Red vs. Blue: Two Idaho Delegates, Two Conventions, One Big Prize 

"As delegates, we all want to see Idaho's unique values and shared perspectives represented."

(L) Republican Steve Yates and (R) Democrate Caitlin Lister

BW Staff and Courtesy

(L) Republican Steve Yates and (R) Democrate Caitlin Lister

click to enlarge Republican National Convention - Monday, July 18-Thursday, July 21 - Quicken Loans Arena, 1 Center Court, Cleveland, Ohio. - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Republican National ConventionMonday, July 18-Thursday, July 21Quicken Loans Arena, 1 Center Court, Cleveland, Ohio.

Republican Steve Yates

Steve Yates is days away from leading Idaho's GOP elite into Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena, the site of one of the most provocative Republican National Conventions in recent memory.

Yates, chairman of the Idaho Republican Party, said while most of the nation's focus will be on presumptive nominee Donald Trump's acceptance as the GOP standard-bearer, he's equally anxious to hear what other top-tier Republicans have to say about their chances against presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

"We are going to have different speakers, the convention has been moved up several weeks and there is a lot of unknowns about the convention speakers to look forward to," said Yates, who will be one of 32 Republicans representing Idaho.

High-profile delegates for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who waged an unsuccessful challenge against Trump, include Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) and Idaho State Treasurer Ron Crane. Idaho Trump delegates include former Senate Majority Leader Rod Beck and Idaho Falls Republican Rep. Janice McGeachin.

This will be the third time Cleveland has hosted the RNC. The first time, in 1924, Republicans nominated then-President Calvin Coolidge to run against Democrat John Davis (Coolidge won in a landslide). The second time was in 1944, when Kansas Governor Alf Landon was chosen to run against incumbent President Franklin Roosevelt (Landon lost in a landslide).

Yates said one of the highlights of the GOP's return to Cleveland will be the emergence of Trump's running mate.

"We fully anticipate that names of possible running mates will be publicized between now and then" said Yates, "but I think people will ultimately be pretty excited about who that vice president nominee will be."

Yates said growing up near Washington, D.C. in a politically-engaged family had a lasting impact on him, instilling in him a passion for politics.

"Quite frankly, I was inspired by the very real turnaround Ronald Reagan brought to our country. It felt very patriotic to be up close and personal working in government while the Cold War was coming to an end," said Yates, who worked at the White House as deputy assistant to the vice president for National Security Affairs from 2001 through 2005, during George W. Bush's presidency. In 2014, Yates was elected Idaho Republican Party chairman and was reelected to the post during the June 2016 GOP state convention in Nampa.

Yates will be a busy man fostering party loyalty at the RNC, adding, "We're working pretty hard the week leading up to the convention."

Yates indicated he was reluctant to voice his personal choice of who might be the best candidate at the top of the GOP ballot, but said, "Voters make their own decisions. I can't know what's in their hearts and minds. When it comes to choosing a president, voting is very high stakes."

click to enlarge Democratic National Convention - Monday, July 25-Thursday, July 28 - Wells Fargo Center, 3601 S. Broad St., Philadelphia - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Democratic National ConventionMonday, July 25-Thursday, July 28Wells Fargo Center, 3601 S. Broad St., Philadelphia

Democrat Caitlin Lister

While the nation's Democrats prepare to formally select their party's presidential nominee during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia later this month, one Idaho delegate is preparing for her first foray into American national politics.

"I am incredibly honored that my peers elected me to be one of the delegates who will represent Idaho's unique values," said Caitlin Lister, who serves as a minority party legislative aide at the Idaho Statehouse. "Imagine being in a room full of passionate people all striving for a common goal."

Lister said her interest in politics stretches back to an advanced placement American Government class that she took in high school, but her real inspiration to become a Democrat stems from her six years of service in the U.S. Marine Corps. During one deployment, Lister was assigned to security detail when Iraq was holding constitutional and parliamentary elections. It was the first time Iraqi women were allowed to vote.

"After having that experience, I decided to come back [to Idaho], finish my degree [at Boise State University] in political science and get involved in politics," Lister said.

Lister said she has been a full-fledged Hillary Clinton supporter for years, and believes Clinton could "hit the ground running, unlike her competitors, if she's elected."

Lister said she particularly admires Clinton's work on human rights issues and public education, as well as her experience as U.S. secretary of state, which she said sets Clinton apart from other candidates.

"She knows our government inside and out," said Lister. "This is something the other candidates just don't have."

Lister said she'll breathe easier when she sees Vermont Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders stand side-by-side with Clinton at the DNC, which starts Monday, July 25, at the Philadelphia Wells Fargo Center. Sanders' full-throated endorsement of Clinton is essential, said Lister, who still expects "passionate discussions" among the Clinton and Sanders camps of delegates. Lister said it's critical that Sanders' delegates see his vision and values reflected in Clinton's campaign platform which will be adopted at the DNC. Though she is a Clinton supporter, Lister was quick to acknowledge Sanders' sweep of the Idaho Democratic Caucuses in March, garnering 78 percent of the vote.

"As delegates, we all want to see Idaho's unique values and shared perspectives represented," she said.

Although she knows a Democrat winning in Idaho will be "a heavy lift," Lister remains optimistic for the November General Election.

As a mother of two, her political values are largely influenced by a desire to protect and improve her children's future.

"I want to help shape a world based on a foundation of love and respect through progressive values," said Lister. "I want my kids to have a better world than I did, just like every parent does."

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