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Republican party flyers in Bonneville County spark debate amid upcoming primary election

Politics

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IDAHO FALLS — The Idaho Republican Party is reminding voters that it doesn’t endorse or recommend political candidates during a primary election.

The statement was written in a letter dated May 10 by Idaho GOP Chairman Tom Luna that criticizes the Bonneville County Republican Central Committee for distributing a flyer that they say infers the state party has endorsed candidates.

The flyer, which is titled “Official Republican Party Sample Ballot,” recommends a list of candidates for voters to consider during the Republican primary on May 17. Since its publication and mailing to households in Bonneville County, Luna says the Idaho GOP has received numerous inquiries about the flyers.

Luna says they are “intentionally designed to deceive voters into believing that the Idaho Republican Party has endorsed the candidates listed.”

But Bonneville County Republican Central Committee Chairman Mark Fuller disagrees. He says the flyers are from the BCRCC and “no honest individual” could think otherwise.

“It’s got our logo on it, it has our website on it, it has our phone number on it. It repeatedly says ‘Bonneville County Republican Party,'” says Fuller. “Anybody who can read can tell who put this out. There’s a QR code down at the bottom, and if you access it, it takes you back to the vetting committee’s website so you can read all of the responses from all of the candidates.”

Fuller explained that over the last several months, confusion about the upcoming election prompted the BCRCC to interview all 57 candidates to determine their positions on different issues and whether they adhere to Republican party principles.

“We sent them a detailed survey asking them about their positions. We said, ‘Come let us know your positions so that we can know whether or not we should recommend you to the people who are asking if you’re a good candidate,'” Fuller says.

The committee devoted hundreds of hours to this effort and Fuller says most of them responded.

After verifying the candidate’s positions, Fuller and his team released a sample ballot recommending the candidates they endorse as legitimate Republican candidates.

“We recommended one candidate for the House in each of the three Districts and we’ve mailed those out to every registered Republican household in Bonneville County,” Fuller explains.

Minutes from a recent BCRCC meeting show the flyers are also slated to be hand-delivered door-to-door.

Recommending candidates is a relatively new thing for the BCRCC. Up until very recently, the local party had a bylaw in place that prevented it from endorsing candidates. But during an April 14 meeting, that bylaw was removed.

Bryan Smith, an Idaho Falls attorney running against incumbent Rep. Mike Simpson for the 2nd Congressional District seat, made a motion during the meeting to approve a proposal allowing donations to candidates from the BCRCC, meeting notes show. He reportedly said “people in this county look to the Republican party to know who the real Republicans are…and the time has come to allow the party to serve constituents’ needs.”

RELATED | Bonneville Republicans amend bylaws, ratify donations that broke rules

The BCRCC donated money to the following candidates:

  • Rep. Ron Nate, who is running for re-election to the Idaho House as a representative for District 34
  • Raul Labrador, who is hoping to replace Lawrence Wasden as Idaho Attorney General
  • Rep. Priscilla Giddings, who is running for Idaho Lieutenant Governor
  • Rep. Dorothy Moon, who is running for Secretary of State
  • Douglas Toomer, who is vying to represent District 35 in the Idaho Senate
  • Rep. Barbara Ehardt, who is hoping to maintain her seat in the Idaho House, representing District 33

In Luna’s letter, he specifically mentions the following candidates are not being endorsed by the Idaho GOP.

  • Mike Crapo for United States Senate
  • Bryan Smith for United States Congress
  • Janice McGeachin for Idaho Governor
  • Priscilla Giddings for Idaho Lt. Governor
  • Dorothy Moon for Idaho Secretary of State
  • Raul Labrador for Idaho Attorney General
  • Brandon Durst for Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction
  • Keith Newberry for Idaho Senate
  • Douglas Toomer for Idaho Senate
  • Nicholas Christiansen for Idaho House
  • Kevin Andrus for Idaho House
  • Chad Christensen for Idaho House
  • Barbara Ehardt for Idaho House

Fuller also takes issue with Luna saying the party does not endorse candidates because Article IX of the Idaho GOP Party’s rules allows for it.

“County Central Committees may determine the political affiliation of candidates filing or declaring an intent to file as Republican candidates for county political offices and may endorse Republican candidates for their respective positions,” the rule says.

Fuller says the ability to endorse candidates is important because some members of the Democrat Party encourage their candidates to lie about being Republican so that they can trick registered voters into electing them.

“What we’re trying to do is (be fair) and identify who really believes in Republican principles, not just somebody who self proclaims. A lot of people assume that just because somebody is running as a Republican, that the party must have given them the good housekeeping seal of approval … but that’s not (always) the case,” Fuller explains.

Luna goes on to write that the party “has made a good faith effort to maintain the utmost neutrality during the 2022 Idaho Republican Primary.”

However, at the beginning of the primary season, Fuller points out the first letter Luna sent was asking for money to help re-elect Brad Little.

“So, I don’t know where Tom Luna is coming from,” Fuller says. “The state party rules specifically allow us to endorse and it doesn’t say we can’t do it during the primary. If you’re in doubt and you believe the Bonneville County Republican Central Committee has done its homework … then I hope (voters will) rely upon our recommendations.”

EastIdahoNews.com reached out to Luna’s office for comment but did not receive a response.

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