BOISE -- The Idaho Republican Convention advertised a theme of freedom and unity , but by most accounts, that was a failure. The goal of the biannual convention is to set party platform issues and elect a chairman; neither of those things happened.
AP Reporter: People were yelling at delegates and convention chair
With the party fractured into essentially two factions nationwide (establishment and tea party), the goal after the primaries was to come together before the general election. Associated Press Statehouse Reporter Kimberlee Kruesi attended the convention and says while some conflict was predicted, Republicans set out with high hopes as the convention kicked off. By Saturday, everything had changed.
From the audience, where I was sitting, a lot of people were yelling at the delegates, they were yelling at Labrador, there was a lot of jeering. If you had booing on one side, you had cheering and clapping on the other, Kruesi said.
Arguments were fueled primarily by questions about how delegates were selected either at the county level or for a particular committee. The credentials committee voted to throw out dozens of delegates.
They spent a lot of time on the roll call, on parliamentary procedures, from both factions that were fighting over control ... of the convention, Kruesi said. They had recommendations. They had a list of resolutions they wanted to pass. But by the time Saturday came around...The only votes they were able to actually complete were on throwing people out.
Superintendent Luna:Committees were stacked, party chair wouldn't explain placements
Outgoing Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna attended the convention and said when he went to the resolutions committee, he immediately felt the committee was stacked.
It was obvious to me that the makeup of the committee that on many of those resolutions, it was already predetermined how they wanted those resolutions to be voted on and come out of committee. And they did, Luna said.
Luna said counties are expected to have a proportional number of delegates based on size, with larger counties having more representation.
It was obvious when we got there, that that wasn't the case. A large county like Ada had very little representation, Luna said. So from the very beginning, there was a question that lingered and lingered and lingered, that for some reason nobody wanted to answer. So it really erupted and was the cause of the meltdown that happened on Saturday.
With no answers, no votes, GOP convention falls apart
Luna believes the solution once they were at the convention would have been for the chairman to explain the committee assignments. As the fighting intensified, Luna says he stood up and asked for an explanation.
Basically what I said is, 'You have people that have left their jobs and their families and spent lots of money to be here, and there's a question that's being asked that I think if it was answered, we could move forward and accomplish our work'. If the party chair would just stand in front of the group and explain how he chose people to serve on these committees and why he chose this makeup, Luna said.
Luna said the chairman refused to answer that question.
I think that's the point where everybody thought, this is not going anywhere and is probably not going to end well, Luna said.
Ada County Republican: Tea party delegates pushed aside
Kruesi reported that as the committee voted to remove delegates, those facing removal said the panel had been stacked with tea party favorites who were picking and choosing who could vote on a new party chair and changes to the platform .
Taking steps back from the convention, Ada County Republicans who'd aligned with tea party gubernatorial candidate Senator Russ Fulcher believe the entire argument never would have happened had they not been effectively shut out at the county level two weeks ago. Recently-ousted Ada County Republican Party Chairman Greg Ferch believes he fell victim to a plan intended to put pro-Governor Butch Otter people in place for convention.
They went with this predetermined delegate slate that was pretty clearly handpicked, solicited, and manipulated... prior to the meeting, Ferch said. It excluded in totality, it appears, every possible delegate candidate to the convention that might be oriented along the lines of Russ Fulcher.
Ferch says he and others who aligned with Fulcher instead of Otter in the primary race were shoved to the bottom of the delegates list. Ferch was an alternate, but he ended up on the floor for the convention. He says that was only because there was low attendance and the party dug to the bottom of the alternates list.
Former Ada County GOPChairman:Strategy wasn't smart
Ferch believes all of the chaos at the convention can be traced back to the Ada County decisions, since those were the delegates committees questioned for process. He also believes the fallout could last beyond the convention in terms of the split party.
I would really love for people to take a step back, look in the mirror, think about it objectively and really consider their actions and see if they really believe what they did was fair and equitable, especially in a county that the governor didn't carry, Ferch said. I find that challenging not only from a 'golden rule' point of view, but simply from a political, strategic point. That probably wasn't the best way to ensure the governor has all hands on deck when it comes to the election in November.
GOP still calling for unity after failed convention
While this convention perhaps deepened the line between factions, both sides of the GOP are still calling for unity in November.
We've probably all been at family reunions that didn't end up like we'd hoped, and this is some infighting going on within the party. It was probably more than was necessary, but I do believe that at the end of the day, with the proper leadership, we can unite, and we will unite, Luna said.
Frankly, I think at some point, everyone needs to grow up and stop the tit for tat stuff, Ferch said.
Since the convention did not elect a chairman, it remains unclear who will lead the charge for November. Luna says it is uncertain whether the current chairman will stay the chairman or if somehow a vote needs to happen. An attorney confirmed providing the party with a legal opinion, but he declined to share the opinion Monday night.
The party chairman spoke to KTVB on the telephone Monday, though he postponed an in-person interview to Tuesday. Congressman Raul Labrador, who chaired the convention, did not respond to requests for comment through this communications director.