How can you tell if a candidate is really a conservative?

I recently heard from a long-time Republican friend who was “troubled by how people just look for the word ‘conservative’ when they decide to vote. They are not looking outside the box to find out who candidates are, who they associate with, and deeper information on how long they have lived in Idaho.  There are so many small groups, like ConservativesOf:PAC, that are financing events for their ‘conservative’ candidates.”

My friend is absolutely correct. The “conservative” label is used by almost everyone running in the Republican Party’s closed primary election.  What does it mean and how do you tell if a candidate is really a conservative? There are probably a variety of tests that one could use, but I think the most accurate test would be which candidate most-closely follows the U.S. and Idaho Constitutions. After all, as John Adams once said, “we are a nation of laws, not of men.” Our Constitutions are the bedrock upon which all of our laws are based.

Candidates who support legislation that would deprive some Idahoans of the “equal protection” of the laws guaranteed by both Constitutions are not conservative. It is neither conservative nor humane to deny pregnant women emergency medical care when they experience life-threatening complications. Nor is it conservative to interfere with medically-approved care for transgender children. Criminalizing doctors for rendering the accepted standard of care is dangerous nonsense, not conservatism.

Constitutional conservatives would strongly oppose engrafting religious doctrine into state laws. Banning books from public libraries because some of the content does not conform with the spiritual beliefs of a few is contrary to our traditional separation of church and state. Requiring taxpayers to foot the bill for religious educational expenses is a clear violation of the Idaho Constitution and would offend real conservatives.

Candidates who support the limitation of voting rights of any of our citizens would infringe on one of the most sacred rights of this sovereign state. Those who continually try to make it harder to qualify an initiative or referendum for the ballot are by no means conservative. A true conservative supports expansion, not restriction, of citizen participation in our government. After all, ours is a government of, for and by the people.

Where do we go to find out which candidates take conservative positions? There are any number of groups who promote their recommended candidates as the most conservative. My friend referred to the ConservativeOf: groups that have recently sprung up in cities around the state. Checking out their media sites, you see that they feature extremists like State GOP Chair Dorothy Moon, which has got to be an eye-opener. Some are supported by California political refugees who have swarmed to Idaho to “wake up” us Idaho political dumb bunnies. They have a heavy religious representation, which warns of a mingling of religion into governmental policies.

Other unsavory groups–the Idaho Freedom Foundation, Stop Idaho RINOs, and the Christian nationalist Idaho Family Policy Center–will be more than happy to guide voters to their favored candidates. And, of course, the official Republican Party state website and most county committee websites, which are currently controlled by the extremist branch of the GOP, will be glad to recommend the most extreme candidates. 

My rule of thumb is to check out those websites to see who they are supporting and then vote against all of their recommended candidates. It is likely that the candidates who oppose their recommended candidates are the true conservatives–the ones who will stand up for the Idaho and U.S. Constitutions.

Unfortunately, the Idaho House defeated the Secretary of State’s legislation to prepare a comprehensive nonpartisan voter guide for this year’s elections. The League of Women Voters will have a voter guide on their website and a Take Back Idaho affiliate will be releasing a comprehensive unbiased voter guide comparing the candidates in contested elections. Voters should keep their eyes open for these guides because they will provide the best roadmap to finding which candidates strongly support the constitutional government–the true conservatives. 

Jim Jones is a Vietnam combat veteran who served eight years as Idaho Attorney General (1983-1991) and 12 years as a Justice on the Idaho Supreme Court (2005-2017). His columns are collected at



Limitation of voting rights:

Secretary of State’s legislation: