Jason Monks of Meridian won a four-person GOP primary in May, collecting 942 votes out of just 2,373 ballots cast.
But even as one of the winners in the GOPs historic closed primary, Monks support for the idea is qualified. He told the Statesman editorial board that he was very frustrated during door-to-door campaigning in the spring, as he heard from voters who were staying home because of the closed primary.
Monks says he could support whatever Republicans choose to do in the future. After some hemming and hawing, he said hed prefer to keep the new primary system, which requires voters to register with the GOP in order to vote.
Monks comments reflect what were hearing from local Republican legislators and legislative candidates, when we ask them about the closed primary: mixed and lukewarm feelings.
Based on our interviews so far, Id put several incumbents in the camp favoring a closed primary. That list includes Reps. Marv Hagedorn of Meridian and Cliff Bayer of Boise, both running for Senate; Rep. Reed DeMordaunt of Eagle; and Sen. Mitch Toryanski of Boise. (Toryanski is a qualified supporter; he said he is happy with the closed primary, although hed prefer opening the election to unaffiliated voters as well.)
Bayer describes the closed primary as a middle ground: more restrictive than a primary that is open to all comers, but not as restrictive as moving the nominating process to a closed convention. DeMordaunt says that the dire predictions heading into the May 15 primary never came to fruition, and the result was not a purge of moderates.
Hes right about that much. Despite the hoopla, this was largely a stay-the-course primary albeit one with a record low turnout of 24.4 percent.
Still, some key Republican incumbents remain opposed to a closed primary. That list includes Sens. Chuck Winder of Boise, Patti Anne Lodge of Huston and Jim Rice of Caldwell, and Reps. Darrell Bolz of Caldwell and Julie Ellsworth of Boise. Thats a pretty experienced group, and not exactly a bunch of Republicans In Name Only.
But the prevailing sentiment from the candidates, on both sides or on the fence, is that the GOP has the constitutional right to make this call, and ultimately, the decision is out of the candidates hands. Which it is. The future of the primary wont be decided by the Legislature, but by the state GOP central committee, which has been asked to review the issue.
Can sitting legislators influence the central committee? Of course. I cant imagine committee members dismissing out of hand the opinions of party members who actually have to run in a closed primary. But legislators who speak out against the closed primary also risk alienating the party members who pushed for this model voters who may have outsized influence in a low-turnout primary election.
It seems likely that the Idaho GOP will at least review its 2012 elections. Its Super Tuesday presidential caucus will almost certainly come under some scrutiny especially with Ada County Republicans stinging over the $35,000 cost of holding a countywide caucus at Boise State Universitys Taco Bell Arena.
Discussion of the closed primary is sure to continue. Some top Republicans such as Gov. Butch Otter, Secretary of State Ben Ysursa and Rep. Mike Simpson have never warmed to the idea. Further down the ticket, the reviews are all over the map.
The question: Will the skeptics press the issue?
The Statesman will begin publishing election endorsements Friday. The editorial board is in the midst of conducting more than 70 interviews with candidates a process we take seriously. Whether you agree or disagree with our endorsements, I hope they provide useful information and context before you vote.
Heres our schedule:
Æ Friday: Ada County sheriff; Canyon County sheriff.
Æ Sunday: Ada County commissioner.
Æ Tuesday: Ada County Highway District; Garden City Greenbelt initiatives.
Æ Wednesday: Legislature, Districts 15 and 16 (portions of Boise, Garden City).
Æ Friday, Oct. 19: Legislature, Districts 17 and 18 (portions of Boise).
Æ Sunday, Oct. 21: Congress.
Æ Tuesday, Oct. 23: Legislature, Districts 14 and 20 (Eagle and Star, portions of Boise and Meridian).
Æ Wednesday, Oct. 24: Legislature, District 19 (portions of Boise); Ada County prosecutor.
Æ Friday, Oct. 26: Legislature, Districts 10 and 11 (Caldwell and rural Canyon County).
Æ Sunday, Oct. 28: Propositions 1, 2 and 3 (the Students Come First referendums).
Æ Tuesday, Oct. 30: Legislature, Districts 12 and 13 (Nampa).
Æ Wednesday, Oct. 31: Legislature, Districts 21 and 22 (portions of Boise and Meridian, Kuna).
Æ Friday, Nov. 2: Constitutional amendments (HJR 2, right to hunt, fish and trap; SJR 102, jurisdiction over adult felony probation).
Kevin Richert: 377-6437, Twitter: @KevinRichert