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Longtime Idaho activists are bringing the fight to "extremist" lawmakers at the ballot box

The dome of the Idaho Statehouse at sunset with an American flag and Idaho flag.
James Dawson
/
Boise State Public Radio

A bipartisan group of longtime political activists and politicians is pushing back against Idaho legislators whom they view as “extremists.”

Jennifer Ellis, a Blackfoot rancher and former president of the Idaho Cattle Association, will lead the Take Back Idaho Committee.

“This vocal minority has replaced civility and common sense with conspiracy theories, fringe views, and cheap political theatre,” Ellis said in a statement.

She has also been involved with the group Idaho Conservatives, which has also heavily criticized far-right legislators.

Former House Speaker Bruce Newcomb, former Senate Pro Tem Bob Geddes, former Secretary of State Ben Ysursa and former Attorney General Jim Jones have also joined the Take Back Idaho Committee.

“The extremists have tried to strip local control, undermined our public education system and made our great state a laughingstock in the eyes of the nation,” Newcomb said.

One of the committee’s main targets is the Idaho Freedom Foundation, an influential lobbying group.

The foundation has blasted COVID-19 public health restrictions, rejected the existence of the ongoing global pandemic and its president, Wayne Hoffman, has said public education shouldn’t exist.

“I don’t think government should be in the education business. It is the most virulent form of socialism (and indoctrination thereto) in America today,” Hoffman wrote in a 2019 op-ed.

Geddes said too many Republican lawmakers have become “ardent followers” of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, “which thrives on creating discord and havoc. They have lost sight of the fact that they were elected to represent the people, not a dark-money think tank.”

Earlier this year, the foundation announced a new media policy in which they don’t respond to requests from reporters.

In addition to citing the Idaho Freedom Foundation’s increasing influence, the committee said Idaho’s closed Republican primary “ensures that the most extreme and disruptive candidates end up on the general election ballot in this essentially one-party state.”

The political action committee said it will support candidates in the upcoming 2022 primary season who combat far-right ideas.

So far, campaign finance records show the PAC has raised $1,000 through a single donation from Newcomb, though it isn’t required to report donations of less than $1,000 until January.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!