by Logan Finney, Idaho Reports
A dispute between the state Republican party and a local party continued in court on Thursday over whether the Bingham County Republican Central Committee violated its rules and bylaws during its election of new officers over the summer.
Former Bingham County Republican chairman Dan Cravens announced his intent to resign earlier this year and called a meeting to elect his replacement in July. Idaho Republican Party chairwoman Dorothy Moon later declared the elections void after she received a complaint about the conduct of the meeting. The individuals behind the complaint have not been publicly identified.
An intra-party dispute
The Bingham County GOP is represented by Greg Chaney, a Caldwell attorney and former state lawmaker, while the Idaho GOP is represented by Bryan Smith, an Idaho Falls attorney and the state party’s national committeeman.
Throughout the disagreement, both sides say the other has not followed the party rules.
“The state party rules, and the law, say the meeting must be conducted and called by someone other than the county chairman,” Smith said. “Dan Cravens was in charge of this meeting, and he’s resigned.”
A meeting to fill a vacancy in the office of county chair must be called and conducted by the vice chair, the state party says, and the Bingham County party acted inappropriately by electing a string of new officers before Cravens’ resignation officially took effect on Aug. 1.
“We don’t want an outgoing chairman to pick his successor,” Smith said. “That’s just not a fair process.”
The Bingham County Republican Central Committee argues that the party rules specify only that a new election must occur within 30 days of the vacancy, not specifically after the vacancy takes effect.
“It’s a common practice,” Chaney said, for organizations to choose new officers ahead of the effective date for a resignation. “If the state party wants to say this is not okay, they need to be express about it.”
The initial court filings from Chaney allege that Moon intended to ignore an appeal of her decision to the state party and to call a new election for the Bingham County party. It also asserts the move is part of pattern in which she has been voiding local officer elections and holding new ones “under circumstances carefully manipulated and choreographed to elect persons sympathetic to Moon and her aims.”
In court Thursday, Smith argued that Moon had only intended to proceed with the scheduled Bingham County meeting on Sept. 18 because she and the rest of the state executive committee were unaware of the appeal, because it had not been sent through the proper channels.
“These guys waited until the very last minute on the very last day, and they filed it with the wrong person because they were following the wrong rules,” Smith said.
The state party used to hear appeals about decisions of the chair through a judiciary committee headed by the first vice chairman. They repealed that structure at this year’s summer meeting, Smith told the court, and the new rules under which the executive committee hears appeals directly took effect in July.
“I think a lot of this could have been avoided if they had sent it [the appeal] to her directly,” Smith said. “None of that has any ulterior motive.”
When it appeared the scheduled meeting to elect new officers would proceed, the county party filed a lawsuit and obtained a temporary restraining order to block the state party from holding such a meeting until their appeal can be considered by the state executive committee.
“We had offered to hear the appeal on Sept. 23, and Mr. Chaney declined that offer,” Smith said. “There’s going to be an appeal in January rather than September.”
Idaho Reports originally reported that the executive committee would take up the appeal on that date but later issued a correction.
“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,” former party chair Trent Clark told Idaho Reports over email last week. He also said Smith had “requested from the Bingham GOP’s attorney a ‘waiver of the 14 day notice’ (something he can’t ‘waive’ because it’s there to protect both the appellant and members of the executive committee, I.e. me).”
What comes next
The hearing this week did not evaluate the merits of the case – only whether the court will continue to block the state party from conducting a new election for Bingham County chairman until the internal party appeal is completed.
Seventh Judicial District Judge Darren Simpson extended the temporary restraining order until he issues a decision by the end of next week on whether to grant a preliminary injunction.
“I do not believe they have voluntarily walked away from their attempts,” Chaney said. “It’s highly probable that Chairwoman Moon would proceed with a reorganization absent a preliminary injunction.”
The state party, however, argued that the move is unnecessary because the next steps will be determined by the party appeal process.
“If they win their appeal, there is no basis for her to come into Bingham County and reorganize,” Smith said. “If she’s right, they don’t have an active chairman.”
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.