COEUR d'ALENE - The selection of Richard Mack as the keynote speaker at the Kootenai County Republican Party's March 24 Lincoln Day Dinner isn't sitting well with a group of prominent party members.
Mack, a self-described "constitutional conservative" and frequent speaker on the national Tea Party circuit, is a former Arizona sheriff. Now living in Texas, Mack is running for Congress in his district's Republican primary.
A letter opposing Mack's appearance at the annual Republican party dinner and fundraiser was sent Monday to county party chair Tina Jacobson and secretary Lorri Erickson. It was signed by 14 elected Central Committee members.
Letter signer Jeff Ward, Precinct 23 Committeeman and president of the Idaho Federation of Reagan Republicans, told The Press they are troubled by the selection of Mack because "he's been fairly hostile to the Republican party."
"It just doesn't make any sense to me," he said.
Central Committee members had no say in the selection, Ward said. They were told Mack would be the featured speaker.
The letter writers ask that the invitation to Mack be withdrawn and that no party funds be expended for him, with disclosure to the Central Committee of the Kootenai County Republican Party's financial records as proof that no funds have been directed Mack's way.
The purpose of the Lincoln Day Dinner, according to the letter, is to celebrate the birth of Lincoln, the nation's first Republican president and raise funds for the party.
Before chronicling Mack's various political affiliations through the years, the letter writers state: "Mr. Mack has been presented to us as a former sheriff and a Republican candidate for Congress. Upon further research, it is quite evident that Mr. Mack's support of the Republican Party and Republican Party candidates is inconsistent, intermittent 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 the Democrat, Libertarian and Constitution Parties."
Mack served two terms as a county sheriff in Arizona as an elected Democrat, and made an unsuccessful third run for sheriff as a Democrat.
He then made an unsuccessful run for election to a sheriff's position in Utah, as a Republican.
Mack later ran for governor in Utah as a Libertarian, and then for the Senate in Arizona, also as a Libertarian.
The letter details various news articles in which Mack is quoted making disparaging remarks about the Republican and Democratic parties.
The letter writers are critical of Mack's election challenges mounted against conservative Republican incumbents, including his Texas opponent, 13-term Rep. Lamar Smith. They also note that although Mack is running as a Republican, he continues to speak at Libertarian and Constitution Party events, and has consistently endorsed Constitution and Libertarian candidates running against Republicans.
In November 2009, Mack spoke at the Kootenai County Constitution Party's first Freedom Festival held at the Greyhound Park in Post Falls.
The letter states that elected Republican officials and party leaders appearing at the Lincoln Day Dinner may be offended if they are asked to share the podium with someone likely to support their opponents, and consequently affecting the county party's fundraising efforts for Republican candidates.
Ward said the Central Committee members also don't know what Mack is being paid, and if the party is paying him.
"At the core of it, that's been kind of the way things have been for the Central Committee," Ward said. "If you're not in the right clique, you're not always in on what's going on."
Tina Jacobson could not be immediately reached for comment.
The other Central Committee members whose names are at the bottom of the protest letter are: Lora Gervais, Matt Roetter, Paul Matthews, Donna Montgomery, Duane Rasmussen, Ron Lahr, Luke Sommer, Jacquie Mayo, Marv Lekstrum, Gary Ingram, Julie Chadderdon, Sharon Culbreth and Brad Corkill.