The Republican Party in Idaho can be a pretty formidable political foe.
But unfortunately for the Gem State GOP, lacking many serious challenges from Democrats, the Republicans often turn on themselves for stiff competition.
We witnessed another chapter of that infighting with the latest effort to realign the state's legislative districts. This third attempt featured a bizarre move by two leading Republicans and their attorney to oust Dolores Crow and Randy Hansen from the bipartisan commission and put into place two people whom they deemed more conservative than the imminently qualified Crow and Hansen.
Confused? Thankfully, the Idaho Supreme Court wasn't. Last week, the court rebuffed the power play of Idaho Republican Chairman Norm Semanko, House Speaker Lawerence Denney and their attorney, Christ Troupis, and guess what happened? Instead of the rancorous debates and fruitless results of the first redistricting commission - a disaster by all accounts - this panel broke down partisan barriers and created maps that Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, a Republican, applauded.
"You've done it in a fine and rational and non-partisan manner," Ysursa told the redistricting commissioners in a conference call Monday. "That's what it was meant to be."
The office of Attorney General Lawrence Wasden had clearly communicated that state law contains no provision for firing appointees to the reapportionment commission. However, through ignorance, oversight or blinding political passion, the legal remedy sought by Semanko's and Denney's attorney, Troupis, was flatly dismissed by the high court because it didn't even meet the most basic legal procedural requirements. According to the Supreme Court ruling, Troupis "failed to file a brief showing a clear right to the relief as shown by statute or constitution. . . ." In fact, Troupis failed to file a brief at all - a violation as basic as any in law.
This is not the first time the divisive Republican wing has flaunted basic statutes and established legal procedures for their own political agenda - see our Jan. 4 editorial on nullification - and if they're accorded more power this election cycle, it won't be the last.
As for Semanko and Denney, the loss dealt them by the Supreme Court adds a judicial slap to their legislative missteps. Semanko announced to the state last Friday that he will not seek another term as state GOP head, and Denney was expected to apologize to his caucus this week for trying to fire Crow from the redistricting panel.
Denney and Semanko got caught up in trying to out-conservative their own conservative party. We have seen this attitude play out too often right here in Kootenai County, and inevitably, it serves neither the citizens at large nor the Republican Party itself. This Constitutionalist/Libertarian wing of the party represents a political splinter group so contrary to the basics of good government that the county's Reagan Republicans have distanced themselves from their alleged party mates.
Why the fuss over the redistricting panel appointments? Denney, Semanko and their followers wanted redistricting to favor their political faction, not at the expense of Democrats but at the cost of kicking moderate Republicans to the curb.
We're hopeful that the Republican Party will find leaders more in tune with this great state's ideals, and we offer a sincere suggestion for those who argue that the party isn't conservative enough: Declare yourself a Constitutionalist, a Libertarian or even an anarchist, but stop masquerading as something you're not.