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Posts published in November 2021

“Lights, camera…….”


Well, we finally got some justice. The Ahmaud Arbery verdict was right on! Whatever sentencing is handed down will be justice served.

Lots of support in the country for that jury’s decisions. Many in this nation watched everything unfold in that little courtroom. They and the jury were forced to hear the outrageous racism spewed by the defense. Just plain racism on display for all to see and hear.

But, back to the verdict. In fact, back to the charging of all three of the guilty. Had it not been for someone leaking a video of the murder in the alley, there would have been no trial. Nothing. Nada.

The prosecutor, at the time, had decided no charges were warranted in the killing. This was just three fine citizens catching and killing a suspected neighborhood burglar. Case closed.

That determiner of “justice” was a lady named Jacqueline Lee Johnson. She has since been removed from office and is now facing criminal charges of her own. In every sense of the word “justice,” she deserves whatever fate is determined in another courtroom.

The fine and huge point in this drama is that, if someone had not made public that short, but painful video, there would have been no arrests - no charges - no action! Ms. Johnson would still be the attorney for that district. The three men would not have had their lives disrupted. There would have been no trial. And Ahmaud Arbery would have been just another Black man murdered in an alley by three “good citizens.”

The difference between this and so many other Black killings in this country was simply the digital capture of a murder in progress. A video. Incontrovertible evidence of the crime. The same in the police murder of George Floyd. A camera at the scene capturing a crime in progress.

If I were a Black man, I’d have every reason to ask society “If a cop kills me by kneeling on my neck or if vigilantes gun me down in my neighborhood, will there have to be a video of it to get me justice?”

How many Black men have been killed in this country without charges being brought - without someone arrested and convicted - because there was no video of their deaths? Have we become so inured to the deaths of fellow humans that we must have pictures - video of their demise - to make a criminal case?

Left to the “thinking” of one former federal attorney, the answer is “yes.”

We citizens - and especially Black men - expect more of our justice system. We expect the full and complete “services” available to assure a thorough examination of the facts and - if warranted - action in accordance with the law. That’s our expectation. That’s our right!

Some years ago, someone had the bright idea of putting cameras on cops for just the reason for the Arbery case. Video. Digital pictures of what the cops were doing, what they were seeing.

Great! Except now, we’re hearing “left it in the squad car,” “battery was out because I forgot to charge it,”“I forgot to wear it” or some other lame excuse. You almost have to have a videographer “ride-along” to make a case.

There’s absolutely no reason why the Arbery case got to a courtroom other than the pictures. The video someone “leaked.” What if there were no “leak?” What if the video never surfaced? Would there have been any justice at all for an innocent man’s death? The answer - if Ms. Johnson’s decision was not challenged - would be “No.”

Criminal cases initiated by pictures. Justice by digital photography.

Helluva world.

(Note: This article previously said the prosecutor involved was federal; it has been corrected to note that she was a state district attorney.)

Cradle to grave Supreme Court


There are a number of problems with the present-day structure of the U.S. Supreme Court, but the number of seats is not one of them. We have done very well with just nine seats since 1869 and really don’t need any more than that for the Court to function properly. Of much greater concern is the lack of turnover. There has been an increasing tendency of Presidents to appoint people in the infancy of their legal careers in hopes they will serve until they draw their final breath--sort of a cradle-to-grave system.

Adding four seats to the Court might correct the current ideological imbalance, but is it really a good idea to add seats every time one party decides the Court might need rebalancing? It gives the appearance of playing politics with what we like to regard as a relatively apolitical institution.

And how about trying to get thirteen lawyers-turned-judges to arrive at a coherent majority opinion? Even with a nine-member Court, the Justices often write such a number of separate opinions in important multi-issue cases that it is difficult to know what the Court is really saying. The more members, the harder it will be to reach results that the public can rely upon. Is it any wonder that our U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal generally hear and decide cases in three-judge panels.

