The Ada County Republican Candidate Purgery

UPDATED BELOW TWICE

Ada County is Idaho's largest by population. It contains Idaho's capitol city as well as the fastest growing areas of residential development in the state around the communities of Eagle, Star, Meridian and Kuna. Some years there are nearly as many votes cast in Ada County as in either of Idaho's congressional districts. Its a significant voting bloc but one divided politically with Democrats predominating in Boise City and a lot of transplant "white flight" Republicans occupying the new developments.

The race for County Commissioner is a partisan race, but typically not one where politics is a big issue. There have been a couple Democrats who have been Ada County Commissioners, notably Frank Walker and later, Paul Woods. In 2008, a presidential election year, Senator David Langhorst (D-Boise) left his legislative position to run a campaign along with sitting Commissioner Paul Woods to be on the Commission. Both lost their races due, in some part, to the wingnut enthusiasm generated by Sarah Palin in West Ada County. Both Democrats were quite capable, well liked, professionals and the only controversy really occurred on the Republican side of the ticket where Rick Yzaguirre had failed to pay his taxes and Sharon Ullman had previously been thrown off the commission because of her unwillingness to play well with other commissioners. Ullman has a checkered history having run previously as a Democrat and an Independent. Ullman is currently running against Otter in the Republican primary race for Governor. In the end the only thing that mattered in those races was the 'R' behind their name.

This year two Republican former Commissioners, the ever popular, common sense Boise City Councilman Vern Bisterfeld and somewhat cantankerous director of the Idaho Lottery Roger Simmons, are running in the primary against two incumbents, Rick Yzaguirre and uber-Republican former legislator Fred Tillman, an Otter appointee. Their primary platform priority is to schedule a vote to change Ada County government from a full time commission-run organization to a manager system in which the commissioners would only work part time to vote on issues of policy. The plan should appeal to most budget conscious Republicans since it would save plenty in tax dollars, in Commissioner salaries, as well as promoting government efficiency. The plan would also de-politicize County government.

Historically the Republican Party will stay away from endorsing a candidate in its primary just as they will avoid making endorsements in non-partisan races. But lately these prohibitions have eroded with some Republicans seeking purity in ideology among the candidates and will enforce their restrictive point of view through undemocratic authoritarian control via committee. (Are they commies?) Recent efforts in doing so have met with disastrous results:

In last year’s city elections, there was some controversy about county GOP central committees making endorsements in nonpartisan city races; few did, and in Bonneville County the move backfired, and the endorsements were either declined or the endorsed candidates lost big.

But this year Ada County Republican Central Committee decided to go with the purge mentality and endorsed Yzaguirre and Tilman confusing each of their opponents, both long time Republicans.

"The Republican Party endorsing in the primary is to me very unusual, to say the least. I'm extremely troubled by that," Simmons said. "Vern and I have always run as Republicans."

Simmons was a Republican Ada County commissioner from 1993 to 2003, as was Bisterfeldt from 1987 to 1999. Bisterfeldt has been a Boise City councilman - a non-partisan position - since 2002.

"The fact that I think Cecil Andrus is a great guy and that I am the treasurer for Branden Durst and Walt Minnick does not interfere with me being a Republican. [] I have not given up my right to be a Republican," Bisterfeldt said. "I've worked for this community for 51 years now. I'll let the citizens of this community be my judge, as opposed to the Republican Central Committee."

Simmons said the only time he crossed party lines was when he endorsed Democrat David Langhorst, who ran against Yzaguirre in 2008.

"I would have endorsed almost anybody running against Rick because I don't think he's the right guy to be in there," Simmons said.

The committee did not ask Simmons or Bisterfeldt to attend Tuesday's meeting, nor did it inform them of its decision. Simmons learned about the decision from the Statesman.

The real interesting thing about the purge was the instigator, Sharon Ullman who, as previously noted, has run as a Democrat and an independent before settling on being the hypocritical Torqemada for the Ada County Republicans. It would be poetic justice if the Idaho Republican Party would come gunning for her as not Republican enough to run against Butch. Ullman has scores to settle with both men, having lost to Bisterfeld as a Democrat, and famously feuding with Simmons when they were on the Commission together. The whole episode just reinforces the Simmons/Bisterfeld quest to de-politicize County government.
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4/30 Larry Rincover would like us to remind people that he's a Democratic candidate for Ada County Commissioner District 2 and will face the victor of Simmons v. Yzaquirre. We'll talk more about that in September.

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5/1 Cynthia pens a good summary of the race, the parties and their history. Definitely must read material. This will be a race to watch.