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Censure me all you want. I answer to Idaho voters, not some central committee.

In 2022, I earned the honor of representing District 32 and Bonneville County in the Idaho House. When I swore my oath of office to uphold the U.S. and Idaho constitutions, I committed to serving my district to the best of my ability. But that oath and commitment aren’t enough for the Bonneville County Republican Central Committee. Their second attempt to censure me and my seatmate, Sen. Kevin Cook, R-Idaho Falls, reflects a desperate attempt to bully and intimidate. I dared to speak the truth about the recent proposal to divert your tax dollars to private schools. I received a summons to stand trial before a party tribunal for the so-called sin of exercising my right to free speech. I fully expect this column to appear as evidence that, once again, I’m failing to comply with political bosses intent on controlling elected officials.

Telling you what’s happening and why will be used against me and any other legislator who pulls back the curtain. But you deserve to know what’s being done in the name of Idaho Republicans. You deserve to know that some people within the party believe they should call all the shots. Only they should have the right to determine who gets to call themselves a Republican and who can run for office as a Republican. Under current Republican Party rules, if an elected official receives a second censure by a legislative district, the state, county, or legislative district committee can vote “to remove Party support and prohibit the use of Republican Party identifiers.”

If approved, the restriction lasts for five years. Some have suggested they’ll pursue legal action to enforce this decision. When I ran for office, I needed to secure a majority of votes from over 52,000 people in my district. Now, 20 precinct committeemen on the District 32 Legislative Committee will vote on whether I can call myself a Republican. Of those 20, only nine were elected. The other 11 were appointed. Politics isn’t fair. When I entered the arena, I knew I’d need to fight for my principles and the values that mattered to my community and state. I didn’t anticipate that I’d need to fight for the right to call myself a Republican.

I’m a lifelong member of the Republican Party. I’ve campaigned and fundraised for decades to elect Republican candidates. But that work doesn’t matter to this new breed of party activists that demand loyalty over principle and blind obedience over freedom. I ran for office to serve my district. From supporting education to growing our economy, we’re building a strong foundation for sustainable success in Idaho. Our students deserve a competitive education that prepares them for the future. Our families deserve safe communities because we’re focused on reducing crime. Our businesses deserve the certainty that they can operate with confidence under limited and predictable regulation that doesn’t restrict the free market.

Idaho Republicans will advance none of these objectives if every elected official must operate under the control of the central committee. George Washington warned us about the risk of political parties. He wrote about the “cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men” who would “subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.” We’re seeing his prediction come to life in the Idaho Republican Party.

This May, I will once again stand before voters and make the case for why I’m the best candidate to represent District 32 in the Idaho House. They get to decide if I should continue to serve, not a central committee. That’s how it should be. Rep. Stephanie Mickelsen, R-Idaho Falls, represents District 32 (Bonneville County) in the Idaho House.