The past few weeks have not been kind to the Dorothy Moon faction of the Idaho Republican Party, which has taken over party control since the GOP primary was closed in 2012. Reasonable Republicans have chafed at censures handed out for not going along with extremist ideas, the extremist structure has had to deal with the growing popularity of the Open Primaries Initiative (OPI) and the extremists’ newly-elected Attorney General has suffered some remarkable defeats in federal and state courts.
Several Republicans have pushed back from reprimands issued against them by party functionaries for not strictly adhering to the narrow, extremist agenda imposed by the so-called Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF). GOP Representatives, including Lori McCann, Mark Sauter, Julie Yamamoto and Matt Bundy, have been targeted for representing constituent concerns rather than IFF priorities. According to Bundy, “It’s a dangerous trend where legislators are not allowed free thought or independent thinking, where we can vote based on our own constituencies and on our own conscience.”
At the recent GOP convention in Challis, Governor Brad Little and 14 House Republicans received a “no confidence” vote for opposing legislation that would clog the courts with nuisance suits against local libraries. That overreach was accompanied by the purging of some party officials that Moon apparently thought was necessary to fulfill her view of the Republican Party as a “private club” for just her and her cohorts.
The unrest and pushback by responsible Republicans and their voters will play a large part in a groundswell of support for the OPI, particularly through the course of what promises to be a dysfunctional 2024 legislative session. The Moon branch of the GOP will provide compelling reasons for doing away with the closed primary. They won’t be able to hold back from being their own worst enemy in this fight.
And just as the Moonies are trying to portray the OPI as some sort of liberal plot, word came out of Montana that reasonable Montana Republicans were fed up with party primary elections and planning to run an initiative to open them all the way up, just like the OPI would do. Their initiative calls for an open top-four primary, which is the main feature of the OPI. With our sister state Republicans also pursuing a top-four, it will be much more difficult for Moon and the IFF to peddle the false claim that the OPI is some sort of liberal plot.
The real reason the extremists hate OPI is because, as spelled out by IFF honcho Bryan Smith, “If Idaho gets ranked-choice voting, we’re finished. It’s that simple.” It will destroy their iron grip on the GOP. It will be a big win for traditional Republicans.
On another front, Idaho’s newly-elected Attorney General has suffered a string of defeats in federal and state courts. On August 25, he and several staff members were disqualified from suing his client, the State Board of Education, for alleged violation of Idaho’s Open Meeting Law. Even rookie lawyers know it is unethical to sue your own client. He was previously disqualified from taking legal action against several top officials of the Department of Health and Welfare, also on conflict of interest grounds.
On July 31, Labrador was prohibited from suing doctors who refer patients out of state for abortion pills and services. Two weeks earlier a federal circuit court blocked the state from enforcing a ban on transgender athletes. A week earlier a federal judge prevented the state from enforcing a trans student bathroom bill. It is likely that an Idaho law criminalizing doctors for rendering gender-affirming care to minors will also be blocked.
Getting back to the OPI, Labrador clearly lost the lawsuit challenging the misleading ballot titles he conjured up to undermine the initiative. Despite his best efforts to spin the decision as a win, that spin cannot get around one simple fact–Idaho courts only award attorney fees to the winning side. Reclaim Idaho was awarded its attorney fees and a hefty fee award will soon be made against Labrador.
So, there has been an abundance of bad news for the GOP’s extremist branch. Might be a good time for some soul searching. Casting off the IFF shackles would be a healthy start.