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Posts published in “Day: May 20, 2022”

The undercard

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Those on one side of the great 2022 Republican primary split - those mainly championing statewide incumbent and major office holders like Governor Brad Little and Representative Mike Simpson - understandably felt celebratory as the results rolled in.

After all, Little was re-elected decisively, as was Simpson, both in the wake of very high-profile and bitter campaigns. The open secretary of state’s office went to a mainstream Republican, as did the superintendency of public instruction (to a mainstream-backed challenger, in that case).

But in looking at what’s next, don’t stop with the top lines of the election result. The overall picture is a lot murkier than those headlines would have you think.

Start with the vote counts which, considering that these are experienced, well-funded, well-organized and well-known office holders in the majority party, with mostly positive headlines and even some good luck coming their way in recent months, were not all that great.

As I write this (the numbers still could jiggle slightly) Little won renomination with 52.8 percent of the vote, a mediocre showing for an incumbent, achieved with some assist (we could discuss how much) from non-Republicans. Simpson’s win of 54.6 percent, for a member of Congress nearly a quarter-century in office, carried no shock or awe either.

The secretary of state’s contest, which featured well-established Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane running (chiefly) against an obscure-until-highly-controversial legislator named Dorothy Moon, was close, with barely a percentage point and a half separating them. Of note: If a third candidate, Mary Souza, whose positioning was essentially similar to Moon’s, had not been on the ballot, McGrane would have lost.

In the superintendent’s race the establishment preference, Debbie Critchfield, won - with just 39.6 percent. Notable also in that race was the total for Democrat-turned-insurgent-Trumper, Branden Durst, who placed a very respectable second.

But let’s not forget the insurgency’s big win of the night, for attorney general. Five-term AG Lawrence Wasden, winner of past primary contests, lost to former U.S. House member Raul Labrador. True, Labrador’s number was 51.6 percent (not shabby for a challenger), but consider that there was also a third anti-incumbent candidate in the race, Art Macomber. A two-way Labrador-Wasden faceoff might have resulted in a 60-40 Labrador win.

I know, this isn’t horseshoes. But if you’re looking down the road, consider also the message from the legislative front.

One of the top insurgent targets this year, Jim Woodward, lost his Panhandle seat, decisively. So did Grangeville Senator Carl Crabtree and Twin Falls senator Jim Patrick, and Boise Senator Fred Martin, none recently controversial in any real way. Other targets were nearly taken out, including Senate president pro tem Chuck Winder; even House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, seemingly as cemented in the legislature as any member, wound up with a respectably close challenge. One of the most angry senators of recent years, Dan Foreman of a Moscow-based district (he famously called his own county a “cesspool”) won renomination to a seat he was thrown out of several years ago. The Idaho Senate is about to become a more hard-line place. (The House may be something of a wash.)

House members like Ryan Kerby and Greg Cheney (note the remarkably vicious billboards in the Caldwell area targeting him) were knocked out as well.

The insurgency feeds on anger and division. They had as much cause on Tuesday to celebrate as anyone: They may have lost a bunch of races - though not all - but there’s plenty of material to keep the anger and division going at full throttle. It’s a lot easier to keep doing that when you’re on the outside than when you actually have to govern.

They’ll be back.