Politics: Republican primaries

by Judy Ferro

Gotta love Idaho politics. Primaries are behind us, and now Republican factions are arguing over who won.

Butch Otter can claim victory because he actually won the Republican nomination for governor.

But Russ Fulcher is also claiming victory for his anti-Obamacare, anti-Feds, anti-public schools faction.   Getting 46% of the vote against an incumbent in a state-wide race proves that they are gaining strength. Why, he even won in Ada and Canyon counties.

A look at other races, however, leave that claim in doubt. To start with, the Fulcher-faction didn’t win a legislative race against an incumbent in either Ada or Canyon. Statewide, six Republican legislators were defeated, three losing to challengers on the right and three to challengers from the center.

So Democrats look at Fulcher’s near-victory and suspect there is a growing anybody-but-Butch sentiment in the counties where Otter is most at home. This is a governor, after all, who has given us one expensive scandal after another—the broadband contract the Feds believe is illegal, the fraud and ill-run prisons with Corrections Corporation of America, the favorable tax rates reserved for cronies, and the wrongful termination lawsuit in the Transportation Department among others.

This could mean victory in November for Democrat A.J. Balukoff. A.J. has a stronger business history. He started out a pauper and made big bucks without marrying anyone’s daughter. Moreover, he’s served 14 years on the Boise School Board and opposed the Luna Laws. And it shouldn’t hurt that he graduated from BYU-Idaho.   He hasn’t won—or entered—any tight jeans contests and he won’t have that R by his name, but he would make the better Governor.

Unfortunately, the Fulcher-faction did win one statewide race—Lawerence Denney got 36% of the vote to win the four-way race for Republican nominee for Secretary of State. Remember Denney? As majority leader, he kicked out committee chairs who dared to oppose him on anything. He also used donations from fellow Republican legislators to fund their ultra-right opponents. And wasn’t he a major force behind the closed Republican primary?

So the question is did Denny win because his name was the most familiar or do voters really want to see his hard-core partisanship governing our state elections?

Are Idahoans so determined to vote for a Republican that they will risk getting Florida-style elections with purges of the registration rolls, restricted early voting and long waiting lines in precincts that don’t vote right?

The Democrat alternative is a relative unknown—Boise businesswoman and one-term Representative Holli Woodings. But she shares outgoing Secretary Ben Ysursa’s serious commitment to honest elections. Hopefully, that’s what Idahoans want.

The Democrats have other strong contenders for statewide races. Boise lawyer Nels Mitchell would work harder and smarter than Senator “Vote-no” Risch. Retired teacher and seven-term legislator Shirley Ringo has twice the smarts and twice the personality of Representative Labrador. Democrat Jana Jones worked in the Department of Education under Republicans Jerry Evans and Anne Fox as well as Democrat Marilyn Howard. Her opponent is relatively unknown even among Republicans. And Twin Falls CPA Deborah Silver would actually understand what is happening in the Treasurer’s office.

No, I’m not willing to admit that a primary closed to two-thirds of Canyon County voters has decided the statewide races. People are becoming aware that one-party rule has given us corruption and cronyism as well as a poor-paying jobs and a stagnant economy. Republicans are increasingly focused on the internal fight among factions rather than the well-being of Idaho.

There will always be voters who blindly vote the R by the name. Concerned citizens, however, will be voting for some Democrats this fall.

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