The closed primary: Will a bottom-line argument appeal to the Idaho GOP?

Here's a sneak preview of Tuesday's editorial on Idaho's closed GOP primary. UPDATED, 5:36 p.m., to better reflect the GOP resolution, and the Republican central committee's role in deciding the fate of the primary.

As the old political joke goes, there’s nothing more permanent than a temporary tax. Same goes, perhaps, for Idaho Republicans’ “experiment” in a closed primary.

During their convention last week, Republicans didn’t seriously discuss getting rid of the closed primary. Gov. Butch Otter, Secretary of State Ben Ysursa and other party leaders oppose this new party policy, which allows only registered Republicans to vote in a primary.

Republicans instead approved a non-binding resolution asking the GOP central committee to study the primary — and try to figure out whether it affects voter turnout and the GOP’s success in November elections.

Sometimes, ideas get studied to death. Then again, maybe Republicans will study this issue until internal angst quietly fades away.

Republican disagreements about the closed primary have been on full public display. Opponents say the closed primary is alienating voters, and they point to the record low 24 percent turnout in last month’s primary. Supporters say it is inaccurate — and misleading — to blame the poor turnout on the closed primary, and maintain that parties can and should choose their nominees without interference from outsiders.

These two camps arrived for the state convention at loggerheads, but in no hurry for a floor fight. After all, nothing’s going to change before the 2014 primary election, at the earliest. So, Idaho’s prevailing political party made the political decision to keep the peace — for now.

It’s tempting to say that the “study” solution is just a way to sweep this matter aside, thus allowing the GOP to focus on its day job of winning general elections with remarkable regularity. And maybe it is.

Or maybe, Republicans will take a closer look at their decision, in the name of self-interest. During the convention, Coeur d’Alene delegate Sandy Patano cited a secretary of state’s report that showed Republicans trailed Democrats in fundraising in 2011.

“I think this year, our poor showing as a state party in fundraising maybe is indicative of our efforts to disenfranchise people from our party,” she said.

Patano is no RINO, or Republican In Name Only; the longtime field representative to former Sen. Larry Craig has solid party credentials. She’s also a pragmatist. She is a member of a group of North Idaho Republicans who backed Ed Morse, a challenger who successfully defeated tax-protesting and ethics-challenged state Rep. Phil Hart in the May primary.

Maybe Patano has hit on a successful argument. Closed primary backers won’t change their mind because they’re lectured about voter turnout and doing the right thing. The only convincing argument may center on the numbers.

Dollars donated.

Races won.

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Idaho definition of a RINO

If you looked at what Ronald said and did in the White House he would be called a RINO in Idaho.

He did not die on his sword if he didn't like a piece of legislation. He worked with both parties for a "compromise".

The Idaho Republican party

The Idaho Republican party will survive this closed/open primary mess if they are willing to kick out the Phil Hart, Lucas Baumbach, John McGee style politicians - those with extreme, ideological views and serious ethical deficiencies. A true test will come this November when extreme conservative Republican Mark Patterson faces off against moderate Steve Berch in Boise's District 15 state House race. Mark Patterson's ties to Phil Hart and Lucas Baumbach should automatically disqualify him from consideration by any reasonable voter. If the Idaho Republican party openly supports Mark Patterson, it will show that they have learned nothing from the Phil Hart scandal and Hart's ouster by Republican primary voters.

I'm not convinced that, in Idaho, races won is......

Directly related to dollars spent. As a Conservative, I wouldn't vote for a Dem for dogcatcher. I'm a cheap date for the Republican Party - my vote costs them nothing.


Tetpilot, you avoided my question in a different comment post. I'll ask you again. Do you support ethically challenged Republicans such as Phil Hart, John McGee, Lucas Baumbach, and pal Mark Patterson for Idaho state Legislative office?

Sorry, didn't mean to avoid your Q - just didn't see it......

to answer your question - I would hold my nose and vote for any of the above over any Dem. Why? Liberalism is a disease (carried by Dems) that must be killed off one vote at a time.

What scares you so much?

The Idaho Democrats just held their state convention and passed a party platform. What in the platform (specifically) scares you so much? Have you read what the Democrats stand? What is is that would you vote against your own best interests?


Tet, there is a phrase of "the lesser of two evils".

One Liberal in Idaho does nothing and does not affect the outcome.
A loser like Phil Hart in the Legislature hurts the Republican party.

The party faithful does more harm in the long-run by 'holding their nose' and tolerating unethical representatives. There are lots of votes in the middle that need to be earned.

It's difficult to tell who is carrying a disease right now.

Here's a bottom-line

Here's a bottom-line argument that should not be overlooked. Compare the primary turnout in 2008 with the turnout for the GOP's presidential caucus.

I am strongly of the opinion that the Presidential caucus disenfranchised more voters than a closed primary ever could. In fact, closed primaries don't disenfranchise anyone, but think of the thousands of citizens who either could not participate in the caucus (e.g. people who work evenings, seniors citizens who don't like to drive at night, families with young children) or who for other rational reasons found the caucus an inconvenience or simply unappealing. At the very least the GOP should have allowed the presidential candidates to remain on the primary ballot for the sake of those voters who only vote in presidential years and those who could not attend the caucus. The caucus system is designed to limit participation even among Republican voters. Most Idaho voters are aware that our presidential primary has never counted for much in the national scheme of things, but they still appreciate the opportunity to express their preference in the voting booth - without the balloons and boring speeches.

Wacko of your choice

Closed primaries and caucuses accomplish the same thing. Both will rally the radical element of the party. Candidates representing both forms will reflect those elements. Open primaries bring out more moderate candidates.