Idaho primaries: Could 'crossover' affect Democratic races too?

Boise-area Democrats have a problem, an unusual one for them.

They have a relative glut of legislative candidates — and a half dozen contested primaries on May 15.

At least one Democratic candidate — former state Rep. Branden Durst — is leery about what to expect. Running again in for state Senate in South Boise’s legislative District 18, Durst figures 300 votes might be enough to take a low-turnout primary. In one of those political man-bites-dog scenarios, Durst told the Statesman editorial board that he fears Republicans might cross over and vote as Democrats — and try to elect his opponent, Matthew Duncan, figuring a lesser-known Democrat would pose less of a challenge to incumbent GOP Sen. Mitch Toryanski.

Durst’s theory: The Republicans have no contested primaries in District 18, and little incentive to stay home in a GOP primary. (The Republicans do have contested primaries for countywide offices, and like the Democrats, they have low-key races in both congressional districts).

His theory is interesting, but I’m skeptical. For better or worse — and I think it’s worse — when a voter casts a ballot as a Republican or a Democrat, that decision becomes public record. I’m having a hard time thinking that Republicans, especially those who believe in the purity of a members-only closed primary, would spend that first primary voting as double agents in the Democratic primary, and perhaps have to fess up to the skullduggery later.

Duncan, a first-time candidate, says he is trying to run under the radar against a better-known primary opponent, trying to overcome a disadvantage in name identification with a late surge before the primary.

There’s been a lot of speculation about how the closed primary will affect the Republican vote, and the party’s nominees. But this process is an unknown quantity on the Democratic side as well — one requiring voters to show up for a low-turnout election, and identify themselves as Democratic voters. There are contested primaries in five Boise legislative districts, and those results will be interesting to watch as well.

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