NAMPA — Kirsten Lucas considers herself a “political refugee.” A transplant from California’s Simi Valley, she moved to Idaho in 2018 to escape what California had become.
“All of a sudden, we just realized, we can’t make a change in a corrupt state,” Lucas said in an Aug. 28 interview on The Voice of Conservative Values, the official podcast of the ConservativesOf political action committee.
A registered Republican since age 18, Lucas had been active in California politics — her family knew the Reagans and enjoyed visiting the Reagan library in town — but her political involvement declined while raising and homeschooling kids, she said in the interview. When she became disillusioned with California politics, God led her family to Idaho because her sister had moved there a few years prior, she said in the interview.
But she soon discovered that Idaho was not the conservative haven she had envisioned.
“You think you’re coming to this red, red state, and all of a sudden, I realized, ‘oh, people are voting at the booths just looking for the R in brackets behind somebody’s name, and yet there’s no vetting system,” she said in the interview. There are no voter guides to learn about candidates on the same scale as she had seen in California, she said. And worse, supposed Republicans don’t uphold Idaho’s Republican platform, she said.
“We’ve been blindly thinking we were going to keep this state red on its own, and we have to get organized,” she said in the interview.
“I was pretty inspired right away to get involved in some level in what I say is, ‘I’m holding these people’s arms up in battle so that they can get that win,’ and I think we need to do that on a much larger scale now,” she said.
In May of 2020, Lucas was elected to become a precinct committeeman for the Canyon County Republican Central Committee. Republican leaders have described how contentious that group’s meetings have become in part because of people aligning with ideologically charged groups, such as the Idaho Freedom Foundation, are using “confrontational politics” to interrupt proceedings and call for action.
Lucas says Wayne Hoffman, president of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, was one of the first connections she made in Idaho. She has shared information on her Facebook page promoting events featuring politicians whose platforms align with the foundation, such as State Rep. Priscilla Giddings and Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin.
Lucas now helps lead three local chapters of ConservativesOf, a conservative political action committee headquartered in Eagle that has chapters across the country. The group was founded by Winston Sanders, who Lucas used to homeschool with in Ventura County, she said in the interview.
God prompted Sanders to start the ConservativesOf PAC in November 2019, Lucas said. When he discussed his plans with Lucas, it was hard for her to wrap her head around his vision, but she felt it was important work. She vowed to do whatever she could to help.
Now, Lucas helps lead ConservativesOf: Canyon County, ConservativesOf: Nampa, and ConservativesOf: Caldwell. Each chapter has its own Facebook group, and Lucas helps manage each of them. The Facebook groups are private, admitting members who agree to abide by the “Fundamental Principles of Conservatism,” which appear to track with ConservativesOf’s platform.
Though she thinks the Facebook groups play a role in helping people get involved, Lucas has been disappointed that the groups haven’t been growing fast enough.
“It isn’t taking off and I really feel like it’s because people are assuming that we’re very conservative in Canyon (County),” Lucas said in the interview. “But that hasn’t been what I’ve found,” she said. Though she didn’t outline additional specifics of what she has found, she said it has galvanized her to action.
Podcast host Daniel Bobinski, who is also the editor for True Idaho, a conservative news outlet, agreed. He too had moved to Idaho and had voted for candidates with the Republican “R” next to their name until he realized they were not voting in alignment with the state’s Republican platform, and not in alignment with “Judeo-Christian principles at all,” Bobinski said.
“I think God’s kind of giving us a wake-up call,” he said.
“Yes, amen,” Lucas agreed. Thankfully, she has seen many people heeding that call, coming to her and saying, “God is calling me into this battle,” she said.
Some of the discussion of politics and religion doesn’t sit well with Sarah Chaney, precinct committeeman and the wife and campaign coordinator for Greg Chaney, R-Caldwell. Sarah Chaney listened to the interview in full, she said.
“She said that, basically, you have to be a Judeo-Christian, and if not, she’s coming for you. Being a Christian myself, I take offense to that because the only one who can judge my faith is God,” Chaney said.
“And so for her to set this threshold of, she needs to agree with your faith, and in that, she also needs to agree with your politics, and if your politics aren’t in agreement with hers, you’re not Christian enough…and so therefore you are the enemy and she’s coming for you…Those were just some of the major points of concern for me, and listening to that, I thought, ‘Wow, she’s very judgmental,’” Chaney said.
In a phone interview, Lucas said she was saddened to hear of Chaney’s comments. She maintained that the U.S. was founded on “predominantly Christian values.”
