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Politics & Government

Idaho's GOP Doesn't Have A Leader, Here's What Happens Next

Emilie Ritter Saunders
Boise State Public Radio

A judge ruled Tuesday that members of Idaho's Republican Party could go ahead with a meeting Saturday to choose a new leader. Last month’s contentious state GOP convention ended without finishing any of its business, including electing a new chairman.

Former chairman Barry Peterson maintained that meant he was still in charge. But district judge Randy Stoker ruled that Peterson is not the chairman, and the party doesn't currently have a leader.

Peterson had hoped to stop Saturday's meeting, that’s why he sued. But Spokesman-Review reporter Betsy Russell says the judge ruled that holding the meeting is appropriate.

“Because it was made by petition of members of the central committee, that stands under the party rules,” Russell explains. “So, the August second meeting is on. There are no officers at this point. At that meeting the central committee will need to select those.”    

So the group responsible for fixing the Idaho Republican Party is the state central committee. The central committee has more than 200 members, all elected to local party offices in the state’s counties, party regions and districts.

There’s no question Idaho’s dominant party is deeply split between traditional Republicans loyal to Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter and the tea party wing that elected Peterson. Russell says in Tuesday's court hearing, Peterson’s lawyer asserted the state GOP is in trouble and the judge agreed.

“The judge did say that this is clearly a party in need of direction,” Russell says. “So, they’ve got some healing to do.”

Russell says party members on both sides of the divide seemed hopeful Tuesday that that healing would begin at this weekend's central committee meeting. There’s some added pressure on Saturday’s meeting. The party has to patch things up enough to decide who will go to next week's Republican National Committee summer meeting in Chicago.

Find reporter Adam Cotterell on Twitter @cotterelladam | Copyright 2014 Boise State Public Radio