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Six eastern Idaho GOP Central Committees issue statement rallying around Gov. Little

REXBURG — The Republican Central Committees from six eastern Idaho counties issued a joint statement of support for Gov. Brad Little at a Multi-County Republican Fall Banquet Saturday at Madison High School in Rexburg.

The official statement expresses moderate Republicans’ opposition to the current direction of the state GOP party.

“We reject the decision of the Republican State Central Committee to express a vote of ‘no confidence’ regarding Governor Little and 14 of our Republican Idaho legislators,” the statement said. “Our Governor and our Legislators receive their authority from the voters, not from our party, or any party.

“Each individual office holder has a moral and constitutional obligation to make their own decisions about difficult and important issues. We do not need or want all Republicans to think the same. It is wrong for our party to reprimand our elected officials for voting as they conclude is best for Idaho and their individual districts.”

Little and Lt. Gov. Scott Bedke addressed the GOP representatives at the event.

Madison, Jefferson, Fremont, Lemhi, Clark and Butte counties’ GOP Central Committees voted to sign on to the statement. The Teton County GOP Central Committee also participated in the banquet, but did not sign the declaration.

“There’s some divided parts of the party right now, and the majority of this group is more supportive of a more moderate approach to governing,” said Randy Sutton, Madison County GOP Central Committee chairman.

The statement also expressed support for the Idaho Republican Women’s Federation, College Young Republicans and the Idaho Young Republicans.

“These groups have provided much of the labor and organization that have made our party successful. We regret that the current leadership of the Idaho Republican Party has promoted and passed a rule change that revoked the vote of each group in the State Central Committee,” the statement said.

In a speech at the event, Little stood by his record as governor.

“Obviously myself and all my good legislative partners, we have the distinction of offering the most tax relief per capita of any state in the Union,” Little said. “We were the first state to ban CRT (Critical Race Theory). We were the first state to pass Fairness in Women’s Sports. We don’t disrespect parents, we respect parents. We don’t implement woke technology in all the different facets of government, particularly in schools. We always honor the Second Amendment and the sanctity of life.”

He touted the state’s AAA credit rating, which was recently upgraded.

“Besides doing back-to-back-to-back-to-back tax decreases, we’ve made incredible investments in education,” Little said. “We’ve made great investments in our infrastructure. We’ve made investments in municipal water and agricultural water — both below the ground and above the ground. … The amazing thing is we’re doing all of that while lowering taxes, without going into debt.”

Little was re-elected in 2022 with 358,598 votes, receiving support from more than 60% of voters and winning in 43 out of 44 counties, the statement said.

In its June 24 summer meeting in Challis, the state GOP Central Committee, led by Chairwoman Dorothy Moon, approved a vote of no confidence in Little and 14 Republican legislators for vetoing and failing to override the veto for H.B. 314.

H.B. 314 would have allowed individuals to file legal action against libraries for $2,500 for disseminating material deemed “harmful to minors.”

In his April 5 veto letter, Little wrote, “This legislation makes sweeping, blanket assumptions on materials that could be determined as ‘harmful to minors’ in a local library, and it will force one interpretation of that phrase onto all the patrons of the library.”

He said the legislation would have created “a library bounty system that will only increase the costs local libraries incur, particularly rural libraries. These costs will be forced onto property taxpayers of Idaho or cause the libraries to close to minors altogether.”

The Post Register reached out to the Idaho GOP for an interview responding to the statement from the six counties’ GOP central committees, but did not receive a response prior to publication.

Several counties’ GOP officials expressed frustration with recent rule changes and tactics being employed by the state party, citing the resignation of former Idaho GOP National Committeeman Damond Watkins and the state GOP’s intervention in local Bingham County GOP Central Committee elections.

“They’re using strong-arm tactics, and it’s a bullying situation,” Butte County Republican Central Committee Chairwoman Kaylynn Smith said.

Marsha Bjornn, Madison County GOP Central Committee state committeewoman, agreed, “I see meanness, putting people down, trying to destroy people’s reputations. … We should have a right to vote for who we want to, and if we are loyal to our party 75 or 80% of the time, that’s good enough. We don’t always have to choose just our party. We need to learn to get along.”

Sutton said Republican voters need to be more aware and involved in the election of precinct committee officers throughout the state to influence the direction of the state GOP party.

“If we can get back into a larger majority of those precinct committeemen throughout the state taking a more moderate stance, then we’ll have the ability to stand up against that (current) voting block of the majority (in the Idaho GOP),” he said.

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