A libertarian group operating within the Idaho Republican Party is making its first endorsements in a slate led by Sen. Russ Fulcher in his challenge to two-term GOP Gov. Butch Otter.
The Republican Liberty Caucus of Idaho also backs challengers to three other statewide incumbents: Idaho County Commissioner Jim Chmelik over Lt. Gov. Brad Little; Boise lawyer C.T. “Chris” Troupis over Attorney General Lawrence Wasden; and Boise businessman Todd Hatfield over Controller Brandon Woolf.
In races for open statewide seats, the group endorses Rep. Lawerence Denney for secretary of state over Evan Frasure, Phil McGrane and Mitch Toryanski; and for John Eynon for superintendent of public instruction over Andy Grover, Randy Jensen and Sherri Ybarra.
The group was chartered as an arm of a national group, the Republican Liberty Caucus, founded in 1991 at the urging of Roger MacBride, a 1976 Libertarian Party presidential candidate.
To gain the endorsements, candidates were required to sign “The Liberty Compact,” which reads:
“I pledge to the citizens of this state, and to the American people, that as their elected representative I will work to restore liberty, not restrict it; shrink government, not expand it; reduce taxes, not raise them; abolish programs, not create them; promote the freedom and independence of citizens, not the interference of government in their lives; and observe the limited, enumerated powers of our Constitution, not ignore them.”
Founded in 2012 at the Idaho Republican Party convention, the Liberty Caucus also made what it calls a first round 31 of endorsements for the Legislature.
Among the notable legislative endorsements: Scott Smith’s bid to unseat Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill of Rexburg; Danielle Ahrens over nine-term Sen. Shawn Keough in Sandpoint; Toby Schindelbeck over Rep. Luke Malek in Coeur d’Alene; Lee Rice over Sen. Todd Lakey in Nampa; Robert Muse over Rep. Rick Youngblood in Nampa; Diego Rodriguez over Sen. Fred Martin in Boise; Charles Pratt Porter over Lori DenHertog and Rich Jarvis for Fulcher’s open Senate seat in southwest Ada County; Lance Earl over Rep. Kelley Packer in Bannock and Power counties; and Ron Nate over Rep. Doug Hancey in Madison County.
“RLC state charters are organized specifically to bring voters back into the Republican Party at the state level that left due to apathy, antagonistic behaviors of of GOP county central committees or poor candidate choices,” said RLC Idaho Secretary Jason Robinson.
Robinson said the Idaho chapter is the largest state organization in the country, but he said both state and national membership numbers are “confidential and not something I can release.”
Robinson has won his group’s endorsement in his challenge to District 15 Rep. Patrick McDonald, R-Boise, who was appointed to fill the vacancy of former Rep. Mark Patterson in January. Though he has no primary opponent, Robinson’s father, Joel, was endorsed as the GOP nominee for the open Northwest Boise Senate District 16 race against Democratic Rep. Grant Burgoyne.
RLC Idaho Chairman Karen Calisterio said Robinson and others with family connections to candidates were recused from the endorsement process. Other endorsed candidates with family connections are Muse, vice chairman of RLC in Canyon County; Rice, whose wife, Harmony, is RLC Idaho’s Regional 3 chair; and Rosann Wiltse, the lone Republican running for Burgoyne’s open House seat.
Among the national group’s allies are Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. Sen. Paul is the son of Ron Paul, the 1988 Libertarian Party presidential nominee and a former GOP congressman from Texas who ran for president as a Republican in 2008 and 2012.
Ryan Davidson, a former Idaho Libertarian Party chairman who switched to the GOP, is on the RLC Idaho board. As I reported last week, Davidson is organizing a battle with Otter allies to control the Idaho Republican Party apparatus in hundreds of precinct committee races across Idaho.
Read the full list of Liberty Caucus endorsements here. (The news release is dated Friday. My spam filter captured it and I received the list when it was resent Tuesday.)