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Idaho Dispatch

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A New Legislative Caucus Has Emerged in the Idaho Capitol

By • September 12, 2023

A new group has formed in the Idaho Capitol – an organization of Legislators who call themselves the Main Street Idaho Caucus.

The association is modeled after a group called the East Idaho Coalition. The website for the new Main Street Caucus lists the address of the group in Idaho Falls. One of the two freshmen legislator creators of Main Street is Representative Josh Wheeler (R-D35) from Ammon. Wheeler explains,

“I found a strong foundation for legislative success with new and experienced legislators sharing their insights and experiences. Through the East Idaho Coalition, I had critical conversations to better understand the benefits and tradeoffs of different proposed legislation or suggested approaches to the process. There was great energy in working together to solve regional challenges and communicating those successes.

Never once did a member of the coalition pressure me to vote in one direction or the other. Instead, we all encouraged each other to ask questions and work to find consensus. We each swore an oath to support the U.S. and Idaho constitutions. We respected the need to take votes that matched the needs of our individual districts.

While in Boise, I met and befriended another principled conservative, Sen. Treg Bernt from Meridian. Another first-term legislator, Sen. Bernt, expressed his interest in the work and the relationships that the East Idaho Coalition generated. We spoke at length about how to craft a similar model statewide. After consulting with other legislators who wanted to collaborate, we formed the Main Street Idaho Caucus.”

In this video from the group’s podcast, Wheeler and Bernt describe the background, the rationale, the concept, and the goals of Main Street. Bernt explains,

“We wanted to put together a group of reasonable, conservative Republicans that care a lot about Idaho… We are not trying to take anything away from a Republican caucus that already exists.”

From the about page of their website, the organization’s mission is described,

“Main Street Idaho is a group of dedicated Idaho legislators committed to fostering economic growth, championing free markets, and expanding Idaho’s economy. Guided by common-sense conservative principles, we govern thoughtfully, striving to deliver tangible benefits to the citizens of Idaho.

Our mission is to support and empower small business owners, promote economic and individual prosperity, and ensure accountability within the executive branch.

Grounded in our core principles, we believe in comprehensive tax reform that simplifies the code, lowers rates, and creates an environment conducive to business growth and job creation. We advocate for regulatory reform that alleviates burdens on businesses and consumers, facilitating economic growth across the state.

We actively promote policies that encourage the development of nuclear energy sources, ensuring a sustainable and diverse energy sector in Idaho.

Our commitment to expanding trade opportunities and opening new markets for Idaho goods and services contributes to enhanced economic vitality statewide, while prioritizing the safety and security of our citizens.”


In an opinion piece in the Coeur d’Alene Press, a man named Patrick Whalen explains his appreciation for the creation of the Main Street Caucus, and how he sees it as a contrast to the positions taken by the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee.

“Treg Bernt and a group of others have started a group of legislators working on fostering economic growth, free markets and the Idaho economy. You might find that list of topics standard Republican ideals, but you won’t be surprised that they get short shrift from our friends in today’s Kootenai County Republican Central Committee. Instead, we get a steady diet of conspiracy theories and fear mongering.

The Main Street Idaho group is also working on tax reform and reducing the regulatory burden facing small business owners in Idaho. Other topics include promoting Idaho’s many advantages in the development of nuclear energy and expanding exports into new markets.”

The Main Street policy page lists the six principles of the organization:

  1. Economic Prosperity
  2. Free Markets
  3. Individual Liberty
  4. Limited Government
  5. Fiscal Responsibility
  6. Conservative Values

In a blog post authored by several of the Main Street Caucus legislators, the group explains the goal of using disagreement to produce positive results for Idaho:

“Utah’s Governor Spencer Cox, the current chair of the National Governors’ Association, introduced a new initiative earlier this month called “Disagree Better.” His proposal isn’t about avoiding the hard issues or conflict. Of course, being nicer to each other is needed, but the primary purpose of “Disagree Better” focuses on how we can make disagreement into something useful that helps us as elected leaders do a better job of solving our problems.

Rather than checking out or refusing to engage on policy when we disagree, we step up and embrace healthy conflict to find a solution to the issues our constituents need solved. We believe that healthy conflict and different perspectives can produce meaningful change for Idahoans.”

The legislators who signed this post are Senators Van Burtenshaw, Chuck Winder, Todd Lakey, Linda Wright-Hartgen, Abby Lee, Dave Lent, Treg Bernt, Geoff Schroeder, Julie Van Orden, Jim Guthrie, and Doug Ricks along with Representatives Stephanie Mickelsen, Chenele Dixon, Jerald Raymond, Britt Raybould, Julie Yamamoto, Dan Garner, Lori McCann, Greg Lanting, Josh Wheeler, Rick Cheatum, Rod Furniss, Jack Nelsen, Jon Weber, and Mark Sauter.

