Some Montana Republicans Considering “Unity Principal” to Hold Members Accountable to Party Platform
One of the side topics talked about by party members at the Republican Convention Friday, June 7, was a proposal put forth by self-titled conservative and former Montana State Representative Derick Skees.
Skees calls the proposal a "Unity Principal.” It is a list of ten identifying beliefs which would theoretically be used to help guide Republican legislators and keep them accountable to the party. Skees indicated that the rift between the “responsible republicans” and the “conservatives” during the last legislative session helped develop the idea.
"If we're Repbulicans and we are our platform, then the question has to be, in light of this last cycle, 'how big of a tent is it?'" Skees said. "How many times can you vote against our platform and against our principals and still be a member of the Republican party?"
Skees says he sent the proposal to between 20 to 30 members that he identified as having similar principals in both the Montana State House and Senate. So far, he says he has found many that agree with the idea.
"Many of us have gotten together and we hammered out an idea," Skees said. "We agree that if you agree with us 80 percent of the time, based on the platform that we decide... then you're our friend. You work with us. You work to deal your customers, which are taxpayers and voters of Montana, an honest choice when they decide to send you [to the legislature]. And if you vote for us lest than 79 percent of the time, then maybe you need a refresher of our platform. A refresher of what the principals are to be a Republican. Maybe you need to be considered to step down and have someone else that more mirrors what our party stands for. It's not a litmus test. What it is is an oath to uphold the principals that many of the electorate understand when they vote Republican."
Skees singled out Flathead area representative Bruce Tutvedt as the type of legislator that might be removed from the party by the unity principal. The proposal has sparked a debate about just how much power Montana's political parties have over their own party designations.