Limiting terms of service might be a reasonable fix, but that would probably require an amendment to the Constitution, which is highly unlikely. However, in 2009 a group of distinguished legal scholars suggested a statutory plan whereby each President would make one Supreme Court pick after every federal election. The longest-serving Justice would remain on the Court, but on senior status. Senior Justices would not actively sit on cases, except where a sitting Justice could not participate. Under this plan, Justice Thomas would be the first to take senior status, followed by Justice Breyer and then Justice Alito.

This reform would bring new blood to the Court on a regular basis. By removing the incentive to appoint youngsters who would serve until they die, the plan would very likely result in the appointment of older, tested, more-experienced lawyers or jurists. Some of the most qualified members of the bench and bar are currently excluded from consideration simply because the politicians want their candidates to serve the very longest time humanly possible. The last three Court appointments were ages 49, 53 and 48.

I have no pretensions of being a distinguished legal scholar, but I joined the Idaho Supreme Court at age 63 and voluntarily retired after serving 12 years. After law school, I served as an artillery officer in Vietnam, three years as legislative assistant for a U.S. Senator, 8 years as Idaho Attorney General and 25 years in private practice. I’m aware of any number of lawyers and judges across the country with valuable experience and distinguished legal careers who would be ideal candidates for the Supreme Court, if eligibility were open to those over 55 years of age.

This plan would solve another problem for the Court--recusals. Even on state supreme courts, like Idaho’s, where senior justices are available in the event of a recusal, there is some reluctance to recuse oneself from an important case. There is no provision for substitutes in U.S. Supreme Court cases, making it even more difficult for Justices to recuse when they really should do so, partly for fear of a tie vote. However, with a stable of senior Justices to fill in upon a recusal, there should be no tie-vote concern.

Senior Justices could also be deployed to reduce backlogs in crowded U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal around the country by participating in Circuit Court cases.

It is time to dispense with a system that fosters a cradle-to-grave Supreme Court. So many well-seasoned individuals who would be a credit to the Court are ruled out simply because they would not be able to serve for 3 or 4 decades. Plus, periodic turnover is a good thing. The longer a Justice sits in the ivory tower of the Court, the greater the likelihood of losing touch with the real world.

**This opinion piece was first published in The Hill and was submitted to President Biden’s Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court for consideration. The Commission is expected to release its report during November.

Jim Jones is a Vietnam combat veteran who served eight years as Idaho Attorney General and twelve years as a Justice on the Idaho Supreme Court (2005-2017). He is a regular contributor to The Hill online news outlet.

The Giddings case


It took less than a minute a week ago Monday for the Idaho House to vote to leave in place the censorship of Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird, for conduct “unbecoming of a legislator” for outing a 19-year-old sexual assault victim.

For a deliberative body that often takes things slowly, the two hours of debate preceding the vote was taken up mostly by Giddings’ supporters. They mostly cited her military record but ignored her own actions that brought her to this point.

These appeals didn’t stir many votes if any from the coalition of centrist Republicans and Democrats who saw through Giddings’ fake arguments that she had done nothing wrong in posting the young woman’s picture and personal life details on her legislative newsletter.

Other supporters had previously tried to make the case that the young intern was voluntarily involved with a 38-year-old now former legislator, who just happened to be one of the hard rightists and House monkey wrench gang. That’s because the facts of the case are clear, and Giddings made no effort at contrition.

The 49 to 19 vote margin was wider than many expected, given the intense right wing pressure legislators got from the peanut gallery of conspiracy theories and distorted politics. That margin in itself should tell Idaho citizens that the Legislature is running out of steam when it comes to strident appeals of ideology. (Lewiston Tribune, 11/18)

Giddings took the vote as a challenge, defiantly saying that being removed from a committee would just give her more time in her busy schedule as she runs for Idaho’s Lt. Gov. position. But you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes here to see the House vote as perhaps a highwater mark of radical politics in the Idaho Republican Party.

