A group of North Idaho businesspeople who founded a PAC to support “reasonable” Republicans in 2012 has upped the ante in 2014 by targeting five tea-party friendly GOP lawmakers in the May primary.
In 2012, the North Idaho Republican Political Action Committee helped defeat scandal-plagued Rep. Phil Hart of Athol, who was ousted by now-Rep. Ed Morse of Hayden. The group also helped four GOP incumbents defend their seats and endorsed the winner of a race for an open seat. The PAC lost just one of seven legislative races, a 9-vote squeaker for an open seat won by Rep. Ron Mendive over Jeff Tyler.
This year, the PAC announced a far more ambitious list that backs challengers to five lawmakers who opposed Gov. Butch Otter’s state-run health insurance exchange. The targets are: Sen. Bob Nonini of Coeur d’Alene and Reps. Mendive of Coeur d’Alene, Vito Barbieri of Dalton Gardens, Kathleen Sims of Coeur d’Alene and Shannon McMillan of Silverton.
The PAC also endorsed five incumbents and contestants in two open seats.
Among PAC’s board members are former Kootenai County GOP chairman and Whiteman Lumber Co. owner Brad Corkill; Sandy Patano, a top aide to former U.S. Sen. Larry Craig; Jim Riley, owner of Riley and Associates and formerly head of the Intermountain Forest Industry Association; Jim Pierce, co-owner and regional manager of Title One; Ron Nilson of Ground Force Manufacturing; former Rep. and Contractors Northwest CEO Dean Haagenson; Maggie Lyons of Resolve Financial Group; Jim Addis of Tom Addis Ford; and Vaughn Ward, a 2010 GOP candidate for Congress and now CEO of Northwest Specialty Hospital in Coeur d’Alene.
The PAC limits its endorsements to Idaho’s northernmost counties. Here’s the list, announced Monday:
Senate: Nine-term Sen. Shawn Keough of Sandpoint over Danielle Ahrens of Sandpoint in a rematch from 2012.
House Seat A: Steven Snedden of Sandpoint over Heather Scott of Blanchard for the seat being vacated by retiring five-term Rep. Eric Anderson, who had the PAC’s 2012 endorsement.
House Seat B: Seven-term Rep. George Eskridge of Dover over Sage Dixon of Ponderay.
House Seat A: Challenger Fritz Wiedenhoff of Rathdrum over Rep. Barbieri, a two-termer.
House Seat B: Freshman Rep. Morse over challenger Eric Redman of Athol.
Senate: Challenger Patrick Whalen of Post Falls over Nonini, who is in his first Senate term after four House terms, including a stint as House Education Committee Chairman.
House Seat A: Challenger Terry Werner of Post Falls over freshman Rep. Mendive.
House Seat B: Greg Gfeller of Post Falls over Jeff Ward of Post Falls for an open seat left by retiring five-term Rep. Frank Henderson, who had the endorsement in 2012.
Senate: Seven-term Sen. John Goedde of Coeur d’Alene over Mary Souza of Coeur d’Alene.
House Seat A: Freshman Rep. Luke Malek of Coeur d’Alene over Toby Schindelbeck of Coeur d’Alene.
House Seat B: Challenger Rick Currie of Coeur d’Alene over two-term Rep. Sims.
House Seat A: Shauna Hillman of Wallace over two-term Rep. McMillan.
The group also endorsed all four incumbent GOP statewide officials who face primaries for re-election: Gov. Otter, Lt. Gov. Brad Little, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and Controller Brandon Woolf.
In the one of the open statewide contests, the PAC endorsed Ada County Chief Deputy Clerk Phil McGrane for secretary of state. No endorsement was made in the four-way GOP race to replace retiring Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna.
In the non-partisan race for Supreme Court, the PAC endorsed incumbent Justice Joel Horton.
In the news release, the PAC explained its thinking:
“As a group of independent minded, conservative Republicans, NIPAC was formed to recruit and support rational, pragmatic candidates to serve in county and state public office who are committed to fiscal responsibility, limited government and free markets. We look for candidates who will apply these principles to bring solutions to state and local problems as well as work cooperatively with other policy makers.
“Our PAC and its many supporters want candidates and elected officials who will uphold both the Idaho and U.S. Constitution without exception, and seek to encourage, not discourage, participation in our republican form of government. We are very concerned by planks in the Idaho Republican Party Platform and candidates who advocate limiting participation, such as closing the Republican Primary and removing the public’s right to vote for U.S. Senators.
“Given the large number of candidates seeking office this season, the members of NIPAC felt it was crucial to fully engage and make endorsements in the 2014 May Primary.”