MOSCOW, Idaho (AP) — Pleas for unison inside the Idaho Republican Party were muffled Friday by the sounds of name-calling and pointed accusations from party leaders attending the second day of the statewide GOP convention.
While the day was supposed to be dedicated to amending platform planks and rule recommendations, the often-overlooked credentials committee spent hours throwing out more than 20 percent of the state's delegation assignments.
Delegate numbers are critical as established candidates face off against tea party members over control of the party's agenda. Each side is vying for supporters as Republicans vote on adding platform amendments, along with deciding on a new state party chair.
In total, the committee voted out more than 130 delegates, however their recommendation must still be approved by the general assembly on Saturday.
One of the main areas of contention was how much representation Ada County - which holds one-sixth of the state's votes - should get.
State party Chairman Barry Peterson said he never received the committee assignments, forcing him only to appoint only four Ada County members to the committees, when it was allowed 34 members to participate on the panels. Ada County wasn't the only region to be shorted delegates.
A committee list obtained by The Associated Press showed nearly 25 counties were shorted committee delegates. Meanwhile, another seven were given extra delegates.
After almost unanimously denying a compromise which would have resolved the complaint, the committee then voted to recommend rejecting all 102 of Ada County's delegates.
The lines could be clearly seen between tea party forces and establishment Republicans when the committee began voting to throw out elected delegates, followed by cheers and groans from the audience.
"Just hold on, take a breath and go refresh your lipstick," said Chuck Reitz, credential committee co-chairman, to a group of women raising questions about the delegation complaints.
Many said it was the first time in years the credential committee received so much attention/
"They have stacked the committee," said Steve Millington, Twin Falls County GOP chairman. "We are trying to bring some sanity to the party and they are whittling us away."
Millington's delegation election was challenged by tea party favorite Rick Martin, who failed to win a seat on the county delegation.
Ada delegate Ken Burgess said Peterson "clearly, clearly stacked these committees to give the tin foil hat caucus majority control of convention."
Credential committee member and former Idaho congressional candidate Bryan Smith countered that the panel was following the state's GOP rules.
"We don't believe in special treatment," Smith said. "This is a great example of the Republican party policing itself, even when it means going against its own members."
If Republicans do agree to throw out the nearly 130 delegates Saturday, the consequence could result in a mass request from the rejected delegates to refund their convention fees and thus impact the party's ability to pay for the event. According to convention treasurer Jared Larsen, fees from Ada County delegates alone totaled $15,000.
While he declined to say how much the overall convention cost the GOP, Larsen said refunding those delegates would be a "devastating blow." For example, renting out the Kibbie Dome on the University of Idaho's campus —where most of the convention was held— cost the party $18,000.
On Friday, as Republicans also debated the overall party platform, they OK'd a measure stating that Idaho schools should all be required to have bibles and rejected another that would have sought to prevent same-sex couples from becoming parents.
Republicans also voted to approve removing the plank that calls for the repeal of the 17th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and return to direct appointment of U.S. Senators by state legislatures.
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