It appears that Gov. Brad Little will spend the next four years at war with the Idaho Republican Party, and we should have seen it coming, writes guest columnist Chuck Malloy.
Governor Brad Little, who by his own admission is not known for his great oratory skills, must feel good about the quality of his State of the State speech he gave to start this legislative session. On the same subject : Dancer hopes the next step is a coveted spot on the Cowboys cheerleading squad. Actually better than usual.
Mind you, there was nothing spectacular about the speech. There was plenty of platitudes, and not much detail on his overall agenda. His speech will be long forgotten as lawmakers dive into the details and start looking at other side issues.
Idaho Freedom Foundation’s Wayne Hoffman wasted no time attacking the speech. “My advice to legislators is to ignore everything Governor Little said. Every last word,” Hoffman said. “This was without a doubt the worst speech I’ve ever heard an Idaho governor give.”
For Little, it is a signal that his speech could go down in history as one of the best. If Hoffman had his way, there would be no state funding for public education — and Little was nowhere near that mark.
The governor’s speech was also panned by the Idaho Freedom Caucus, led by Rep. Heather Scott of Blanchard and Sen. Tammy Nichols of Middleton — two of Hoffman’s best friends in the Legislature. They were “startled” by the speech. “What Idaho needs is more Ron DeSantis, less Gavin Newsom.”
Little will treat that criticism, along with their bickering on the legislative floor, with the seriousness of a fly on the wall. They will be ignored.
But the governor received, perhaps to his delight, a bonus “reprimand” from another leading Hoffman ally, Idaho Republican Party Chairwoman Dorothy Moon. Her vision seems to turn the state party from being a cheerleader for Republicans to a political enforcer.
“While the governor is right to emphasize education as a path to economic prosperity, his embrace of teacher union policy goals — including a huge increase in spending without increased accountability metrics — is deeply disappointing,” Moon said. “Our concern is not to be seen to rebuke Idaho’s Republican governor, but rather to stand with the people of Idaho who have made it clear they want policies consistent with conservative principles.”
So that’s what we get for the next four years. Little spent most of his first term struggling, eventually ignoring Lt. Govt. Janice McGeachin. Now it looks like Little will spend the next four years at war with the Idaho Republican Party.
Don’t expect Little to do anything but reject the likes of Moon, Hoffman and McGeachin. To some of the “mainstream” Republicans I talk to, these are the true RINOs – people who claim to be Republicans but are philosophically closer to the Libertarian Party or the John Birch Society.
The group has managed to take over the state party and many of the county central committees, but they are a long way from capturing everything. Little easily defeated McGeachin in the last primary, even though she was endorsed by former President Trump. Debbie Critchfield, Idaho’s new superintendent of public instruction—and a little ally—defeated the Freedom Foundation’s golden boy, Branden Durst. Lt. Gov. Scott Bedke, who promised to bring sanity to the office, defeated Rep. Priscilla Giddings, another Libertarian/Republican. Then there was Phil McGrane, who edged out Moon in the race for foreign secretary.
The state has a proposed rule change that would give the state central committee the power to call Idaho’s U.S. senators, representatives or state officials to a “meeting” about their “conduct.” Penalties can range from a censure (on the first offense) to barring candidates from using the Republican label for five years.
Good luck calling Governor Lille on the carpet. He has no reason to worry about what these RINOs are doing. If they want to remove him from the party, they might as well boot Critchfield and Bedke out while they’re at it.
Critchfield praised the governor, saying his agenda for education aligns with hers. Bedke has made it clear that he will not turn his office into a right-wing circus when the governor does business out of state. For Moon’s Central Committee, that could be grounds for censure, if not outright expulsion from the GOP.
If you thought the political campaigns were over, think again. It will be a rocky ride for Little, Critchfield and Bedke over the next four years.
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