Power County politics play part in Republican convention meltdown

by Kurtis Workman
Press Staff Writer

Power County Republicans are generally confused by recent events that left the local GOP without representation at the state Republican convention.

Power County Republicans became embroiled in controversy following the appointment of two precinct committee members Monica Claunch and Gordon Colucci were appointed by Chairman Vern Nelson to fill vacancies in the party leadership after the May 20 primary election.

Rick Martin, from Buhl, ID, opposed filling the vacancies. He is the Region Six Director of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Idaho, an area which, according to the organization’s website, includes Gooding, Jerome, Minidoka, Lincoln, Cassia, Twin Falls, Camas and Blaine counties. Martin also served as Lance Earl’s campaign manager during the Rockland resident’s attempt to unseat Representative Kelly Packer in the primary election.

After the primary election, Earl, who also a Power County GOP precinct committeeman, challenged Nelson for the chairman position. According to the grievance Martin filed with Idaho Republican Chairman Barry Peterson, Nelson canceled the scheduled vote for the position of chairman because there were not enough precinct committeemen in attendance to constitute a quorum.

The contention between Martin and the Power County Republican Party, according to Martin, is Nelson’s interpretation of what constitutes a quorum. Martin contends a quorum is made up of 51 percent of elected committeemen while Nelson appears to have believed a quorum is made up of 51 percent of total committeemen. With two unfilled positions of six total the 51 percent benchmark was not met.

According to documents provided by Martin, Nelson then appointed Claunch and Colucci to the vacant positions. According to Martin, who is claiming to be acting on behalf of Earl, the appointments unfairly stacked the deck in favor of Nelson retaining the chairmanship.

Martin’s grievance was given to the state Republican Party’s Credentials Committee for review with the possibility of recommending the general convention reject the delegates from Power County. The Credential Committee did recommend the convention reject Power County’s five delegates. The same committee also recommended the same course of action be taken against delegates from Bannock and Ada counties among others.

The uproar at the state convention in Moscow on Saturday, June 14, over the rejection of delegates from several counties including the Power County delegation eventually halted all other business leaving the state GOP without an updated platform or an officially elected state chairman.

Nelson said he is at an impasse.

“This was supposed to be resolved up there at the convention and nothing got resolved so I don’t know where to go from there,” said Nelson.

Kim Petersen, secretary of the Power County Republican Party also expressed confusion.

“We worked very, very hard to make sure we were doing things correctly. We did not have a quorum that night. We don’t even vote on who brings ketchup to the annual picnic without a quorum. We just tried to follow the rules the way we always have and to the best of our abilities,” said Petersen.

Petersen said she is also confused by Martin’s interest in Power County politics.

“He (Martin) is from Buhl and has never attended a county Republican meeting before. I don’t really understand his motivations,” she said.

“At the state level they had a seven-hour meeting that only accomplished a roll call and an argument about rules. We did not send anyone up there because we had a fairly good idea this would happen and it did not seem fair to ask our members to travel so far on Father’s Day weekend just to be rejected,” said Petersen.

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