How the Gem State Conservatives Plan to Take Over the Idaho GOP

The plot to retake the Idaho Republican Party from the grassroots began before the state convention in Twin Falls had even gaveled out. Former chairmen Tom Luna and Trent Clark began systematically attacking new chair Dorothy Moon and the other elected leaders of the party, accusing of them of Stalinist tactics and comparing the party to the Gestapo.

When the Legislature eliminated the March presidential primary, the Idaho GOP responded by creating a caucus, ensuring the participation of as many Republican voters that chose to show up. The ousted leaders attacked the idea of the caucus, denounced it, and presented it as evidence of Moon’s incompetence and malevolence.

Luna and Clark formed a statewide organization called Gem State Conservatives (GSC), contracting with Biden supporter Christa Hazel for communications and signing a fundraising letter with former state senator Patti Ann Lodge, who endorsed the Democrat in the 2022 attorney general race, and former state representative Tom Loertscher, who ran a sore loser write-in campaign after he was defeated in the Republican primary.

Gem State Conservatives recruited hundreds of candidates to stand for precinct committeeman, providing them with ads, signs, mailers, and text message campaigns, all created and managed from a central headquarters. Trent Clark once said that the GSC needed to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to combat McShane, a political consulting firm working to elect several conservative candidates in Idaho. This was obviously a category error, as McShane works for legislative candidates, not precinct committeemen. The very idea of a single centralized campaign office to elect PCs from Bonners Ferry to Bear Lake makes a mockery of the idea of community representation.

Just before the election, Luna and Clark held a farcical press conference at the Capitol in which they attempted to make hay out of a dispute between conservative legislators and Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), which was engaged in independent expenditures in the primary election. They attempted to connect the Idaho GOP as a whole, and Dorothy Moon personally, to YAL, especially the organization’s support for drug legalization. Neither Moon nor conservative legislators support that issue, but the point was simply to tar their reputations just days before the election.

Though the GSC won some PC seats throughout the state, early indications are they did not win an outright majority in Ada, Canyon, or Kootenai Counties. Nevertheless, the GSC are planning to wrest control of as many committees as they can, both to control the state central committee and make sure that the delegates to the convention in Coeur d’Alene next month reliably vote against the current leadership. They have even secured a donor to pay for a fleet of tour buses to ferry delegates to the convention.

In a private call with GSC-aligned PCs, Luna and Clark warned that conservatives would try every trick in the book to wear them out. They urged their PCs to stay as long as the meeting lasts. This is ironic, considering it was once standard procedure in the Ada County GOP to pack the schedule with speakers leaving no time for new business. Those responsible for such tactics resigned en masse last year and are now allied with the GSC to retake power.

One thing from the private call I found interesting is that the Gem State Conservatives think they are the true Republicans, the true representatives of Idaho voters. The other side thinks the same thing. Could they both be right?

I know that the people I have been working with are truly grassroots citizen activists. I walked into a district reorganization meeting four years ago looking to get involved, and here I am. Many others have similar stories: Working fathers taking the time to organize volunteers and knock on doors, homeschool mothers realizing that nobody else is going to step up and do what needs to be done, and many more regular people who are desperate to save our state and our country.

Contrary to what Trent Clark said on the Neal & Julie Show a few weeks ago, precinct committeemen are meant for more than just making cookies and blowing up balloons. PCs are the foundation of the Idaho Republican Party, and the organization works best when regular people get involved rather than leaving it to political veterans and elites.

The current group of PCs, those who have supported the work of Dorothy Moon these past two years, believe that being a Republican means something. They believe in the principles upon which our country and our state were founded and are not willing to compromise in the hopes of gaining more converts from the left. For that they have been demonized as a cabal, the Cheka, witch hunters.

Ultimately, control of the central committees and the Idaho GOP will be determined by who decides to show up. Will the grassroots conservatives make their voices heard? Or will we return to a top-down system from the same folks that printed identical campaign signs for PC races throughout the Gem State? The choice is yours.

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