Tuesday, July 23, 2024

OPINION: Caucus saboteurs

by BRENT REGAN/Common Sense
| March 8, 2024 1:00 AM

Last Saturday, thanks to efforts by the Idaho Republican Party, nearly 40,000 Idaho Republicans were able to cast their vote for their preferred presidential candidate. This could not have happened without the Republican Party acting after the Secretary of State, the legislature and the governor all agreed to cancel the March Presidential Primary.

What is remarkable is that in five months the party created the entire caucus system from scratch. The last time Idaho held a caucus was 12 years and four party administrations ago. All records of that caucus were long gone. Rules, procedures, instructions, forms, handbooks, Poll Books, post cards, ballots and checklists all had to be designed and created. Methods had to be devised for processing the nearly one million Idaho voter records down to the 580,000 qualified Republicans and then splitting those into the 976 precincts. 

The 44 county chairmen and 35 legislative district chairmen worked to establish 210 caucus locations to serve every precinct. Volunteers needed to be recruited and trained. Supplies needed to be identified and acquired. 1,500 custom hand stamps needed to be procured. 210 caucus kits needed to be assembled and packed, each different, ranging from 1 pound to 108 pounds and each of those had to be securely shipped to its unique destination. 

On Saturday all that effort, planning and expense came to together and by 8 p.m., when the last location reported their results, it was obvious that the caucus was a success. 

That is not to say that there weren’t challenges and problems. Area newspapers reported the wrong start time, the wrong day or failed to mention the caucus at all. Friday a weather font moved in and blanketed the state in snow, two feet deep in some places, closing roads and causing power outages. 

The road to the Yellow Pine Community Hall caucus location in Valley County closed and the caucus captain called in to report her Caucus Kit (poll books, ballots, etc.) was still at the caucus coordinator’s house and could not be delivered in time. Despite being completely isolated while the plows cleared the road, we were able to email them a copy of their poll book and tabulation sheet and they were able to use slips of paper for ballots. They were resourceful and determined, so later that afternoon Yellow Pine reported 3 votes for Trump and 2 votes for Haley. 

One would think that when the party was presented with such a monumental challenge of providing the opportunity for 580,000 Republicans to vote that all Republicans would set aside their minor differences and work to serve their fellow citizens. The vast majority did exactly that. Every precinct in every county, facilitated by thousands of volunteers, was able to successfully caucus and have their voices heard. The vast majority, but not all, worked toward the good of you, the voter.

The Idaho Republican Party has been undergoing a populist transformation. As a result, Republican ranks are swelling and the old guard is losing primaries to candidates that are more popular with the people than lobbyists. Several members of the old guard, former chairmen, former legislators, former senators and a few others, dedicated themselves to sabotaging the caucus for their own political advantage. Their stated goal is to seize party leadership and they don’t seem to care if the voters are harmed in the process. 

They raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from undisclosed sources which they spent on emails, texts, flyers, mailers, fake newspapers and editorials that were oozing with misinformation and designed to dissuade voters from participating in the caucus. They also engaged in disgusting personal attacks on the chairman of our party, Dorothy Moon. This was a new low, even for them. 

Many of these efforts were anonymous, with undisclosed funding sources, which is allowed under Idaho law because a caucus is not an election. However, because a caucus involves candidates for federal office, federal election law may apply. Oops…

When one old guard former chairman was comparing this caucus to the 2012 caucus and was gloating on social media about the relatively low turnout, our Attorney General, Raul Labrador, was inspired to make the following reply:  

“Yes, that’s the difference between a nominating process that every Republican tried to make successful and a nominating process that a few malcontents tried to sabotage.” “And after all the money you and your friends spent the last two weeks trying to throw mud at the proceedings, there was not much difference in the percentage of participation. Your plan failed and you should be ashamed of yourselves.”

Having failed at sabotaging the caucus, the old guard’s next stated goal is to displace the very same volunteers that made the caucus possible. The foundations of the Republican Party are the precinct committeemen. These 976 individual party positions are elected separately by the people in their precincts. Precinct committeemen are your friends and neighbors and they volunteer their time to inform and assist you with elections. The old guard wants to “thank” these volunteers by throwing them overboard and installing their people so party control can be centralized in their hands, not yours. 

When you go to the polls in May, look toward the bottom of the ballot and you will see ‘Precinct Committeeman.’ Be sure to put a mark next to the name you know and trust. It’s good for you. It’s good for the Republican Party. It’s good for Idaho and…

It’s just common sense.

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Brent Regan is chairman of the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee.