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Guest Post: Fresh Dawn for Idaho GOP – Semanko Jumps into Race for Chairman

June 10th, 2008 by Halli


Former congressional candidate Norm Semanko sent a widely distributed email out last night indicating that he will allow his name to be placed in nomination for the chairmanship of the Idaho Republican Party at this weekend’s state convention in Sandpoint.

He has, correctly in my view, determined that current chairman Kirk Sullivan does not have the support necessary to be re-elected. Despite the frantic and occasionally heavy-handed tactics of the governor’s office and others to prop Sullivan up, his support among grassroots Republicans has evaporated.

The grassroots wants closed primaries, and have made that abundantly clear by repeated votes that should have been binding on Mr. Sullivan’s actions, but were not. Thumbing his nose at his own party faithful, Sullivan has obstructed every effort to close the primaries, including delaying obligatory legal action long enough to make sure no ruling could be issued until after this weekend’s GOP state convention.

He even had the audacity to declare in a televised interview on primary night that he remains unconvinced that a closed primary is a good idea, as if the decision was his to make, once again displaying an elitist disdain for the will of the people that has infuriated the party faithful.

GOP headliners have been planning all along to attempt to reverse the party rule on closed primaries at this year’s convention, and I expect that effort will now collapse with Semanko’s announcement. The party faithful have made it abundantly clear that they are insistent on closing party primaries, and I believe Semanko will honor their decision.

Sullivan has further angered social conservatives in the party by making efforts to remove God and pro-family planks from the state GOP platform.

Indications are that Sullivan will refuse to step aside, and a loss to Semanko at the state convention would be an embarrassing public defeat not only for him for the entire party establishment, which has expended its not inconsiderable resources in what is likely to prove an unsuccessful attempt to prop him up.

A Sullivan victory at the state convention – by best accounts an unlikely prospect – would be sure to fracture the party and tempt many disgruntled conservatives to disengage from the party altogether.

The smartest and wisest course of action would be for the governor to ask Sullivan to step down in the interest of party unity in the present and party effectiveness in the future.

Word on the street is that Semanko may receive some high profile endorsements today from leading conservatives in the party, which is likely to seal Sullivan’s defeat.

Should Rod Beck step aside in deference to Semanko, as he has indicated he will, the path will be clear for Semanko to be elected to the position of party chair, perhaps by acclamation, which would serve as the first step on the road to restoring party unity.

Semanko is an unapologetic fiscal and social conservative, is universally well-liked, and will make sure that everybody plays by the rules and is treated fairly and evenhandedly, whether they are party commanders or foot soldiers. This will ensure a level playing field for all and relieve the agitation among conservatives who watched as Sullivan blockaded the clear will of party regulars, refused to enforce party rules in order to help his favored candidates for office, and blocked others from full participation in the party process.

Semanko’s election to the post of party chairman will represent a clear and unambiguous victory for conservative principles in the party, and a major step toward returning Idaho’s GOP to its fundamental principles of fiscal and social conservatism.

There is still time for the Idaho GOP to avoid the catastrophe that has befallen the party at the national level, which has lost power and credibility because it has abandoned conservative principles of governance.

This convention may be the last and best chance for conservatives to regain leadership of the Republican Party in the Gem State and return it to its roots.

The possibility now exists that the Idaho GOP, from the top down, can once again become the advocate for smaller government, lower taxes, fiscal restraint and family values that Idaho citizens need and deserve.

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