“And so I think, if we want freedom, we have to look at who gave us that freedom and I believe a Creator endowed us with inalienable rights that are there for us, and when the government starts encroaching on our rights, then we as Christians need to say, ‘Hey, wait a minute. We can’t give up these God-given freedoms,” Lucas said.
Since her election as a precinct committeeman, Lucas says she has felt frustrated and as if her voice and others’ like hers aren’t being heard.
“I feel like we are just spinning our wheels,” Lucas said. “And we don’t have any leadership to understand what our role could be or what we could be doing as a team. So then we end up trying to do things on our own and then it’s seen as going rogue. But that’s not the intention at all.”
Chaney says she and other leaders are aware of Lucas’ and others’ grievances.
“We know their arguments,” Chaney said. “We just don’t agree, and it’s part of this (Idaho Freedom Foundation) mentality of, you know, 100% you agree or you are the enemy.”
The Idaho Freedom Foundation did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment for this story.
In addition to Lucas’s involvement as a precinct committeeman and with ConservativesOf, she has also heeded the call to action by hosting booths at the Nampa Farmers Market, supporting candidate meet and greets for local and state elections, and starting a monthly Ladies Liberty Luncheon.
The candidate meet and greets have caused controversy for appearing to be sponsored by the entire Canyon County Republican Central committee, and for elevating candidates that align with Idaho Freedom Foundation platform rather than all Republican candidates, as previously reported by the Idaho Press.
The Ladies Liberty Luncheon, which meets directly after the Canyon County Republican Women’s group meeting, seems to be taking a more activist approach to women’s involvement in politics, as the Idaho Press previously reported.
In the August podcast, Lucas encourages women to get involved with the Canyon County Republican Women’s group, but she says she grew concerned that the group isn’t as effective as it could be, she said.
“This meeting is small, and it’s fine, except that we didn’t feel like there was action or momentum from it,” she said in the interview. She created Ladies Liberty Luncheon to give people tools to get involved in local politics, she said.
Hoffman, of Idaho Freedom Foundation, spoke at the Ladies Liberty Luncehon’s first meeting, held in August, Lucas said. Tammy Nichols, a conservative state representative who has a 99 out of 100 score from the Idaho Freedom Foundation’s Freedom Index, spoke. And Winston Sanders told the group about ConservativesOf, and also prayed for the Ladies Liberty Luncheon, she said. Lucas shared what positions were open in local school board and city council races, she said. Candidate filing for local elections opened later that month.
Having a plan to shape local politics and get the right candidates elected is a necessity to counteracting the nefarious plans of supposedly conservative candidates in the state, Bobinski, the podcast host, said.
“I’m firmly convinced that there are organizations in this state who do not subscribe to Judeo-Christian values who have plans to do what they want to do for their own benefit,” he said. “And I think what you’re doing is great, I think what the ConservativesOf movement is doing is great, because it brings people together — Judeo-Christian principled people — who then work together with a plan…to stop those with the plan to do what they want to do and not God’s will.”
“Correct,” Lucas said.
Since ConservativesOf is a political action committee, part of that plan includes raising money to support candidates who align with ConservativesOf’s conception of the state’s Republican platform.
“I love that it’s a PAC,” Lucas said of the ConservativesOf chapter she’s starting for Canyon County. “We can have a $50 a year membership to help with these things. Obviously, people are going to need, you know, money to run in these elections and everything. And we have, I think, a huge group here that is very willing to put some skin in the game and help with their finances and with their time.”
Keeping tabs on local government is another important function of these groups, Bobinski said. The Boise ConservativesOf group has a city council action subgroup that ensures that there is always a member at each city council and school board meeting “taking notes and reporting back what is going on,” Bobinski said. They have a similar subgroup that goes to Boise School District School board meetings, reports findings so people can contact school board members, and also identifies people who might want to run for school board. Lucas said she intends to replicate that in Canyon County.
School board and city council elections have historically been nonpartisan. But elections this year have felt different, with candidates often using language that shows a certain political bent toward issues such as mask and vaccine mandates and curriculum selection in schools.
Bobinski discussed a Kuna School Board meeting in which the police were called because parents were demanding answers from school board trustees even though the time for public comment was over. A similar thing happened in Nampa, Lucas said.
“This is what we need to do is replace these school board members who aren’t being responsive to the citizens,” Bobinski said.
Lucas agreed, saying groups like ConservativesOf aim to “take a small part of the pie.”