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Idaho GOP Convention Elects Dorothy Moon State Party Chair

The GOP Convention in Twin Falls concluded Saturday with a new slate of Republican leaders--and a new approach to the Republican primary.

Rep. Dorothy Moon (R-Stanley) has unseated Republican State Chair Tom Luna at the 2022 Republican state convention by a vote of 434-287. Moon’s victory highlighted a convention filled with qualified victories for conservative Republicans.

Moon criticized Luna for failing to modernize the party’s apparatus and for inadequate fundraising. Idaho’s “large fundraising numbers in the past two years,” Moon argued, were a result of monies donated to help Donald Trump win, but that money “cannot create a sustainable bankroll for a party facing a dog fight with the Democrat party that is strengthening its hold in the American West.” Idaho’s GOP staff is dwarfed by the Democratic Party’s staff.

Cross-over voting, the most salient issue for Moon, however, arose repeatedly during the GOP convention. “Our party leadership has done nothing in the face of rampant—and well-organized-Democrat cross-over voting in our Republican primaries.” Moon knew whereof she spoke. Moon had narrowly lost to establishment Republican Phil McGrane, a county clerk who took Zuckerbucks during the 2020 campaign, and her 6,000 vote deficit was attributable to extensive, decades-long efforts by Democrats to register as Republicans in his very red state.

Friday’s convention action centered on GOP efforts to stop cross-over voting (Democrats who register as Republicans for the Republican primary) and cross-over candidates (liberals who register as Republicans for the Republican primary). The GOP Rules committee had passed a measure making it much more difficult for non-Republicans and Democrats to address cross-over in Republican primaries.

Brandon Durst, who narrowly lost the party nomination for Idaho education commissioner, sponsored the measure. Democrats “want to come into our party. . . .They want to pick our quarterback,” Durst told the convention. His proposals prevented people from registering as Republicans if they had voted for Democrat primaries or given money to Democrat candidates in the 25 months leading up to a primary, among other things.

On the convention floor, a member of the Kootenai County delegation, from the conservative panhandle, asked for an amendment to this rule that would allow county party committees to vet candidates and keep them off of the Republican ticket if the county committee deems it appropriate. The convention narrowly adopted the Kootenai amendment (357-309) and then passed the entire package limiting both kinds of cross-overs by a larger margin (403-265). Establishment figures throughout the convention hall—Lt. Gov. nominee Scott Bedke, Senate President Chuck Winder, State Senator C. Scott Grow, and others—opposed measures to limit both kinds of cross-overs.

The convention dealt with several resolutions on voting integrity. Delegates approved a resolution, sponsored by Darr Moon, Dorothy Moon’s husband, to require that all elections, except for judicial elections, be run with a partisan affiliation. Currently, municipal elections are not partisan. A resolution rejecting the results of the 2020 election did not make it out of the Rules Committee.

None of these resolutions become official state party policy, however, unless the state party central committee adopts them in its January meeting.

Moon was at the head of a near complete remaking of the Republican Party leadership in the Gem State. Insurgent candidates Steve Bender (Treasurer), Mark Fuller (2nd Vice Chair), and Maria Nate (Secretary) also won. The 1st Vice Chair will be Daniel Silver, the former head of the Idaho Young Republicans.

Moon’s efforts to modernize the party and infuse it with conservative energy will be sorely tested in the next two years. Her primary opponent, McGrane, seems more concerned about expanding access to the ballot than securing election integrity in the state. McGrane will, after securing victory in the Fall, be heading up Idaho’s election division. Establishment victories in the Republican primaries have often depended on cross-over voting. Moon, the most high-profile victim of cross-over voters, perhaps, will now have an opportunity to strengthen Idaho’s closed primary system—or perhaps explore other candidate selection models like a caucus to help Republicans select Republican candidates.


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