Republican convention kicks off Thursday in Nampa

Two years removed from a fractured confab that left most party business undone, hundreds of Idaho Republicans will gather this week in Nampa for the party’s state convention.

This year’s convention theme is “Faith, Family, Freedom … Firearms!”

Organizers expect more than 1,000 people to participate in the convention, and for each of the state’s 44 counties and 35 legislative districts to be represented, Idaho Republican Party Executive Director David Johnston said.

Damond Watkins, a longtime GOP organizer and fundraiser from Idaho Falls who represents Idaho on the Republican National Committee, said the state convention plays a major role in setting the party’s agenda. The convention allows GOP faithful a forum to organize for November’s elections, name delegates for the upcoming Republican national convention and elect a slate of party officers to two-year terms.

Damond Watkins
Damond Watkins

“This is an opportunity for the identified precinct officers and delegates from the various counties in the state of Idaho to come together to talk about the current issues facing our party and facing our state,” said Watkins, who speaks Friday at the convention.

Republicans will also debate potential new planks to the party platform — a set of principles, policy points and goals. The education section of the GOP platform includes 11 different sections with policy points.

The current platform voices support for professional-technical education and parental choice through charter schools, school choice programs and accountable public school systems. The platform asserts that “the needs of early childhood education are best met by individuals, families and the private sector.”

Proposed new planks in the GOP platform are not being released publicly before the convention begins, Johnston said.

Convention delegates will also consider eight proposed new resolutions approved by the state central committee in January. Those touch a range of issues from opposing refugee resettlement in Idaho to the transfer of public lands and opposition to a United Nations climate change treaty.

Normally the party updates its platform every two years. But the 2014 GOP convention in Moscow ended in a meltdown amid infighting and procedural jockeying. Republicans adjourned the convention before they could accomplish any significant business. Thus, policy positions on a range of topics from education to budgeting and taxes haven’t been updated since 2012.

Watkins believes this year’s convention offers Republicans a chance to mend fences following May’s occasionally divisive primary election, which saw seven current Republican legislators lose their seats. He also said party leaders have taken steps to increase transparency and avoid the squabbles that doomed the 2014 convention.

“The goal of the convention is to put the primary season behind us and turn our eyes onto the general election,” Watkins said. “Because the state is so red and traditionally conservative, we end up really getting into ugly battles in the primary process. That healing process normally takes place during the convention.”

Activities and speakers kick off Thursday and run through Saturday afternoon at the Ford Idaho Center.

Convention schedule

Thursday:

  • 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.: Registration.
  • 2 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.: Platform committee meeting
  • 6 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.: Reception with former National Rifle Association President David Keene, Warhawk Air Museum, 201 Municipal Way, Nampa.

Friday:

  • 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.: Registration
  • 8:30 a.m. – 12 p.m.: Platform committee meeting
  • 2 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.: General session

Saturday:

  • 9:30 a.m. – 12 noon and 2 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.: General session