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The urgent need for election reform

Once again, the results of the Republican primary election graphically demonstrate how the closed primary, together with massive amounts of out-of-state dark money, ensures minority-controlled government in Idaho. It is no wonder that Dorothy Moon’s extremist branch of the GOP is doing everything possible to stop election reform. If Idaho voters approve the Open Primaries Initiative on November 5, the stranglehold she and her extremist allies have over the Republican Party will be forever broken. The Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF) will lose its grip on the Legislature. Reasonable, pragmatic Republicans will oust the divisive GOP culture warriors from positions of power. Every Idahoan will have an equal voice in choosing their leaders.

Ever since far-right extremists closed the Republican primary in 2011, they have been able to tighten their grip on seats in the Legislature. That’s why we see librarians, teachers, doctors, pregnant women needing emergency care, LGBTQ folks and others disliked by the extremists under nearly constant attack. Using hard-edged tactics and tainted campaign cash, they have been able to defeat traditional Republicans in the low-turnout primary, virtually ensuring success in the general election.

The culture warriors who won their primary with just a small percentage of the registered voters in their district foretell another 2 years of frightening legislation. Dan Foreman, who supports private armed militias parading in public and who wants to deny abortions to rape and incest victims, won his race for the District 6 Senate seat with just 11.5% of the registered voters. In 2022 he won his seat with only 8.8%.

Christy Zito took the District 8 Senate seat from Geoff Schroeder, a remarkable Senator, with just 16.8% of registered voters. Zito is a Christian nationalist who supports library bans and guns in schools..

Scott Syme, who had a distinguished 32-year military career, was beaten by Brandon Shippy for the District 9 Senate seat with 15.8% of the registered voters. Shippy, who had the support of the IFF and other far-right groups would deny abortions to rape and incest victims. He supports subordination of wives to their husbands.

Julie Yamamoto, who stood tall for public education and against using taxpayer money for private and religious schooling, lost her House 11A seat to Kent Marmon after a brutal election campaign. Marmon did it with just 9.5% of the registered vote. Marmon is a favorite of the IFF and its fellow-traveling extremist groups. He supports tax money being used to pay for private and parochial schooling.

Brian Lenney, an IFF-supported culture warrior, retained his Senate seat in District 13 with just 10.8% of the registered vote. This was the second time he bested Jeff Agenbroad, who served as a well-regarded and effective Senator from 2016 to 2022. Lenney won the seat in 2022 with 12.7% of the vote. Lenney is a supporter of using taxpayer money for private and religious schooling and seems to believe that women should be kept in their place.

Josh Keyser beat Senate leader Chuck Winder with 10.2% of the registered vote. Keyser had the support of the IFF and a number of other far-right groups. Winder, who has been unwilling to put up with the IFF’s antics, was heavily targeted by out-of-state dark money and underhanded negative campaigning.

Unless and until Idaho is able to get rid of the closed Republican primary, we will see a repeat of this election pattern long into the future. GOP extremists cleverly engineered a hostile takeover of the GOP in 2011 by closing their primary election. Since then, they have pushed the party farther to the right with every passing year. They will not stop, but the voters can call them up short in November by voting to approve the Open Primaries Initiative. That will allow traditional Republicans and independents to have a real say in who represents them in important public offices.


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