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At the precinct level

The current battle over open vs. closed primaries in Idaho is a party structure battle – a conflict between people active in the state’s Republican Party. That in-party set-to is having effect: It could change the way primary voters in the state, vote. Put another way, control of a party’s structure can have real effect, in the type and personality of candidates, the way they express themselves, the structure of elections. And eventually, even on the laws we live by.

This is by way of saying that one of the key set of races on the ballot in Idaho on Tuesday will be those hardly noticed outside the party structure, the contests for precinct committee chair. (College of Idaho professor Jasper LiCalzi is one of the few in Idaho recently to reference it.)

Most often, parties struggle most just to get someone to serve in all those spots, and often fail to get them all filled. For those reasons among others, Idaho Democrats aren’t facing many conflicts on the precinct level. But in some parts of Idaho, the Republicans have significant contests going on. Who fills those precinct spots, voted on precinct by precinct, will affect county parties, which in turn will affect the state party and state convention. And among Republicans, at least a couple of things are happening. There’s a struggle over the primary status, between the more establishment group and those for whom closed primary advocate Rod Beck has been a spokesman. At the same time, there’s an insurgency out there (probably small, but maybe larger than we think) for presidential contender Ron Paul.

In Ada County, we count 40 Republican precinct contests, meaning in more than a quarter of all the county’s precincts. Beck himself is in one of those precinct contests (precinct 28). Some of these Ada contests have drawn three or four candidates in a since precinct. There are, we should note, far fewer in Canyon County, only about five contests there.

At a time when the Republican Party nationally is at something of a crossroads, the Idaho Republican Party could be on the edge of remarking itself too. One way or another.

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