Writings and observations

This was a low-interest primary (granting some interest in a handful of races) and so the turnout was relatively low. In a year when around the country turnout has busted long-held records, it stayed low-key in Idaho. But then, looking at the ballot, why would it be otherwise?

Republican Dennis Mansfield has a couple of observations tonight on his blog worth some reflection:

“Crossovers happened- there is no question about it. The GOP has a right to close its primary and SHOULD. Watch the GOP convention this summer. It’ll be key to uniting conservatives – not just for Nov. ’08, but for May ’10. This is a forward thinking fight.

“The thin crowd at the GOP victory party was interesting to watch. Saw a bunch of lobbyists and political hangers-on. It was like watching a 1970’s disco band reunion – you knew the faces, you kind of knew the music – but weren’t sure you liked either.”

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The legislative results are incomplete at this writing – we’ll do updates – but the most immediate, first, thing to focus on in situations like this are any legislators who may be losing their primaries. So, are there any?

Well, yeah, in the early-early results anyway – quite a few of them in fact. With the caveat that this is early yet: Take none of it to the bank yet.

In Senate 14, incumbent Stan Bastian is trailing (34%-45%) behind Chuck Winder, the former candidate for governor and mayor of Boise and long deeply involved in transportation issues, and in planning and building for years ahead. If he does go on to win this, he could be the lead figure on that subject in the next legislative session.

In Senate 20, incumbent Shirley McKague, one of the hard-core anti-tax absolutists, is (this is early again) losing to challenger Mark Snodgrass – a significant outcome if it holds, because Snodgrass would fall into the category of a conservative Republican willing to work within a framework of urban planning. We’ll watch this closely.

In House 10A, recently-appointed Curtis Bowers – he of the culture wars invoking the spectre of communism – is losing to the more mainstream Pat Takasugi, the former state Department of Agriculture director.

In House 11A, freshman Steven Thayn, who may be the most out-there legislator in Idaho (his alliances indicate a very strong antipathy, for example, to any public schools), is locked in a close battle with two challengers. At the moment (28% of the vote in) the results is two close to call, but Thayn’s two challengers are each at 35% of the vote, and he’s at 30%.

These Ada-Canyon contests all suggest mainstream contenders doing better than their more extreme-spoken opponents.

Less clear is the House 9B race between newly-appointed Diana Thomas and long-time activist (Weiser River Cattlemen, Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, National Rifle Association) Judy Boyle. Boyle is way ahead at present, and her stances over the years suggest appeal at least from the more conservative activist (especially on environmental matter) slice of the party.

Notable, maybe: Three legislative appointees by Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter – McKague, Bowers, Thomas – all trailing in these early returns.

We’ll be updating.

UPDATE The McKague-Snodgrass vote has tightened considerably – will be a while before we know how it emerges. But we also missed another legislative incumbent in trouble – Senator Russell Fulcher in District 21 (western Ada), now losing to retired lawyer Steven Ricks; the two seem not far apart in their views or approach.

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The early returns from around Idaho – about a sixth of precincts in so far – show more or less what you’d expect in the major office races around Idaho. More or less.

The presidentials were a little closer than the candidates’ status might have suggested, though not drastically. In February, Barack Obama absolutely mopped up – Idaho is one of his very best states so far. That was in the caucuses (which attracted an unusually large number of participants, it should be noted). So far in this primary – at a time when he’s closing in the nomination, a very different picture from February – he’s winning over Hillary Clinton but by a far smaller percentage (54% to 42% at this writing). Something similar happened in the Washington state caucuses/primary. Still not a bad win. In lily-white Idaho.

Both U.S. Senate primaries turned out to be done deals the way they were widely expected to be, Republican Jim Risch and Democrat Larry LaRocco both winning with something around or approaching two-thirds of the vote in their respective contests.

Last weekend we noted a poll suggesting that in the 1st District House Republican race, Matthew Salisbury might be competitive with incumbent Bill Sali. Seems not to have materialized, with Sali running ahead 65%-35%, a decisively enough win. And yet one that should give some cause for concern for the general. Over in the second district Republican incumbent Mike Simpson, who had two primary opponents, was winning with 85% of the vote. Quite a difference.

And in the Supreme Court race, incumbent Joel Horton is leading challenger John Bradbury, a district judge from Lewiston, 52%-48%. But keep a watch on that one: Bradbury’s numbers could get better as the northern (meaning Pacific time zone) votes come in. So we’ll see.

Not much excitement on the major office level. Back in a moment with the legislature . . .

UPDATE The numbers have widened a bit in the Democratic presidential – Obama now has a 57%-39% lead, 18 points – while the Republican has held steady, with Ron Paul holding at 22% against nominee presumptive John McCain.

But they’ve tightened up considerably in the 1st District Republican, 60%-40%. (Simpson: Still 85%) Does Sali have some lingering internal problems?

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The national gay and lesbian Republican organization, Log Cabin Republicans, has a limited list this year of Republicans they’re endorsing (at least to this point) for congressional office – just six nationwide. There’s just one from the Northwest: Oregon Senator Gordon Smith.

Their comment on Smith: “Senator Gordon Smith is one of Log Cabin’s strongest allies in the U.S. Senate. He has fought for basic fairness for gay and lesbian Americans—leading the fight in the Senate for hate crimes and HIV/AIDS legislation. Smith co-sponsored the Early Treatment for HIV Act and the Matthew Shepard (hate crimes) Act. He has also led the way in fighting for basic fairness in tax legislation, recently introducing the Tax Equity for Domestic Partner and Health Plan Beneficiaries Act and the Domestic Partnership Benefits & Obligations Act.”

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We’ll be back tonight with review of the Idaho primary election results; the polls close at 8 p.m. (same clock time both in Mountain and Pacific), and results usually begin to kick in an hour or so later. For the moment, a couple of advance thoughts.

First, this is – to be honest – probably a relatively inconsequential primary election. Not in all races or for everyone, but the real issues are likely limited. If you look at the six major party ballot lines for congressional office – Republican and Democratic for Senate and the two House seats – there’s not much doubt about what’s going to happen. Although, if something unexpected does – let’s say that, as the last poll indicated, Matt Salisbury actually does pull a shocker and upends incumbent Bill Sali in the 1st district Republican – we’ll have to backtrack pretty hard from that. So we’ll see.

And the presidential is less than massively significant, what with the Democratic decision already made in February and the Republican nomination already settled. Though we will note the votes received by Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Ron Paul – they may be worth watching, just to check on the divergences.

You have to look a level down, to the legislative races, to find contests and matters of import that look to be realistically at stake. And those are scattered around the state.

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