Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Moon reelected Idaho GOP Chair, party now opposes funding higher education

Staff Writer | June 15, 2024 5:30 PM

COEUR d’ALENE — Idaho Republican Party Chairwoman Dorothy Moon was reelected to a second two-year term Saturday in Coeur d’Alene, during the final day of the Idaho GOP’s convention.

“We are not the fringe, folks,” Moon told a crowd of more than 800 people in the Schuler Performing Arts Center on the North Idaho College campus, to thunderous applause.

Moon received 376 votes from delegates who came from across Idaho, defeating former legislator and Coeur d’Alene resident Mary Souza, who captured 228 votes.

In a speech to delegates, Moon described herself as “the real deal,” as well as a hard worker and a person who follows through on her promises.

“We have not moved from where we’ve always stood,” she said. “Some people have. I’m an old horse and I cannot be taught new tricks. I know where I stand, and I think all of you know where you stand. We have been fighting so hard.”

After the election results were announced, Moon called for unity among Idaho Republicans, particularly in “the fight on ranked-choice voting.”

“We want to keep Idaho red, and I know we will,” she said. “We’re going to save our state, and we’re going to make this a great place to raise our kids.”

Party unity was a common refrain throughout the convention and formed the platform for Souza’s campaign for party chair. She urged Idaho Republicans to focus on their similarities, rather than their differences.

“We have an opportunity now to pull together,” she told delegates in a speech. “We can accept each other for who we are and what we believe.”

In a break with the practice of past conventions, reporters were not permitted to observe any of the committee meetings and were not allowed inside the general session at North Idaho College until Saturday afternoon, shortly before the nominations for party leadership positions.

Delegates approved a change to the Idaho Republican Party platform that may significantly impact how Republican legislators approach funding for higher education in Idaho.

“We strongly support professional technical and continuing education programs that provide career readiness and college preparation, but we do not support using taxpayer funding for programs beyond high school,” the party platform now reads in part.

NIC Trustee Todd Banducci, who attended the convention as a delegate, stood in support of the change. He declined to answer questions about his vote.

Mike Waggoner, a college trustee who attended the convention as a guest, did not indicate whether he supports the platform change.

“I don’t know exactly how that’s going to affect us,” Waggoner said. “Beyond that, I don’t have a comment.”

NIC’s operating budget for fiscal year 2024 included a $14.9 million allocation from the state general fund, $17.8 million in property tax revenue and $200,000 in state liquor tax allocation. Those revenue sources made up about 61% of NIC’s $53 million budget.

Coeur d’Alene City Councilman and alternate delegate Dan Gookin didn’t mince words on what he believes the platform change means for Idaho’s higher education institutions, including North Idaho College.

“They just voted to gut higher education,” he said.

Now that opposition for higher education funding is part of the Idaho GOP’s platform, Gookin said, Republican elected officials who vote in favor of such funding risk being punished by county Republican central committees.

The party rules empower central committees to censure Republicans for “substantive violations of party platform,” as well as remove party support and forbid the use of Republican Party identifiers for five years.

Delegates also voted to expand the party’s “Right to Life” article to include assisted suicide, euthanasia and embryo destruction.

“We oppose all actions which intentionally end an innocent human life, including abortion, the destruction of human embryos, euthanasia and assisted suicide,” the platform now reads in part.

The party also added to the platform a call for “excuse-only absentee ballots.”

    Kootenai County Republican Central Committee Chair Brent Regan stands amid delegates and alternates at the Idaho GOP Convention, held in Schuler Performing Arts Center on the North Idaho College campus.

    North Idaho College trustee Todd Banducci attended the Idaho GOP Convention as a delegate.