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‘The campaign against the Democrats starts today’: Idaho Republicans pledge unity at rally

Idaho Republicans gathered on the Idaho Capitol steps Wednesday afternoon to carry a unified party message heading into the November general election. (Kelcie Moseley-Morris/Idaho Capital Sun)
Idaho Republicans gathered on the Idaho Capitol steps Wednesday afternoon to carry a unified party message heading into the November general election. (Kelcie Moseley-Morris/Idaho Capital Sun)

GOP leadership says it’s time to move forward after contentious primary election season

A small crowd turned out for the Idaho Republican Party unity rally on Wednesday afternoon to celebrate candidates who won the party’s nomination in Tuesday night’s primary election and to express a commitment to moving forward with respect and civility.

Several statewide candidates who did not prevail in the primary were not in attendance, including Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, who lost the nomination to Gov. Brad Little.

Tyler Kelly, the party’s executive director, said some candidates held election night parties in other areas of the state and that’s why they weren’t in attendance, but he was pleased with the overall turnout.

He also acknowledged that unity didn’t mean everyone was happy but said Republicans across Idaho are energized and the rally is about more than who won and who lost.

“We agree to work together and be respectful and civil,” Kelly said. “Sometimes that works out better than others.”

Party Chairman Tom Luna spoke at the event and said it’s important to remember party members agree on 80% of the issues.

“We have primaries to debate the 20% that we don’t agree, and we debate them passionately,” Luna said. “And then we leave it to the voters to decide, and they spoke last night, and they made it very clear those people that they want to transition from candidate to nominee.”

This year’s Republican primary was hotly contested, with members of the Idaho Legislature squaring off in statewide races and making many statements against each other in negative advertisements and other campaign literature. The unity rally is held each year to bring Republicans together after the bruising conflicts of a primary battle and to take on the opposing party in the general election.

Luna said it’s critical not to take anything for granted, because the Idaho Democratic Party is working to elect Democrats and could seize the opportunity of a fast-growing state.

“They’re not going to come here and try to change your mind or my mind, they’re going to start working with the new folks that have moved in and say, ‘This is a great state, welcome to Idaho,’ but you know, the politics need a little work, join us and we’ll make it even better,’” Luna said. “And then you’ll end up like Colorado, a red state that’s now a blue state.”

Little addressed the crowd and said unity rallies are a starting point for the general election, and the party’s strength is in the values it shares around limited government, supporting law enforcement and being pro-life and pro-gun rights. Speaker of the House Scott Bedke, GOP nominee for lieutenant governor, also spoke and acknowledged his opponent, Rep. Priscilla Giddings, who was not present. Bedke said she ran an excellent campaign, and he was excited to move forward with a unified vision for keeping Idaho a great state to live in.

“If I heard it once, I heard it a hundred times (while traveling the state), ‘Please do not let our state change. Don’t let all of this new growth change who we are. I don’t want to wake up five years from now and wonder where our Idaho went,’” Bedke said. “The campaign against the Democrats starts today.”

Attorney general nominee Raúl Labrador also spoke, as well as secretary of state nominee Phil McGrane and nominee for superintendent of public instruction Debbie Critchfield. Critchfield, former president of the Idaho School Board Association, said her race is one of the most vulnerable to a Democratic challenger, and she would do her best to work hard for each voter in the general election, including those who didn’t support her.

“I want to work hard for our kids, for our teachers, and I’m excited about the bright future of Idaho education,” Critchfield said.

A Democrat has been nominated in each statewide race. Idaho’s general election will take place on Nov. 8.

The Idaho Capital Sun is a nonprofit news organization delivering accountability reporting on state government, politics and policy in the Gem state. As longtime Idahoans ourselves, we understand the challenges and opportunities facing Idaho. We provide in-depth reporting on legislative and state policy, health care, tax policy, the environment, Idaho’s explosive population growth and more. Our mission is relentless investigative journalism that sheds light on how decisions in Boise and beyond are made and how they affect everyday Idahoans. We aim to tell untold stories and provide data, context and analysis on the issues that matter most throughout the state. The Capital Sun is part of States Newsroom, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit supported by grants and a coalition of donors and readers. We retain full editorial independence.