Yes, some of those voting to uphold the censure will draw primary challenges, as they were threatened in postings. It’s the nature of these harpies and their followers to intimidate others when they don’t get their way. Loud, vicious, and mean-spirited. But the censure supporters probably would have been tarred anyway, given the rifts between party ideologues and party centrists. A vote against Giddings was a line in the sand, but a needed one.

Giddings’ explanation for her postings struck many as pure revenge against the young intern. Why was Giddings protecting another rightist legislator who has now been charged with rape? She and others on the far right leave that question untouched.

As the three-day session wound down on November 17, the hard rightists tried once again to get the last word. Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, asked for “unanimous consent” for three minutes to make a speech presumably on the failures of the session. But he was objected to, and that was that; legislators snatched up their laptops and headed home. With former Rep. Luke Malek dropping out of the Lt. Gov. contest, that leaves Giddings with little chance against House Speaker Scott Bedke.

The race now is likely to send Giddings to Idaho’s political history as an angry and losing charlatan. Even Giddings’ running mate, Janice McGeachin, saw the session as “incredibly disappointing” and blamed it all on “conservative Idaho voters (who) were betrayed by cowardly RINOs who chose to sell their souls….” (11/22).

Maybe. But our guess is that people have heard enough of McGeachin, Giddings, Nate and the other malcontents in the Legislature who spent most of last year promoting bizarre theories of government and complaining about state and federal overreach.

If anything, the wide vote margin on the Giddings ethics issue shows that many legislators looked at the facts rather than the emotion of the case. Some 24 legislators had previously signed a complaint against Giddings, and the fence-sitters doubled that number.

Some losses are worse than some victories. These fence-sitters knew they would likely get primary challenges in secret efforts against them by the Idaho Slavery Foundation, but a no vote here would have been worse signal to state voters overall.

Supporting Giddings really came down to whether legislators would give themselves a free pass for further harming a sexual assault victim. As one legislator put it, what Giddings did was just plain wrong.

This sordid conclusion will leave the hard rightists looking for new ways to raise havoc. All their ranting resulted in just one nonbinding resolution opposing vaccine mandates from the federal government, a position Idaho is already taking in joining a court suit.

When push came to shove, almost 50 House members stood by their own committee’s decision on Giddings and in the case of the other actions, left poorly-drafted fruitcake bills Dead on Arrival. With redistricting shaking up many of the state’s legislative seats, the malcontents will certainly try to pick off more centrist senators and install more kookies in both bodies. But make no mistake, this was a clear, three days of defeat for the Idaho Slavery Foundation and their puppies.

Stephen Hartgen, Twin Falls, is a retired five-term Republican member of the Idaho House of Representatives, where he served as chairman of the Commerce & Human Resources Committee.  Previously, he was editor and publisher of The Times-News (1982-2005). He can be reached at

Thanksgiving of our discontent


The public opinion polls tell us that about two-thirds of our fellow citizens think we are seriously off on the wrong track. That number has been remarkably consistent for the last year.

And why not? We’re in year two of a deadly pandemic. Our political system is broken. Seventeen-year-old boys, most of whom would not be considered safe at the wheel of an automobile, can show up in a neighboring state with an assault rifle and create tragedy. The Internet, once considered as great a creation as Gutenberg’s printing press, is a smelly cesspool of conspiracy, hate and craziness, and quite a few dog photos. A murderous thug is threatening war in the heart of Europe, while a Chinese strongman does the same in the South China Sea.

What is the world is there to be thankful for in this season of thanks?

Well, Adele has a new album.

No, seriously. Why even bother with all this thankfulness? The world is a mess. The country is going to hell. Kevin McCarthy is measuring the drapes in the Speaker’s office. Joe Biden’s feet and back hurt. And due to the world’s supply chain chaos, my plastic Christmas tree is stuck in some shipping container in a loading dock in Long Beach.

Actually, that last thing is not true. I am thankful that I have never had, nor will I ever have an artificial Christmas tree. So, begin from there.

