COEUR d'ALENE - Richard Mack will not be speaking at this year's Lincoln Day Dinner.
After nearly two hours of often acrimonious debate, a nearly evenly divided Kootenai County Republican Central Committee voted Tuesday in favor of rescinding the party's invitation to Mack, a Tea Party activist and former Arizona sheriff, to be the keynote speaker at their March 24 dinner and fundraiser.
The roll call vote of 31-30 was taken after the party chair, Tina Jacobson, defended the procedure followed to select Mack and chided a group of elected precinct committee members for signing a letter opposing Mack's selection and giving the letter to members of the media.
"We've had discussions in this room about airing our laundry in the press," Jacobson said.
She said going to the newspapers with party business hurts the organization and shows divisiveness.
"And the Democrats are passing the popcorn," Jacobson said.
The Central Committee, as a whole, has never voted on the speaker, she said. The decision has always been made by a Lincoln Day Dinner standing committee. Jacobson said that since 1994, when she first became involved with the Central Committee, members have been given the opportunity to volunteer to work on organizing the annual fundraiser.
In the letter opposing Mack's selection, the signers criticized the decision stating he does not fairly represent Republican interests, has been openly critical of the party and has shown "a strong affinity to other political parties, including the Democrat, Libertarian and Constitution Parties."
Jacobson said she received the letter by email Monday evening and by early Tuesday, it was on a newspaper blog. "This breaks my heart to see how we are treating each other ... These are your comrades, not your enemies ... We're Team Republican," Jacobson said.
The Lincoln Day Dinner is to raise money to support Republican candidates, she said.
Letter signer Jeff Ward, Precinct 23 Committeeman and president of the Idaho Federation of Reagan Republicans, made the motion to remove Mack as speaker at the Lincoln Day Dinner. Ward said he agrees with Jacobson that the Lincoln Day Dinner is about supporting the Republican Party and Republican candidates, and said he opposes Mack because Mack has made a career of opposing both.
Now living in Texas, Mack is running for Congress in his district's Republican primary.
He was a Democrat when he served two terms as a sheriff in Arizona, and has run, or filed to run for offices in several other states as a Republican and a Libertarian.
Mack is a frequent speaker at Constitution Party events and has spoken to the John Birch Society.
"This is not about factions. This is not about anger. This is not about divisiveness," Ward said.
Ward said they should select another speaker and move on.
Members of the Central Committee's Lincoln Day committee will likely contact people who have already purchased tickets to the dinner thinking Mack was the speaker and let them know of the change.
Mack was given, from the Central Committee budget, a non-refundable payment of $1,250 to come to Coeur d'Alene to speak on March 24.
He is slated to speak at the Spokane Republican Party's Lincoln Day Dinner on March 23.