As Idaho GOP chairwoman slams Little’s priorities, fissure between GOP, elected officials grows

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.

January 17, 2023 4:15 am
Idaho Gov. Brad Little at the State of the State

Idaho Gov. Brad Little waves to the gallery before he enters the House chambers to give his State of the State speech on Jan. 9, 2023. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

Gov. Brad Little, who by his admission is not known for his great oratory skills, must be feeling good about the quality of his State of the State address that he delivered to kick off this legislative session. In fact, better than normal.

Mind you, there was nothing spectacular about the speech. There were lots of platitudes, and not many specifics on his overall agenda. His speech will be long forgotten as legislators dive into the details and begin looking at other side issues.

The Idaho Freedom Foundation’s Wayne Hoffman wasted no time attacking the speech. “My advice to lawmakers is to ignore everything Gov. Little said. Every last word,” Hoffman said. “This was arguably the worst speech I’ve ever heard an Idaho governor give.”

To Little, that’s a signal that his speech could go down in history as one of the best. If Hoffman had his way, there would be no government funding for public education – and Little was nowhere close to that mark.

The governor’s speech also was 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 “dismayed” with the speech. “What Idaho needs is more Ron DeSantis, less Gavin Newsom.”

Little will treat that criticism, along with their rants on the Legislature’s floors, with the seriousness of a fly on the wall. They will be ignored.

But the governor, perhaps to his delight, received a bonus “rebuke” from another leading Hoffman ally, Idaho Republican Party Chair Dorothy Moon. Her vision appears to be turning the state party from being a cheerleader for Republicans to a policy enforcer.

“While the governor is right to emphasize education as a pathway to economic prosperity, his embrace of teacher’s union policy objectives – including a vast increase in spending without increased accountability metrics – is deeply disappointing,” Moon said. “Our concern is not about being seen to rebuke Idaho’s Republican governor, but rather to stand with the people of Idaho, who have made it clear that they want policies consistent with conservative principle.”

Idaho Republican Party chairwoman Dorothy Moon
Idaho Republican Party chairwoman Dorothy Moon talks with attendees at the Idaho GOP election night watch party on Nov. 8, 2022, at the Grove Hotel in Boise. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

So, this is what we are going to get for the next four years. Little spent most of his first term doing battle, and eventually, ignoring Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin. Now, it appears that Little will spend the next four years at war with the Idaho Republican Party.

We should have seen it coming.

Don’t expect Little to do anything other than brush aside 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 of capturing everything. Little easily defeated McGeachin in the last primary election, 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 taking out Moon in the race for secretary of state.

The state party has a proposed rule change that would allow the state central committee the authority to call Idaho’s U.S. senators, representatives or state officials to a “meeting” about their “conduct.” Penalties could range from a censorship (on the first offense) to barring candidates from using the Republican label for five years.

Good luck with calling Gov. Little on the carpet. He has no reason to care what these RINOs do. If they want to remove him from the party, they might as well boot out Critchfield and Bedke while they’re at it.

Critchfield praised the governor, saying his agenda for education lines up 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 the state. To Moon’s central committee, those could be grounds for censorship, if not outright expulsion from the GOP.

 If you thought that the political campaigns were over, think again. It’s going to be a rocky ride for Little, Critchfield and Bedke over the next four years.


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