I do think the country is in a bad place and there is much reason to be very concerned about everything from politically motivated violence to gerrymandering to a washed-up television game show host making another run for the White House, but this week I’m not going to despair. At least not too much.

This is the week, after all, for the most American of holidays, a day of thanksgiving created by the most American of presidents in the midst of the uniquely American civil war. I’m thankful there was an Abraham Lincoln. I’m thankful he was aware enough to proclaim Thanksgiving at a moment of supreme trial for a country divided and in danger of collapse. That bloody war ended. The nation got a new birth of freedom, well sort of. We have work to do, my friends.

Lincoln began that first Thanksgiving proclamation with thanks for “fruitful fields and healthy skies.” He reminded Americans that to “these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and even soften the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.”


So be thankful for your turkey, if you had one, or even your vegan main dish and remember you might do a good turn for someone less fortunate who has much less and much less reason to give thanks.

Give thanks for family if you have one. Remember to be grateful for friends if you have some. Do you have a good book or a football game on the tube for entertainment and distraction? Be happy. Be thankful.

Do you have a fly rod or golf clubs? How about a working automobile or a dry and warm place to put your head down tonight? Is there a six-pack in the frig? Did your mom call? How about the memory of that high school basketball game or the girl or boy friend you made the summer when you were 14-years old? Be thankful.

I’m thankful for journalists and the First Amendment, even if it does tend to elevate nitwits like Tucker Carlson. I’m grateful for real historians and librarians and people who listen. I’m thankful that the country has had some remarkable political leaders. Mike Mansfield. Mark Hatfield. Howard Baker. Maurine Neuberger. John McCain. Cecil Andrus. John Lewis. Birch Bayh. Margaret Chase Smith. Phil Hart. Frank Church. Dr. King. John Sherman Cooper. Nancy Kassebaum. Everett Dirksen. Google them. Be grateful for great people.

I’m thankful for baseball. I’m thankful for NPR and the BBC and a warm fire on a cold November night. And poetry – Yeats and Sandberg, Auden and Sylvia Plath. I am grateful for community newspapers and people who volunteer at food banks, donate to libraries, adopt dogs and pick up junk on the beach. Be thankful for life saving medicine and health care workers.

I give thanks for my parents who didn’t have much, including no higher education, but who made sure my brother and I had everything we needed, including a diploma. I’m grateful for a favorite uncle who wrote me letters and treated me like royalty and for an aunt who could stroke a golf ball straight and long and made the world’s best raspberry jam.

Thankfulness extends to all the people – they know who they are – who gave me chances, handed me more responsibility than I was old enough or smart enough to exercise and then congratulated me when I didn’t totally screw up, and forgave and forgot when I did.

I’m grateful for the person who is the first reader of everything I write and who can talk me down off a ledge or get me off my high horse. Be grateful if you are fortunate enough to have a love of your life.

I’m thankful for memories of Thanksgivings past and cranberry relish and whiskey from the Highlands. And I am really and truly thankful for what it has meant, can mean and must mean again to be an American. I tired of the tribal wars and senseless divisions. I long for leaders who get that and want to be Americans before they want to be re-elected.

I am thankful for that original Thanksgiving and Lincoln’s eloquent proclamation. And I’m thankful for his call to fellow Americans in another dark and troubling time where this most wise and decent man fervently implored “the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.”

Let it be said. Let it be so.

Be thankful.

Not if, but when


I’ve seen enough, as the political catch phrase goes, to call the quote of the year in Idaho, and maybe nationally.

It didn’t come from a politician, or even a public figure; we don’t even know the guy’s name. We do know it was real, captured on video and heard clearly.

The occasion was October 26 at a Nampa gathering for the national conservative student group Turning Point USA; the event was moderated by the group’s founder, Charlie Kirk.

