COEUR d'ALENE - Richard Mack, the keynote speaker at the Kootenai County Republican Party's Lincoln Day dinner on March 24, acknowledges he was once a Democrat.
In an email to The Press, Mack said, "However, I was never a liberal or a moderate."
Mack is a Constitutional conservative and frequent speaker on the national Tea Party circuit. He was a sheriff in Arizona, but now is living in Texas and running for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives currently held by Republican Lamar Smith.
Some in the county's Republican Party don't approve of the selection of Mack for the Lincoln dinner, honoring former president Abraham Lincoln.
A letter opposing Mack's appearance at the annual party and fundraiser was sent last week to party leaders. The letter was signed by more than a dozen central committee members. One signee, Jeff Ward, said in an interview that Mack has "been fairly hostile to the Republican Party."
In the letter, the writers said Mack's support for the Republican Party and party candidates has been inconsistent and questionable. "In fact, Mr. Mack's political history has shown a consistent opposition to the Republican Party and a strong affinity to other political parties, including Democratic, Libertarian and Constitution parities."
Mack said Friday, "If Republicans support the Constitution, less government, individual liberty, less taxation, and standing for States' rights and against a $16 trillion debt, then they will like my presentation. I absolutely guarantee it."
He said he's honored to be invited to speak at the event.
"I have quoted (former President Ronald) Reagan and Lincoln frequently in my books and throughout my career," Mack said. "Jeff Ward is president of the Reagan Republicans. Does he not know that Reagan was once a Democrat?"
Mack said that while he was registered as a Democrat, "I was the first sheriff in American history to sue the federal government and the head of the Democratic Party, Bill Clinton, on the issue of state sovereignty."
He said he won that case in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Mack said, "Yes, I have been critical of some Republicans who have voted for blatantly unconstitutional laws," listing the USA Patriot Act, No Child Left Behind, the National Defense Authorization Act, the "bailouts," and "the support for bureaucratic corruption in Washington."
He said he'd be against similar government actions, no matter which political party starts or supports them.
"For anyone to support unconstitutional laws just because they come from Republicans is wrong and immoral," Mack said. "Lincoln said to stand with those who stand for the Constitution; that is what I have always done."
Mack, echoing Reagan, said "'Government is not the solution to the problem, government is the problem.'"
He said, "I readily admit that that quote is a slap in the face to some big-government Republicans."
The letter writers ask that the invitation to Mack be withdrawn and that no party funds be spent on him.
Mack was a two-term sheriff in Arizona, elected as a Democrat, before running unsuccessfully a third time.
He made an unsuccessful run for sheriff in Utah as a Republican. Also in Utah, he ran unsuccessfully for governor as a Libertarian.
He took a shot at a Senate seat in Arizona, also as a Libertarian.