s leadership, and Duff said change needed to happen now rather than in two years. Duff campaigned as the candidate able to bring together tea partyers and traditional Republicans.
“We have to maintain our credibility,” Duff said. “And today demonstrated we are not there yet. We need to make a change.”
Labrador, who seeking to become U.S. House majority leader after Eric Cantor’s primary loss, had touted his work on a solution to unite the party for weeks prior to the convention but said it quickly fell apart once the event started. While his deal failed, Labrador said it was not indicative of his ability to lead House Republicans.
State Rep. Steve Miller, R-Fairfield, said the political shake-down could be the wake-up call for both sides to reflect on the need for compromise.
“Everybody is locked into their deals but driving home, maybe they’ll have time to think about what happened,” he said.