Idaho GOP convention to kick off Thursday

BOISE, Idaho (AP) Uniting the Idaho Republican Party will be the central theme this week as hundreds of GOP delegates travel to the northern region of the state to discuss party platforms and elect the next state chairman.

The three-day convention, which will take place in Moscow, Idaho, comes a few weeks after the May primary that pitted established candidates campaigning against tea party favorites and revealed fractures inside the party.

Delegates from both sides of the traditional establishment and tea party forces are expected to have lively discussions on possible amendments to the party's more conservative planks such as returning to the gold standard and repealing the 17th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and returning to the appointment of U.S. senators by state legislatures rather than direct election.

Re-opening Idaho's closed GOP primaries could also be considered. Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter opposes the closed primaries which bars voters from participating in the GOP primary unless they declare party membership and has said he wants them open with the hope it will improve voter turnout. However, that will take the approval of the state central committee, whose membership will be determined the final day of the convention.

Republicans will also vote on a state party chairman, who will serve a two-year term. At least three names have emerged as top contenders for the seat. Those include current chair Barry Peterson, who is seeking a second term; Blackfoot sheep herder Mike Duff; and Premier Technology President Doug Sayer, who is also from Blackfoot.

Each county and state legislative district sends at least three delegates to the convention, with more being voted in depending on how many voters showed up in the last congressional election.

The convention headliners include former Arkansas governor and 2008 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who kickoffs the event Thursday. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who is rumored to be a potential 2016 presidential candidate, will speak at Friday's dinner.