IDAHO FALLS — Idaho GOP State Party Chairman Stephen Yates announced Monday that he will be stepping down from his position effective April 24.
Yates, of Idaho Falls, is halfway through his second term as state party chairman.
“I’ve talked with people around the party about this for a long time,” Yates said. “I had no intention of running for a third term. And if I fulfilled the full extent of my second term, then the summer of next year I’ve put the party in the exact position I’ve repeatedly advocated against.”
Yates told EastIdahoNews.com, Idaho is the only Republican party in the U.S. that holds its party officer elections during the general elections. The Idaho GOP conventions, where party leadership is elected, are held after the primaries.
With Yates’ decision to step down, the Idaho GOP will be able to elect a new chair during its summer meeting on July 22, instead of after the state primaries in 2018.
Yates said this will give the state GOP the chance to discuss and possibly change its rules to allow it to hold party leadership elections outside of the general election cycle.
“The idea of stepping aside and making way for new leadership to come in during the summer meeting has been in the works and on my mind for a while,” Yates said. “The decision to step down at the end of the Lincoln Day cycle is the simplest time for the acting chairman to have the sole responsibility of planning for the summer meeting.”
But Yates’ decision doesn’t mean he’s leaving the political arena. When word got around that Yates was considering stepping down, party members began asking him to consider running for other offices.
“There’s everything from Legislature to the other constitutional offices to federal offices that people would talk about,” he said.
The one office he said is most appealing to him is that of lieutenant governor. It’s an office others in the Idaho GOP feel Yates would do well in.
“I believe he is going to take a run at being lieutenant governor,” Madison County GOP Chair Doug Ricks said. “Steve has been in for about three years now — he’s done a really good job as the state party chairman. I’ve been very impressed with his ability to pull things together and make things in a pretty good state for the GOP.”
Ricks said, with already three other candidates running for the position, he’s happy about Yates as a possibility for lieutenant governor.
The other candidates for the position are Kelley Packer of McCammon, Janice McGeachin of Idaho Falls, and Sen. Marv Hagedorn of Meridian, all Republicans.
“I think that there are some elements of the lieutenant governor’s office that is an interesting and exciting opportunity,” Yates said. “We’re going to have new governor, for sure. We can’t know exactly who at this point, but we do know, for sure, that we’re going to have a new governor inaugurated in 2019. It will be a fresh approach and an opportunity to help chart a new course for the state with new leadership. That would be exciting.”
Promoting business development, trade and investment and international connections that help Idaho are some of the duties of lieutenant governor that Yates said have already been part of his career.
“I have given an awful lot of consideration to the possibility of lieutenant governor,” Yates told EastIdahoNews.com. “And basically have in mind in a couple of weeks’ time about whether that’s right for me and whether I can make a compelling case that it’s what’s right for the Republican nomination and what’s right for the state.”
First Vice Chair Mike Mathews will take over as chair until the Idaho GOP summer meeting July 22.
Eli Watkins, CNN
Stephan Rockefeller, EastIdahoNews.com
Nate Eaton, EastIdahoNews.com