by Logan Finney, Idaho Reports
CORRECTION: This story originally stated the Idaho GOP executive committee would hear the Bingham County GOP appeal on Sept. 23 and was updated with more information from Trent Clark that morning.
A Bingham County judge issued a temporary restraining order on Sept. 15, blocking the state Republican party from conducting a leadership election for the Bingham County Republican Central Committee. The lawsuit includes allegations from the local party that Idaho GOP chairwoman Dorothy Moon has been negating certain county elections to install her own political allies.
The restraining order blocks the state party from electing new Bingham County GOP officers while an internal party appeal process advances. The court will hear arguments on Sept. 28 regarding a preliminary injunction, which would replace the temporary restraining order.
Where it all started
Earlier this year, Bingham County Republican chairman Dan Cravens announced his intent to resign, effective Aug. 1, because he was moving out of state. The central committee under Cravens then held a series of elections at its July 20 regular meeting to select new party officers, with the intent that they would take office on Aug. 1.
An unsigned complaint was later filed with the state party alleging that the Bingham County central committee had violated rules and bylaws in its conduct of the meeting and that the new chairman was not duly elected.
Based on that complaint, Moon on Sept. 5 issued a ruling that the action taken at the July 20 meeting was void, and she scheduled a new central committee election on Sept. 18.
Matt Thompson, the newly elected county chairman, filed an appeal under party rules with Idaho GOP 1st Vice Chair Daniel Silver asking the state party to review Moon’s decision to void the prior election.
Silver issued a letter to Moon on Sept. 14 regarding the appeal, stating that “the Chairwoman is not permitted to move forward with taking any further action on the matter until the State Executive Committee meets with the aggrieved party and decides to either uphold, amend, or overturn the decision of the state chairwoman.”
Thompson emailed Moon on Sept. 14 to say that he had received acknowledgment of the appeal from Silver, and he asked whether Moon intended to proceed with the Sept. 18 meeting.
“The meeting on September 18 is still scheduled. We will see you there,” Moon responded.
Thompson and the Bingham County executive committee filed a lawsuit the evening of Sept. 14 to block the new meeting and election from taking place.
Restraining order issued
The Bingham County Republican party asked the court to prevent the state party from conducting new officer elections until the appeals process under party rules is complete. The Bingham County District Court granted a temporary restraining order on Sept. 15 and will hear the county party’s case on Sept. 28 for a preliminary injunction, which would continue to block the state party from holding a new election.
“While the Court does not have a fully developed record before it to reach an ultimate adjudication on the merits, the Court is satisfied that it is appropriate to issue a temporary restraining order prohibiting the Idaho Republican Party, by and through Dorothy Moon, from conducting or holding any meeting to elect officers to the Bingham County Republican Central Committee or to appoint nominees for the vacant position of the Bingham County Prosecuting Attorney during the pendency of the appellate review of Thompson’s appeal,” wrote Seventh Judicial District Judge Darren Simpson.
The court order acknowledges that Moon and the state party did not have an opportunity to respond before the restraining order was granted. They will be given that opportunity at the Sept. 28 hearing on a preliminary injunction if the party appeal has not already resolved the dispute by then.
“Notably, the evidence presented to the Court has been signed and verified while the allegations spurring Moon’s action to nullify the July 20, 2023 BCRCC meeting contain no such verification. An anonymous or unsigned complaint does not comport with notions of fair play and fair administration of justice,” the judge wrote.
State party leaders respond
Idaho Reports reached Moon by phone, where she declined to comment.
“We do not discuss matters of litigation,” Moon told Idaho Reports.
The Idaho Statesman reported over the weekend that Moon called the lawsuit “completely without merit and self-contradictory” in an email.
Idaho GOP 2nd Vice Chair Mark Fuller told NewsTalk 107.9 on Monday that the disagreement is over whose actions broke the party rules, not over which individuals won the county leadership elections.
“You cannot, under our rules or their bylaws, fill a position that isn’t vacant,” Fuller said. “The real issue here is, can you elect somebody to fill a position that isn’t empty?”
According to the Idaho Statesman, Moon believed that Thompson would have likely been elected if the county central committee had called a proper election according to the rules after Cravens’s resignation took effect.
Fuller expressed the same opinion to NewsTalk.
“The chairman who was resigning wanted to take control to be certain that his heir apparent was able to take over leadership in his place,” Fuller said. “We didn’t do anything at all during August because during that month, Bingham County had jurisdiction to decide who was going to be their new chairman – but they didn’t conduct a proper election. So right after the first of September, Dorothy and I talked and I said, ‘Their election just is invalid, you’re going to have to conduct a new election.’ She issued a decision based upon the complaints that had been filed.”
Fuller said the state party had moved ahead with the scheduled Sept. 18 meeting because the members of the Idaho GOP executive committee, other than Silver, had not been notified about the appeal.
“We would not have scheduled the meeting had we known there was a proper appeal,” Fuller said.
The next regular meeting of the state party executive committee is on Sept. 23.
“The entire executive committee will examine whether or not there was proper notice given and determine whether or not those officers were properly elected. And then we’ll go back and tell the judge that we followed our rules, we did exactly as we should have, and we expect the lawsuit to be dismissed,” Fuller told NewsTalk.
Idaho Reports contacted the Idaho GOP main office to request comment from Silver but did not receive a response.
Trent Clark, a former party chairman, contacted Idaho Reports on the morning of Sept. 23 to say the appeal will not actually be heard at this week’s regular meeting.
“As a member of that executive committee, our rules require a 14 day notice for such an appeal, and no such notice was issued two weeks ago,” Clark said via email.
“This unfortunate misinformation,” Clark said, raises questions for him such as “why was Mr. Fuller giving out an incorrect appeal date, and could it have anything to do with a desperate need to have the appeal done by September 28, the next court date?”
Thompson and the Bingham County Republican executive committee are represented by attorney Greg Chaney, a former state representative who was defeated in a run for senate in the last primary election.
In the court filings, Chaney calls the situation “a continuation of a systematic conspiracy” to void certain county central committee elections and reconduct them “under circumstances carefully manipulated and choreographed to elect persons sympathetic to Moon and her aims.”
The filing describes an episode in which the Power County Republican Central Committee elected new officers in December 2022, which was declared void by Moon and replaced with a new election in February 2023.
Each county central committee elects four officers who sit on the state central committee for their party.
“Dan [Cravens] has been upset with the current leadership of the Republican party since we were elected a year ago,” Fuller said. “He’s been a thorn in our side, and this is just one last problem he left us as he moved to Missouri.”
Fuller also called the entire scenario a distraction from the Idaho Republican Party’s fundraising efforts and its opposition to the Idahoans for Open Primaries ballot initiative petition.
Logan Finney | Associate Producer
Logan Finney is a North Idaho native with a passion for media production and boring government meetings. He grew up skiing, hunting and hiking in the mountains of Bonner County and has maintained a lifelong interest in the state’s geography, history and politics. Logan joined the Idaho Reports team in 2020 as a legislative session intern and stayed to cover the COVID-19 pandemic. He was hired as an associate producer in 2021 and they haven’t been able to get rid of him since.