Legislative committee censures local lawmakers accused of violating party platform - East Idaho News

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Legislative committee censures local lawmakers accused of violating party platform

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Rep. Stephanie Mickelsen, left, and Sen. Kevin Cook were censured following a public Legislative District 32 Committee hearing last week. Watch it in the video above. | Facebook photos

IDAHO FALLS — Rep. Stephanie Mickelsen no longer has the support of the Republican party following a vote by the Legislative District 32 Committee last Thursday.

Committee members make this assertion in the wake of a public hearing, alleging she and her colleague, Senator Kevin Cook, violated the party platform.

Documents sent to EastIdahoNews.com Monday afternoon show Legislative District 32 issued Mickelsen an article 20 platform enforcement resolution, which “removes Republican party support” and “prohibits her” from identifying as a Republican on campaign information and advertising for the next five years.

RELATED | Bonneville GOP discusses enforcing platform violations for elected officials at Town Hall meeting

In a text to EastIdahoNews.com, Mickelsen counters their assertion, saying her Republican filing was accepted by the secretary of state and she has no intention of changing her affiliation.

“I am a Republican and intend to run as a Republican,” Mickelsen writes. “What the committee is claiming is not correct under Idaho Statute.”

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Article XX Platform Enforcement Resolution against Rep. Mickelsen | Courtesy LD 32 Committee

Additionally, both lawmakers have been censured with respect to party disaffiliation, which is a vote of no confidence by the party. They were also issued resolutions of censure for their positions on school choice and for sharing the allegations and names of petitioners with local media.

The committee’s second hearing in three months builds on an initial Dec. 5 hearing where Mickelsen was “censured” and Cook and Rep. Wendy Horman received “guidance.”

RELATED | Bonneville County legislator ‘censured’ for platform violations; committee issues ‘guidance’ to colleagues

Later, a separate Legislative District 33 Committee met on Jan. 11, issuing “votes of no confidence” for Sen. Dave Lent and Rep. Marco Erickson. Rep. Barbara Ehardt was not censured after a tie-breaking vote, according to a news release by Chairwoman Jilene Burger.

The committee initially asked Cook and Mickelsen to “reaffirm” their commitment to the party, a platform they agreed to follow and be evaluated by when they filed to run for office.

The committee alleges their voting record during the 2024 Legislative Session and their continued refusal to attend public hearings demonstrates a “willful disregard” of their previous request and the party rules, which are rewritten every two years by Republican voters.

“Rep. Mickelsen (and Sen. Cook) shun any form of party accountability,” Legislative District 32 Chairman Doyle Beck says in the documents.

Mickelsen acknowledges she did sign the party platform in 2022, with exceptions. She notes the party made changes in June 2023 that includes this “tribunal process.”

“I didn’t commit to following the constantly moving line that’s become the state party’s platform. Instead, I swore an oath to uphold the U.S. and Idaho Constitutions. I’ve worked hard to uphold that and serve District 32,” Mickelsen says.

The efforts of the committee to “target” her and her colleague are “a poor use of resources and a distraction from the goals Republicans share,” she says.

“The censure process has been divisive, secretive and unnecessary. There is no reason to subvert the voters. I trust the thousands of registered Republican voters in District 32 to make the right decision for their community,” Mickelsen says.

RELATED | Special committee alleges legislators violated party platform; dealership says building was ‘misused’

Cook did not respond to a request for comment, but in a statement ahead of last week’s hearing he addressed the committee’s concerns about his alleged lack of support for school choice.

“The central committee is holding another trial because I won’t agree to send public tax dollars to private K-12 schools,” Cook wrote. “The state has zero oversight on how private schools spend money, set curriculum or produce student outcomes. I have a responsibility to my district and voters to ensure accountability and transparency when it comes to spending their tax dollars. I’ll continue to speak up for these principles.”

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Courtesy LD32 Committee

The hearings are stirring discussion at the highest levels of the Idaho Statehouse in Boise.

Senate President Pro Tempore Chuck Winder is opposed to the idea of putting legislators on trial because they don’t vote the way the party wants.

He questions the constitutionality of hearings that determine who can run as a Republican.

“I don’t think that’s legal. I think it’s unconstitutional,” Winder told Laura Guido with the Idaho Press. “They don’t have to support someone that runs as a Republican, but I don’t think they can keep them from running.”

But party leaders at the local level maintain they do have a right to determine who can run as a Republican on the ballot.

Their argument is based on the new Idaho GOP Platform Enforcement Rule party leaders passed last June in Challis.  Beck said previously that elected precinct committee officers who don’t like the rules can attend party conventions and try to change them.

“This is for us to determine if there is a violation or if there’s not,” Beck says. “That’s what we need to focus on — it’s the allegations. Is there any basis to them?”

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Legislative District 32 Committee members inside the Beck Fuller Law office in downtown Idaho Falls, where last week’s hearing was held. | David Pace, EastIdahoNews.com

During the hearing, Barbara Miller, chairwoman of the Special Investigative Committee, noted that Ammon Bundy was kicked out of the Republican Party by fiat before the current rules were in place.

“This is how the Republican party operated (before this),” Miller said. “Is that really how we want the party to run?”

Beck also points out that LD32 committee members are elected by the same people who voted for Cook and Mickelsen.

The rules have been a contentious subject throughout this conversation, consuming the first 47 minutes of last week’s nearly two-hour hearing.

The vote to censure was not unanimous. Precinct Committee Officers Kathryn Hitch and Michael Colson do not agree with the committee’s actions—issuing a joint statement that the “process violates the rights of not only the accused but also voters in Bonneville County.

“In November of 2022, the voters in Bonneville County awarded over 10,000 plus votes each for Senator Cook and … Rep. Stephanie Mickelsen. Presently, less than 10 people are attempting to take actions to remove these officials’ ability to run as a Republican,” they wrote.

Beck anticipates a possible legal challenge to the committee’s decision in the future.