Idaho’s voters have a long history of electing politicians from the far-right side of the aisle, and in recent years have shown a propensity for electing far-right extremists from the “Patriot”/militia movement. This year, Idahoans will even have the opportunity to vote for two participants in an infamous militia-led standoff with federal agents.
The two men—Eric “EJ” Parker and O. Scott Drexler—are planning to run for a seat in the Idaho Legislature and for sheriff of a rural county. Both were charged with federal crimes over their roles in the 2014 armed standoff in Bunkerville, Nevada, led by “Patriot” rancher Cliven Bundy.
Parker became infamous after being photographed aiming his rifle from a sniper position on the nearby freeway at federal agents confronting Bundy’s supporters on April 12, as the standoff reached its heated climax. He and Drexler, who also aimed his rifle at federal agents, were later charged with several federal crimes, including conspiracy, extortion, obstruction, and assault on a federal officer, as part of a nationwide sweep of 14 participants in the standoff in March 2016.
According to the Idaho Statesman, Parker is seeking a seat in the state Senate as a Republican from District 26, which comprises Blaine, Camas, Gooding, and Lincoln counties in central Idaho. He would be challenging Democratic incumbent Sen. Michelle Stennett of Ketchum.
Drexler, meanwhile, says he intends to run for sheriff of neighboring Custer County, where he currently resides. He wants “to let the people know I don’t want to stand over them, I want to stand alongside them and under the principles of the Constitution,” he told the Challis Messenger.
He said he plans to run as a Republican. He faces competition from two other Republican candidates, incumbent Sheriff Stu Lumpkin and current sheriff’s Deputy Joel Peterson.
Before his arrest, Parker was heavily involved in the 2016 armed standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge led by Cliven Bundy’s son Ammon. Parker was a leader in the 3 Percent of Idaho militia organization, which had made headlines the previous fall of 2015 by whipping up Islamophobia over refugees in Idaho, and whose president, Brandon Curtiss, helped organize the protest in Burns, Oregon, that became the spark for the standoff.
Parker and Drexler were arrested a couple of months later when the 3 Percent of Idaho organized a mass protest of the arrests on the Statehouse steps in Boise, which was later followed by concert fundraising event in Twin Falls. Some 50 Idaho lawmakers cosigned a letter urging the Justice Department to ease up on its prosecution of Parker and the others. Later, after the men were released, Republican legislators gave Parker a round of applause on the floor of the state House.
In the meantime, it emerged that Curtiss had been mishandling 3 Percent of Idaho funds—along with a number of other illegal financial dealings in his real-estate business—and the “Patriot” organization crumbled amid a flurry of rancorous accusations. Curtiss was eventually charged with and pleaded guilty to multiple counts of grand theft, and was ordered to spend a year in jail earlier this year.
Parker formed his own “Patriot” organization, called “The Real 3 Percent of Idaho.” Last November, he briefly participated in a would-be armed standoff with Ammon Bundy at a ranch near Orofino, Idaho, that fizzled out when Bundy ascertained that authorities were in the right in the case.
So far, he has not yet set up a campaign website or social media account to support his candidacy. On his own Facebook page, however, Parker offered support for Drexler’s candidacy:
Scott Drexler is the Real deal. He saw his neighbors in trouble and refused to stand by and watch as another government sponsored tragedy occurred. Scott being a born and raised son of Idaho, the Idea that the government could surround and kill innocent people is all too real and when word of Snipers and illegal arrests for not being in the 1st amendment area came out He like many others where not content to read about another Ruby Ridge over coffee in the morning.
Drexler’s candidacy for sheriff reflects the worldview of the “Patriots” who led the Bundy standoffs—namely, the “constitutionalist” belief that the county sheriff represents the supreme law-enforcement body in the United States. His election to the seat would ensure another Northwest sheriff in the mold of Oregon’s Glenn Palmer, an unapologetic extremist who believes federal authorities must submit to his oversight.
Likewise, should Parker win election to the legislature, he will represent a faction that openly embraces a violent civil war—or “Boogaloo,” in their lingo—as resistance to federal authority, especially regarding gun control. A meme on his Facebook page posted in December featured a burning castle labeled “Your entire pedophilic government” behind a laughing Queen Daenerys from Game of Thrones, labeled “Boojahideen” (slang for a participant in the “Boogaloo”).
But then, he also should enjoy plenty of company in that regard. At least two Idaho legislators—Rep. Heather Scott and Rep. Sage Dixon, both from the northern Panhandle—are closely affiliated with the “Patriot” movement and often vote accordingly, as is Rep. Judy Boyle of Midvale. Another Idaho legislator, Rep. Dorothy Moon of Stanley, is an avid supporter of Parker’s and Drexler’s candidacies.
Published with permission from Daily Kos.