Voices from the Idaho EdNews Community

A serious case of mistaken identity among Idaho’s three political parties

It was a pleasant surprise to find a letter from Gov. Brad Little when I opened my mailbox on June 10. But it was unsettling to read his warning against voting for Idaho Democratic candidates who might endanger his “record of success.” Thinking back over the years, Democratic legislators have played a significant role in that success. For instance, the Governor’s letter touted the Idaho Launch program, which provides kids with workforce training grants. That program would not have seen the light of day in 2023 without the essential support of House and Senate Democrats. They gave it strong support again this year. In fact, the Democrats in the Legislature have given the Governor support on numerous issues since he took office in January 2019.

This appears to be a case where Governor Little mistook the identity of the political party that has been making his life miserable. The problem is that there are three political parties in the Gem State. There is the traditional, pragmatic branch of the Republican Party that consists of the Governor and a substantial part of the Legislature. There is the Democratic Party, which presently holds small minorities in both the Senate and House. And, there is the extremist branch of the GOP, which is pretty much controlled by the so-called Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF). Dorothy Moon has headed up that branch since losing her primary election bid for Secretary of State in 2022.

The party that has been giving the Governor grief is the IFF-controlled branch of the party. During the pandemic, IFF legislators tried repeatedly to limit the Governor’s power to protect the public, often claiming he was acting like a dictator. The Democrats gave him their support. When the IFF legislators passed a draconian bill to encourage meritless citizen suits against libraries in 2023, the Democrats opposed it. The Governor vetoed the bill, which was a deeply flawed solution to a non-existent problem. The Democrats prevented a veto override. Moon and the extremist branch of the GOP denounced the Governor for his veto at the Republican State Convention last summer.

When Governor Little outlined his priorities in this year’s State of the State speech, the IFF and Moon predictably slammed him. The former IFF head, Wayne Hoffman, said legislators should “ignore everything Gov. Little said. Every last word.” Moon found the Governor’s priorities “deeply disappointing.” The Democrats were supportive of the priorities that Moon and the IFF found distasteful.

Democrats have often teamed up with the Governor’s branch of the Republican Party to achieve policy objectives strenuously opposed by the IFF branch, including increased funding for public schools, state funding for construction and maintenance of public school buildings and appropriations for the Division of Veterans Services and higher education. Democratic lawmakers have been at the forefront of efforts to prevent Idaho taxpayers from being forced to fund private and religious schooling, which would seriously impair Little’s push to adequately fund our public school system. There have been areas of disagreement  between the Governor and the Democrats on certain issues, but they don’t result in the kind of hostile rhetoric that the IFF-controlled GOP legislators have often directed at the Governor.

The Governor has also been frequently blindsided by the state’s IFF-supported Attorney General (AG). The AG has surprised Little with legal proceedings against executive agencies, including the Department of Health and Welfare, the State Board of Education and Department of Transportation. Democrats have generally spoken out against those legal potshots.

Perhaps, the Governor should train his ire on the real source of his problem – the IFF-controlled public officials who are continually sniping and trying to undercut him – as opposed to targeting Democrats who have tried to cooperate with him on a variety of policy objectives. They are not wild-eyed extremists, but decent Idahoans who have chosen to advance their policies under a different party label. Little has simply mistaken the identity of the party that wishes to derail his record as Governor.

Jim Jones

Jim Jones

Jim Jones is a Vietnam combat veteran who served 8 years as Idaho Attorney General (1983-1991) and 12 years as Justice of the Idaho Supreme Court (2005-2017).

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