GOP Attempting a Dem Takeover
On Thursday, March 10, 2022, The Coeur d’Alene Press exposed a Republican plot to take over the Kootenai County Democratic Central Committee. The smoking gun was a 30-minute audio tape of a chilling telephone conversation. The Press obtained the recording from John Grimm, a 2019 candidate for county sheriff. The recording captures Dan Bell, the head of the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee (KCRCC) Youth Group, recruiting Grimm to participate in a takeover scheme. In the recording, Bell asks Grimm to change his party affiliation and run as one of 30-40 fake Democratic candidates for Precinct Captain. Bell described the GOP plan in detail. It directed fake candidates to do a “bum’s rush” of the Elections Office on the final day of the filing period. The reason for the last-minute filings was to prevent us from registering real Democrats to run against them. Running unopposed, the fake Democrats would need only a few votes to win. This was a crucial factor, because they would have little chance of drawing Republican voters away from their closed primary where they could vote for right wing fringe candidate Janice McGeachen for Governor.
Once elected, fake Democrats would then hold a majority on our Central Committee. They planned to elect the anti-Semitic David Reilly Chairperson, divert Democratic funds to conservative causes, take over communications, and put the KCDCC out of business by suspending future meetings indefinitely.
Dan Bell told John Grimm “If we pull this off this will be national news.”
Grimm played along with the scheme but did not commit to joining in, saying he needed to ask his wife for permission. Later, he resolved to reveal the details to the Coeur d’Alene Press. Read the Press article and listen to the recording.
GOP Plot Revealed
A Press reporter shared the story with me before publication and asked for my comments. I was shocked. All I could say was that if true, the plot was diabolical. I knew the GOP had tried this once before. So, I called veteran Democrat Paula Neils and asked for her advice. Paula remained cool, calm, and collected. Then, she recounted how a few Republicans used a similar tactic in 2014. Fortunately, these Fake Democrats lost interest after attending a few monthly meetings and drifted away. But Dan Bell described this year’s takeover plot as “a much stronger effort than we had in 2014.”
I feared losing my central committee. I alerted the Idaho Democratic Party and called an emergency meeting of our Central Committee. We resolved to recruit as many candidates as possible so that no Fake Democratic candidate would run unopposed.
In addition, we considered transferring our funds to the IDP or to the Democrats’ Club where they would be out of GOP reach. We even considered forming long lines outside the Elections Office to prevent the “bum’s rush” Republicans from re-registering at the last minute.
Plot Spurs Unintended Consequences
In less than 48 hours we identified and recruited the real Democrats needed to save our Central Committee. They turned out and committed to run in most every open precinct. In fact, many people contacted us to volunteer before being asked.
Only nineteen Republicans filed to run for Democratic precinct captain and now their names and precincts are in the public record. Although this attempted insurgence is a clear concern, it will not threaten control of the committee.
The GOP Plot has fired up Kootenai Democrats. In addition, it is spurring some Republicans to reconsider their rigid allegiance to the KCRCC. For example, a prominent conservative attorney in Coeur d’Alene contacted me to offer professional advice.
The KCRCC’s actions may or may not be illegal. Either way, Chair Brent Regan is distancing himself from this controversy. In fact, despite being implicated in the recording, he denies any involvement. Yet, they were certainly illogical and ironic. For one, the GOP professes a deep concern for election integrity and security. Moreover, they already have a better than 2:1 advantage in registered voters in Kootenai County.
The KCRCC’s actions have backfired. Rather than ensuring a takeover, they galvanized Democrats to vigorously recruit precinct captains and strengthen our organization.
We take threats to participatory democracy and to our central committee very seriously. The KCRCC’s actions raise a few questions. We will find answers.
If the Fake Democrats have self-respect, they will resign from the ballot and apologize to Kootenai County.
In the meantime, we look forward to welcoming all the real Democratic candidates into our family.