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New Idaho GOP chairman seeks unity among party, outreach

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Republicans in Idaho have an opportunity to unite by focusing more on what they have in common and less on their differences, new state GOP Chairman Tom Luna said.

The “liberal, socialist agenda” of Democrats in Boise is going to be a “rallying cry” for Republicans across the state, Luna said.

“What every Idahoan needs to understand is that if we don’t stop this trend in Ada County, Boise is going to become the next Seattle and Ada is going to become the next King County,” Luna said.

Some conservative or rural Washington residents have felt they have little impact on their state’s politics, Luna told the Idaho Statesman.

Luna served two terms as state superintendent that culminated in an education reform package passed by lawmakers in 2011 but repealed by voters in 2012.

Luna was elected chairman at the GOP convention in Nampa in June. Luna inherits a state party with growing fractures, including disagreement over the state’s response to controlling the coronavirus.

Much of the animus has focused on Gov. Brad Little and state health officials. Conservative representatives joined “Disobey Idaho” protests against Idaho’s stay-at-home order.

Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, meanwhile, has publicly challenged Little’s decisions and Republican leadership demanded the state turn the management of the virus over to local leaders and health district, something Little has been doing.

Little has done a “stellar job” managing the pandemic, Luna said.

The internal friction and “finger pointing” within the Idaho GOP didn’t originate with the coronavirus, Luna said.

House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, said he looked forward to collaborating with Luna to advance the Idaho Republican Party.

“He is an old-school Republican, and I think that’s what the party needs,” Bedke said. “I think he’ll effective in getting grassroots support in the Treasure Valley.”

Luna said he planned plans to increase party outreach, especially with newcomers to Idaho. The GOP may hold most power outside Boise but Idaho is among the fastest-growing states, Luna said.

“That math doesn’t work for us long term,” Luna said. “We need to grow the party, and we need to be very aggressive in introducing ourselves to the new residents of Idaho.”

Boise City Council President Pro Tem Holli Woodings pushed back on Luna’s characterizations of the capital city area, calling them “fear tactics.” Idaho would be worse off without Boise’s contribution to the state’s economy, Woodings said in an email message.

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