It is unclear whether this is the membership of the caucus in its entirety. The webpage for the group does not contain a list of all whom have joined.


Some in Idaho politics are not pleased with the creation of the Main Street Idaho Caucus. A group called Stop Idaho RINOs tweeted this in regard to the current debate over a March 2024 GOP Presidential Caucus versus a May 2024 GOP Presidential Primary:

In June, Senator Glenneda Zuiderveld (R-D24) tweeted a call-out to the Main Street Idaho Caucus to join with the Idaho Freedom Caucus to help bring the Idaho Legislature back in for a special session to address the same 2024 GOP Presidential nominee selection process debate.

As of now, a 2023 special Legislative session has not been successfully assembled.


Idaho Dispatch sent the following list of questions to Senator Bernt on September 8, 2023:

  1. Can you provide us with information on the caucus?
  2. Is it associated with national?
  3. Can Democrats be members?
  4. Are there silent members?
  5. How does it differ from Idaho Freedom Caucus?

At the time of publishing, no response to these questions has been received.

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Tags: Abby Lee, Britt Raybould, Chenele Dixon, Chuck Winder, Dan Garner, Dave Lent, Disagree Better, Doug Ricks, East Idaho Coalition, Geoff Schroeder, Greg Lanting, Idaho Legislature, Jack Nelsen, Jerald Raymond, Jim Guthrie, Jon Weber, Josh Wheeler, Julie Van Orden, Julie Yamamoto, Kootenai County Republican Central Committee, Linda Wright Hartgen, Lori McCann, Main Street Caucus, Mark Sauter, Rick Cheatum, Rod Furniss, Spencer Cox, Stephanie Mickelsen, Todd Lakey, Treg Bernt, Utah Governor, Van Burtenshaw

20 thoughts on “A New Legislative Caucus Has Emerged in the Idaho Capitol

  1. I have come to a point where, when I see Chuck Winder’s name attached to anything, I see red lights and immediately suspect anyone aligning themselves with him by signing their names to it. This looks like just one more in a growing list of groups coming up with a list of vague-sounding goals that are nothing more than smoke and mirrors to hide their actual intentions.

    I don’t see anything remotely resembling representation of their constituents, but endless word salads of empty promises to improve the flow of money to the coffers of government, in spite of assurances of goals to limit it.

    I think it’s a word-smithing wolf in not so subtle sheep’s clothing and Idahoans should cast a very skeptical eye on this collection of individuals and their so-called “goals.” Not buying it…

    1. For accuracy and truth maybe “Main Street Idaho” could correct it’s name to “The Good Ole Boy’s Backroom Deals Committee”?

      Dear Main Street: We The People will not let you corrupt Idaho into semblance’s of Oregon, Washington, California or Colorado.

      1. My exact thought when I saw their interest was business and economic growth but no solutions to the problems of infrastructure, education including the low scores of our schools and the deep divide between Boise government and most citizens of the state.
        They are definitely not main street but Wall Street wannabes.

    2. This group is a RINO CABAL! The voting records and statements by these so called “legislators “ show that they are really democrats/ socialists with the skin of conservatives on their backs for camouflage. It amazes me that all these demoncrat groups are supposedly separated but are funded by the same big gov/globalist orgs.

      This group is a disgusting show of the politics of Idaho. Another Jim Jones programming bunch of kleptocrats.

  2. Whenever you see “Common Sense Conservative” treat that as a code word for RINO. Anything involving Chuck Windbag should be immediately suspect. He is one of the worst RINOs in Boise.

    1. Indeed. “Common Sense” means whatever the person saying it wants it to say. What I want are _principled_ conservatives who stand for family values, limited government, low taxes, and personal freedom. Business growth will come naturally out of that.

  3. Josh Wheeler, the founder of this caucus, would not straight up deny that he voted for Biden. 🙁 I don’t understand why we have so many “farmers” that are trying their darnedest to be good big city folk. 🙁

  4. It’s the IACI caucus – a bunch of Moderate and liberal Republicans, pretending like they care about the little man when in reality, they do whatever they are told, by leadership, the governor, and IACI.

    And why is senate leadership in this? Very biased, very sad day for Idaho, when these losers are going to hand our state over to the left wing.

    We need more in the Idaho, Freedom Caucus, not this group of squishy middle of the road toads..

  5. Everything they talk about is for business rather than people – the opposite of Main Street. Corporate Republicanism should have died with Bush Jr’s disasters but the remnants continue to drag down everyone.

  6. Pretending to be what they are not, they borrow the Narrative from the Freedom Caucus. Their voting records clearly indicate it’s just disingenuous talk. They quest for the power they lost, because grass roots Republicans are on to their two faced game.
    “Main Street” is a new name for the same old liars in office…

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