Kirk was taking questions, and one of them came from someone identified only as an audience member. After he offered a short introduction, he said:

“At this point, we're living under corporate and medical fascism. This is tyranny. When do we get to use the guns? No, and I'm not — that's not a joke. I'm not saying it like that. I mean, literally, where's the line? How many elections are they going to steal before we kill these people?”

Quote of the year: “When do we get to use the guns?”

Followed by the clarification that he wasn’t joking. (In the past, people often would follow statements like this with, “but it was only a joke …” No longer.)

That statement reverberated not just around the state but around the nation and even around the world. For good reason.

Here’s the man’s statement rephrased only slightly: “When can we start using these precious high-powered firearms we’ve been stockpiling (as our preferred media outlets have been steadily counseling), load them and hit the streets to mow down anyone we suspect doesn’t think the way we do?”

Kirk seemed a little taken aback, but there were two layers to his response. His first words appropriately seemed to catch the lunacy, the madness: “Now, I'm going to denounce that and I'm going to tell you why.”

Okay. Then, seemingly, as he had a few seconds to digest what he might say that on one hand wouldn’t encourage people to hit the streets with their AK-47s and starting mass murders, but also that wouldn’t turn off his otherwise enthusiastic audience, he explained his why: “Because you're playing into all their plans and they're trying to make you do this. ... They are trying to provoke you and everyone here. They are trying to make you do something that will be violent that will justify a takeover of your freedoms and liberties, the likes of which we have never seen.”

In other words: yeah, you’re right, it’s all a conspiracy against you, you’re right to hate them as much as you do, just be careful about it so our side isn’t damaged politically. Your paranoia is right on.

He did reference things audience members could do that are peaceful and legitimate parts of how our society works, such as winning elections. (Some oddball and impractical but nonviolent stuff was mixed in.) But all of that seemed anti-climactic and beside the point.

The quote from the anonymous audience member would have seemed just a spooky outlier a few years ago. The times are making it something else, notably in places like Idaho.

A series of surveys are making the point. A report from the University of Chicago settled on the figure of 21 million Americans who think the “use of force is justified” to re-install Donald Trump in the White House. And polling by the conservative American Enterprise Institute said that 39 percent of Republicans agree that “if elected leaders will not protect America, the people must do it themselves, even if it requires violent actions.”

It’s a safe bet the percentage of people who think that way is higher in Idaho than nationally.

So it’s not that one guy said something outrageous. It’s that a lot of people - a lot of Idahoans - likely agree with him.

The frame for his question seems grimly appropriate: Not if, but when.


Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving. And stay safe this holiday season.

Waning means forever


It seems the immunity provided by the Covid immunization diminishes over time. Now we are talking boosters.

So, does this mean the immunization is worthless? No, but that’s beside the point for vaccine deniers. The freedom to choose trumps consideration of risk, for themselves or their neighbors.

The vaccines greatly diminish the risk of hospitalization and death. In Idaho, in the last 6 months approximately 90% of hospitalized patients have been unimmunized. Similarly, the folks dead from this illness are mostly unimmunized. But as we are seeing that protection wanes.

So, the proudly immunized may soon be humbled by this painful biology. The arrogant unimmunized soon may be dead and not around to gloat over their “victory”. What a silly fight.

This waning immunity makes sense if you’ve ever had a cold. Covid, the disease caused by the Corona SARS 2 virus is not just a cold, but it is from the category of viruses that cause colds, Corona viruses. Colds affect the upper respiratory tract, runny nose, cough, congestion, feel lousy for a few days, then go back to work. Covid can quickly get down into the lower respiratory tract, the lungs, and when they fill with fluid, you won’t be getting the oxygen you need to keep your organs alive. These are very different diseases even though from similar viruses.

Ingenious, huh? Makes you think…

So now that this virus is amongst us, we are trying to figure out how to prompt our immune systems to respond. That’s where immunizations come to play. Oh, and the mask mandates and isolation techniques are a part of figuring this out too.

We are also figuring out how to work these problems through politically and culturally. That might be the true test of our species, not our immune responses.

