Semanko talks football, defends Idaho GOP primary

Idaho Republican Party Chairman Norm Semanko is defending the GOP's historic closed primary.

And, in so doing, he steps close to an Idaho political third rail: the Boise State-Idaho football feud.

Here's an excerpt from a guest opinion distributed today:

"To help better explain why the Idaho Republican Party supported such a change (to a closed primary), it might help to imagine a rivalry football game between the Boise State Broncos and the Idaho Vandals (unfortunately, imagination is all we are left with in this rivalry these days) in which Coach Peterson selected the starting lineup for the Vandals, and Coach Akey selected the starting lineup for the Broncos. You would say that is crazy! But that is precisely what has happened in Idaho primary elections for almost 40 years."

Imaginary rivalry? That aside isn't going to sit too well with U of I faithful, still sore that the Broncos and Vandals are not scheduled to play each other in the future.

(Small world note: Semanko's second-in-command, executive director Jonathan Parker, is a U of I alum who played for the Vandals in the late 1990s, back when the U of I and BSU renewed their rivalry on an annual basis. Parker says Semanko is a fellow Vandal — and says he thinks his boss was simply lamenting the fact that the U of I-BSU series is on indefinite hiatus.)

But more significantly, the Semanko football analogy isn't quite accurate. It is still possible for registered Republicans to switch teams and vote in a Democratic primary — although voters' party registration and primary ballot selection will both be matters of public record. However, as Semanko correctly notes, only registered Republicans will be able to vote in the GOP primary.

Here, in full, is the Semanko guest opinion (edited to correct spelling of Chris Petersen's name):

A vast majority of Idahoans believe that our nation has been blessed with a unique set of individual rights and freedoms available to all. We believe in the principles of limited government, lower taxes and personal responsibility. We do not agree with the direction in which president Obama wants to take this nation.

Just over two months after holding the first-ever Idaho Republican Party Presidential Caucus and fielding a record number of Republican candidates for the 105 seats in the state Legislature, Idaho Republicans will be able to carry this energy, enthusiasm, and momentum into the May 15 primary election and make our voices heard. We will have the right to select candidates who represent our values without interference from other parties or special interest groups for the first time in nearly 40 years.

By declaring the open primary system unconstitutional, Idaho's federal district court upheld the Idaho Republican Party’s vital First Amendment right to free association. Beginning this year, Idaho Republicans will be choosing Republican candidates who will best carry the Republican Party banner in the general election in November. This is a fundamental constitutional right and a cornerstone of our political freedoms. This right has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court and embraced by numerous other states.

To help better explain why the Idaho Republican Party supported such a change, it might help to imagine a rivalry football game between the Boise State Broncos and the Idaho Vandals (unfortunately, imagination is all we are left with in this rivalry these days) in which Coach Petersen selected the starting lineup for the Vandals, and Coach Akey selected the starting lineup for the Broncos. You would say that is crazy! But that is precisely what has happened in Idaho primary elections for almost 40 years. Non-GOP voters regularly switched over and voted in the Republican primary since they know their parties have difficulties electing their own candidates. In fact, a survey conducted in 2010 by a professional pollster found that almost 40 percent of non-GOP voters in Idaho admitted to having voted in a Republican primary. This was just further evidence of the need for a change to Idaho’s open primary system.

We are an open and inclusive party and welcome any like-minded Idahoan to join the Republican Party and participate in our candidate selection process. Even at the polls, those who are unaffiliated with another party may still affiliate as Republicans before voting in the primary. We simply ask, and have a right to expect, that members of other political parties will not choose our candidates for us.

So join with us and make your voice heard in the Republican primary elections on May 15 by electing Republican candidates who are truly representative of the values that we as Idahoans cherish. Our nation cannot take four more years of Barack Obama and his disastrous policies; please stand with us to defeat Obama, Pelosi and Harry Reid to ensure that our great country returns to what our founding fathers envisioned – the shining light on the hill for the rest of the world to see. On to victory in 2012!

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Semanko's football analogy is pathetic and weak

I'm sorry but this shows the maturity of the current GOP leadership. This isn't a freaking football game. It's about choosing the best possible people to manage our government. It's about voters who have participated their entire adult lives who are now disenfranchised. It's about a bunch of extremists who couldn't get elected by mainstream voters so they decided to change the rules.

How can anyone take him seriously when he discusses the GOP primary and then brings Obama, Reid and Pelosi into the conversation? It's like he doesn't even know who is on the ballot. Does he not realize that electing some right-wing extremist to the Idaho legislature does not impact Obama, Reid or Pelosi? Does he think the voters are that stupid? This guy is unbelievable!

"We will have the right

to select candidates who represent our values-" Such as Hart, Denney, Pearce, Moyle, Roberts, McGee, Siddoway, Winder and your values also Semanko? I know you are not running for public office, (thank God, Allah, Budda and whomever else is on duty) but if you are including your values as well, no thanks!

ah, yes, the dreaded "crossover"

First of all, everyone who really thinks there's enough Democrats who vote in a Republican primary to affect the results, please poke out your right eye.

Second of all, if this is what he believes is happening, how does he explain the fact that, by and large over the past several years, the *more conservative* candidates have been winning over the moderate ones? (Bill Sali over Sheila Sorensen, a half dozen or so Senators in the last election). Is he saying that the Republicans would actually prefer the more moderate candidates?

Third, this new registration system does nothing to prevent crossover voting. People can still vote whatever way they want to in the fall, and I've been hearing *more* people say that they're going to register as Republicans to be able to vote in the primary. The Idaho Press Tribune ran an editorial specifically encouraging Democrats and Independents to register as Republicans so they can vote in the primary.

"....in which Coach Peterson

"....in which Coach Peterson selected the starting lineup for the Vandals, and Coach Akey selected the starting lineup for the Broncos."

Since Coach Pete's name is spelled correctly in Semanko's release, it's obviously Kevin Richert who can't spell the name of the most influential person in Idaho. Here's a hint, Kevin: There is no "o" in Petersen.

CherokeeGuy:

The Semanko release spelled the coach's name "Peterson." Like I said, I edited it to correct the spelling.

Kevin Richert
editorial page editor

Not worth listening to.

There is absolutely nothing that Semanko has to say that is worth anything. Not sure why he is even allowed to voice his opinion...anyone against his Republican views are not.