Judge sides with Bingham County Republicans in ongoing legal battle - East Idaho News

Judge sides with Bingham County Republicans in ongoing legal battle

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BLACKFOOT — A 7th Court District judge has blocked the Idaho Republican Party from holding a special meeting to elect a new chair of the Bingham County Republican Central Committee. It’s the latest in the legal battle between local party leaders and the Idaho Republican Party Chairwoman Dorothy Moon and state GOP leaders.

The court action stems from the county electing a new committee chairman, according to Matt Thompson, of the Bingham County Republicans. When the previous chairman, Dan Cravens, announced his resignation in July, the local committee held an election to replace him. Thompson was elected as chairman, which triggered a domino effect through the ranks.

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Thompson’s previous position as state committeeman was left empty, so the local committee held an election to fill it. Ben Fuhriman was elected as Thompson’s replacement. Consequently, Fuhriman’s position was left open, so the committee elected Jedediah Russell as his replacement. Jordon Johns was then elected as first vice-chair to Thompson.

According to the Bingham County GOP, Moon inappropriately used her power and authority to negate that election.

Moon’s concern about the election was its date.

“Chairman Cravens announced that he PLANNED to resign on Aug. 1, 2023,” Moon said. “He then conducted an election on July 20 to fill a vacancy that did not yet exist. Before you can hold an election to fill a vacancy, that vacancy must actually exist.”

Bingham County Republicans filed for and were granted a temporary restraining order and an injunction against state GOP leadership in September. The restraining order put a stop to any special meetings to hold new elections.

On Tuesday, a 7th District Court judge upheld the initial injunction. That means Moon and the Idaho Republican Party are still prohibited from holding a special meeting to elect officers for the Bingham County Republican Central Committee.

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“I’m encouraged by the court’s decision and its rejection of Dorothy Moon’s attempt to rewrite history after the fact,” said Greg Chaney, who represents the Bingham County committee.

“We’re happy for the ruling of Judge Simpson and are pleased that it will allow us to continue to work for the people of Bingham County,” Fuhriman told EastIdahoNews.com in a written statement. “We are looking forward to continuing the appeal process laid out by the IDGOP rules.”

The appeal could be a controversy in the making. According to IDGOP rules, Moon and National Committeeman Bryan Smith — who is representing the executive committee and Moon — should not be involved with the appeal hearing.

“We hope that Chairwoman Moon and Bryan Smith … will do the right thing and recuse themselves from the judicial committee at our appeal hearing,” Fuhriman said. “We don’t see how they could be fair and impartial jurors, so to speak.”

In the same vein, the Bingham GOP has filed a motion to disqualify Smith from the case, citing a conflict of interest. That hearing will be held on Oct. 19.

“I believe Mr. Smith’s personal entanglement with the case is concerning,” Chaney told EastIdahoNews.com. “But I’ll leave it to the court to decide whether it rises to the level of disqualification.”

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The Bingham County Republicans Central Committee says this isn’t about a simple election. It’s about being treated fairly by state leadership.

“We’ve been contacted by people all over the state,” Thompson said. “We’re sure not the first people to go through this.”

The local leaders blame Moon for the “turmoil” the Idaho Republican party has faced statewide, saying it can be “directly traced back” to Moon’s election.

“What has happened in Bingham County, Ada County and other counties is evidence of the distrust and lack of confidence Republicans across the state have in (Moon’s) leadership,” Fuhriman said. “We are disappointed that it took going down this path to get the fair treatment every Republican should expect from their chairman.”