The fact that this virus usually just makes us mildly sick has trained our immune systems to lose their awareness for it over time. It is a perfect medium for now slowly killing a lot of us. And it is. About one in a thousand who contract the virus die from it.

Idaho, this great, wide, tall oddly shaped state has seen just that in the last year. Idaho deaths are 20% above what would be expected on “normal” years. Our death rate from Covid is a little above the one in a thousand, but not a lot.

None of you would spend much at the casino on 1:1000 odds. Does that mean you should walk around unimmunized? Only if you don’t trust the shot. And many in Idaho don’t.

So, the virus isn’t winning, it’s just making a dent. A twenty percent bump in death rate is acceptable, isn’t it? Since we have seen such a growth in statewide population, this just means there might be a parking space available, right?

Some are happy to gamble their 1:1000 odds and see no need to immunize. They mock the mask wearers and rail against any mandates. Those that have immunized resent the choice of the unimmunized and blame them for the ongoing waves of infection. Is this the way we are going to see our neighbors now?

The winning and losing question will be decided not by the death toll, but in what we as a community learn from this. The virus obviously learned, either in a bat or in a Chinese virology laboratory, how to make us sick and some of us die. And the virus is now learning how to infect faster and spread its genes farther.

If we as a country learn from this to distrust our neighbors and resent the choices they make, we soon won’t need a virus to be killing us.

Giving thanks for life-saving vaccines


If we were not still in the grip of a deadly pandemic, with the 7-day average death toll from the coronavirus hovering just over 1,100 a day, I probably would not have thought of giving thanks this year for the medical researchers who have given this country protection against many life-threatening illnesses. Thinking back to the late 40s and early 50s, when I became aware of vaccinations, my thoughts were anything but thankful. When a doctor or nurse brought out a needle, they had to pry me out from behind the furniture to administer a shot. I refused Novocaine in the dentist’s office.

Then came the 1952 polio epidemic, which was the worst outbreak in the nation's history. We saw pictures of kids in iron lungs--huge mechanical devices to help kids breathe. We did not know what caused polio but we were told not to gather together or drink from public fountains or swim in public pools. My uncle, Uli, got polio and his legs withered, bringing the disease close to home. When the Falk polio vaccine became available about 1955, everyone in our community and across the country could not get shots fast enough.

That softened my dread fear of needles. It further softened over the years when the effectiveness of various vaccines was proven time and again--Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Diphtheria, Tetanus, and so on. When I developed hay fever, it was a mixed blessing. I did not have to work in the hay, which was the worst work on the farm, but I did have to get regular injections, which my Mom did very slowly so as not to hurt. Yikes!

Then, in 1968, I volunteered to fight in Vietnam and had to get a long list of vaccinations. Everyone had to take the vaccinations for the protection of the entire unit--the old thing about the chain breaking at the weakest link, obviously the unvaccinated one. They included Plague, Yellow Fever, Typhus, Cholera, Typhoid Fever, and the very worst, gamma globulin in the posterior for Hepatitis. It left a big bump in the rear that slowly dissipated over a week or so.

As one continues through life, it is easy to take for granted the fact that you don’t have to worry about the dread diseases that our ancestors had to face on practically a daily basis. Plague and smallpox wiped out entire populations before the scientific

community developed means of prevention that could be administered in a painless injection. We don’t know how very fortunate we are and how thankful we should be.

When I was a kid and we learned that someone in the community had been diagnosed with cancer of practically any variety, we all thought it was a death sentence. When Doctor Gupta called on January 13, 2017, to say that I had pancreatic cancer, that was my very question--”Is this a death sentence.” His response was, “not necessarily.” I was told later that chemotherapy would increase my chances of survival to 30%.

