The drama in Idaho’s 6th Legislative District continued Tuesday, amid allegations that one of the candidates nominated to replace former Lewiston Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger might be a closet Democrat.
The mere possibility of someone with “liberal views” being appointed to von Ehlinger’s House seat was reportedly enough to spark an emergency meeting of the district’s Republican Central Committee.
The turmoil leaves efforts to fill the position apparently on hold, even as the Legislature rushes to complete its business for the year.
Von Ehlinger resigned from office last week, after a 19-year-old House intern accused the 38-year-old lawmaker of forcing her to perform oral sex. He denied the allegations, but said he dated the young woman and had sexual relations with her.
Following his resignation, the 6th Legislative District Republican Central Committee held a nearly five-hour meeting Monday evening to choose his successor.
Comprised of about 36 precinct captains from Nez Perce and Lewis counties, the committee nominated eight people for the position. The top three choices were Glen Baldwin, of Culdesac, Leland farmer Robert Blair and Hannah Liedkie, president and CEO of Opportunities Unlimited in Lewiston.
Those three names were submitted to Gov. Brad Little, who has 15 days to appoint one of them to fill out the remainder of von Ehlinger’s term.
The governor’s office confirmed Tuesday it has received the names.
However, less than 12 hours after Monday’s marathon session concluded, some precinct captains reportedly began questioning Liedkie’s political views and suggesting that her name be removed from the list of finalists.
“What they found was some old social media posts that were construed as me displaying liberal views,” said Liedkie, when contacted Tuesday afternoon.
One photo, for example, shows her posing at an airport with Vermont Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
In the 2015 photo, Liedkie is wearing a shirt promoting Ben Carson, a Republican presidential candidate who later served as a member of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet.
“I thought a photo of Bernie Sanders with me in my Ben Carson T-shirt would be funny,” Liedkie said. “I did not campaign for Bernie, nor did I vote for him.”
The Nez Perce County Elections Office indicated Liedkie is a registered Republican. During the question-and-answer segment of Monday’s meeting, she described herself as a lifelong conservative. Her views on a variety of issues were also entirely consistent with the other seven candidates.
“I’m new to this (party organization), but I’ve been participating in the Republican life every day,” she told the committee members.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Liedkie said none of the central committee officers had spoken with her directly about the allegations. However, she heard the committee planned to hold an emergency meeting Friday to address the issue. She later took to social media, saying the meeting may have taken place Tuesday evening.
She attributed the situation to sour grapes on the part of party insiders who didn’t make the final cut.
“They’re miffed they weren’t selected,” Liedkie said. “I’m an outsider. They’re p--- — off and want to make me look bad.”
Heather Rogers, who chairs the 6th District Central Committee, was one of the eight people nominated to replace von Ehlinger. She presided over Monday’s meeting, except for the question-and-answer session.
She could not immediately be reached by phone Tuesday, but indicated via text message that she was busy in meetings until late Tuesday evening. She did not respond to subsequent texts asking if an emergency meeting has been called, or if efforts are afoot to remove Liedkie’s name from the list of finalists.
Nez Perce County Commissioner Doug Havens, who nominated Liedkie for the position, said he would be “shocked” if the allegations about her are true.
“She’s been a registered Republican for years,” he said. “She’s pro-life, pro-Second Amendment. She would represent the district very well and absolutely hit the ground running.”
Havens felt the reaction to Liedkie’s social media posts were an overreaction on the part of some central committee members.
“If I’d seen a presidential candidate in an airport, I would have had my picture taken, too. Come on, get real,” he said. “The governor’s going to think we’re all nuts.”