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For the week of June 26 - July 2, 2002


Democratic stronghold declared ‘Five Star Republican County’

BOISE (AP)—Fresh from holding its biennial convention at the Sun Valley Resort in Blaine County, the Idaho Republican Party has laid claim to the Democratic stronghold and placed it in the upper echelon of the GOP.

In a statement, the party declared Blaine County a "Five Star Republican County" for being one of "the best organized, most active and most effective counties in the state."

Spokesman Jason Bohrer said Blaine is only the second of Idaho’s 44 counties to receive the designation. The other in what is arguably the most Republican state in the nation is Canyon County, which has not elected a Democrat to the Legislature since 1984 and has voted solidly Republicans for Governor and president the past quarter century.

By contrast, Blaine County has been electing Democrats to the state Senate since the mid-1970s. Blaine County voters have supported Democrats for governor for a generation and the last Republican they backed for president was George H.W. Bush in 1988. The county was the only one in the state to give Democratic Vice President Al Gore a majority in the 2000 presidential election.

At the local level, the GOP controlled six of the nine Blaine County offices in the late 1980s, including a majority on the county commission. Today all three commissioners, the prosecutor and assessor are Democrats.

Last month, Blaine County was one of only three in the state to see more people cast votes in the Democratic primary than in the Republican. The other two were Shoshone and Benewah in the Panhandle.

According to the GOP, a Five Star Republican County is determined by the "record of all its activities, its leadership and precinct organization and its history of events such as Meet the Candidate days. Other requirements are having an active and ongoing campaign to write letters to the editor to inform the newspapers of Republican points of view."

Cited as instrumental in securing Blaine County its distinguished position within the GOP hierarchy was Sun Valley City Councilman Latham Williams, 40, who ran for state treasurer as a member of the Reform Party in 1998.

"Republicans in Blaine County have taken the initiative," Williams said. "We’re not going to let the other party coast through here unchallenged."

Williams defeated Idaho Falls loyalist Sheila Olsen and Pocatello businessman Paul Clark at the convention to become the party’s first vice chairman.

"There’s only one county left," said House Speaker Bruce Newcomb, who nominated Williams. "It’s time to take it over."

But Williams downplayed the Democratic stronghold concept.

"It’s easier being a Republican in Blaine County than it was at Berkeley," Williams, a University of California-Berkeley graduate, told the Post Register.


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.