In order to get chemo, you had to get a whole range of shots, which I gladly accepted and would have taken many more. It was not a question as to whether the FDA or anyone else had given its blessing to any of them. My trusted physicians had said they were necessary and that was enough. They put a port in your chest so they could mainline it and you were happy to put up with all of it for a chance of survival. You see many other dear souls in the injection lounge taking in stuff that some would call poison, just for the chance of more life with their loved ones --not a lot of bellyachers and dissidents in that venue. I’m now 4-years cancer free.

So, let me raise a toast this Thanksgiving weekend to the doctors, nurses, medical researchers and other medical personnel who have strived so hard over the many years to find ways of saving the public from illness and death at the hands of deadly diseases such as COVID-19 and all of the other scourges I’ve previously mentioned. We owe you, we salute you and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts, which are still beating because of you.

Democratic invasion


Lately, I have been hearing from Democrats who will do everything in their power to prevent Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin and Rep. Pricilla Giddings from winning the top two Republican primary races.

They’re even talking about registering as Republicans and voting in the GOP primary election – taking their chances with Gov. Brad Little and House Speaker Scott Bedke in the lieutenant governor’s race.

But not all talk is coming from Democrats. There are a few “mainstream” Republicans who are encouraging their Democratic friends to crossover to the GOP primary – to keep McGeachin and Giddings out.

Tom Luna, Idaho’s Republican Party chairman, apparently has been hearing discussions about possible crossover voting. His message to Democrats is clear: Stay away from the Republican primary. And he has an ally in one of Idaho’s leading Democrats, House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel of Boise.

“I would tell every Democrat not to register as a Republican and vote in the Republican primary,” she says.

Luna says he normally would ignore threats of crossover voting, “but it appears that the mainstream media simply won’t let the story die. This is raising concerns amongst the rank-and-file Republican voters as to what the official position of the Idaho Republican Party is with regard to crossover voting in primary elections.”

Luna is crystal clear about his stance. Since 2012, the GOP primary has been for Republicans only – not Democrats, independents or those unaffiliated. Republicans voting in a Republican primary is about as “mainstream” as it gets, Luna says.

“Frankly, if you truly cared about the battle for the soul of the Republican Party, you wouldn’t advocate for non-Republicans to infiltrate our party and skew the results,” Luna says. “The fact is, you aren’t going to change the political landscape by pounding on a keyboard and spitting out op-eds or doing lay-up interviews with a complicit reporter. You have to get involved with the process. …That’s how elections are won. They aren’t won by gaming the system and encouraging others who don’t have the best interests of the Republican Party to muck around in our primaries.”

It’s not often when Rubel, one of Idaho’s leading Democrats, is on the same page with Luna. But she gives the chairman props on this one.

“Maybe we need to do a road show,” she joked.

Her take is that Democrats crossing over would hurt her party in the long run. “It would mean lower register numbers and harder to attract donors both nationally and locally. It would make it harder for candidates to run, and when they do run, they don’t know who the registered Democrats are and who they can call on Election Day to make sure they are voting. It would be a huge setback for Democrats to basically disappear from the public record and it makes it less likely that we will ever get a Democrat elected.”

In the end, she says, it makes little difference who is nominated on the Republican ticket – McGeachin would produce similar results as Little as governor; same with Bedke and Giddings in the lieutenant governor’s race.

“Democrats have to get out of this mentality they need to settle for the smallest crumbs,” Rubel said. “The differences between the candidates are exaggerated. At the end of the day, we still end up last in education regardless of who wins the primary. We still end up with someone who will happily take away our ballot initiative rights and someone who has no interest in property-tax relief.”

To Rubel, the solution is simple: Elect Democrats to the high offices.

“That’s what we need to do to fix what ails this state,” she says. “If we really want to stop being last in the nation on education funding, last with kids going to higher education, being at the bottom of the nation in wages, we need to get a Democrat elected and not just figure who is the least bad one on the Republican side.”

Luna, of course, will not agree with Rubel on any of those talking points. But they do make convincing cases for party followers to play by the rules in the next primary election.

Of course, Idaho voters – given their independent nature – will do as they wish.

Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at