Deborah Gold’s Jan. 4 guest opinion states that Moderates Are Taking Hold (MATH) is the wrong approach to combat the destructive fallout of Idaho’s closed Republican primary. She argues instead to amend the Idaho Constitution to require a process where all candidates running for the same seat, regardless of party, appear on the primary ballot together, and the two top vote-getters appear on the general election ballot.
I fully support this effort. However, the political power brokers who created the current primary election process, giving themselves immense control over our state, will do everything possible to stop this effort. Amending our Idaho Constitution will take an engaged and energized electorate.
Looking at 2016 Idaho legislative primary races, the unbalanced reality of our current political atmosphere is clear. While all 105 seats were up for election, only three seats included Democratic primaries with more than one candidate running. This is startling, and represents a reason for Democrats to consider voting in the Republican primary to have a voice in who represents them. MATH’s real focus, however, is convincing general election voters who avoid the primaries because they don’t identify with either party to become Republican primary voters.
Our organization is named Moderates Are Taking Hold for a reason. We believe Idahoans are hardworking, common-sense people who want their elected officials to be the same. They want officials to be independent, seeking solutions to issues based on that independence, not on dictates from their party. We know these moderate independent-thinking Idahoans’ lives are not dominated by the political process like mine (and apparently Deborah’s). They are busy making a living, raising families, participating in their communities.
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Through MATH we hope to make the case to these individuals that they must engage in the political process and are paying a price for not doing so. We recognize that identifying with a political party goes radically against their independent nature, but they must do it for the welfare of their families and communities.
These Idahoans must understand how all aspects of their lives are affected by politics. Elected officials make decisions regarding education, highways, medical care, safety, employment, air quality, hunting rights … name an area of life and we can show how your political representation is involved. I have served as a school board member, county commissioner and legislator. In each position I cast votes that most of my constituents paid no attention to, but the votes profoundly affected their lives. This detachment by the general public is not working. We have elected officials who are counting on us to not be fully engaged in the electoral process and to not hold them accountable for the current hate-filled atmosphere.
For the constitutional amendment effort to work, Idahoans must engage in the political process. For now, we must be willing to politically affiliate and elect people who will support this effort rather than letting the politically powerful continue to manipulate our electoral system for their benefit.
Kathy Skippen lives in Emmett. She has served as a school board member, Gem County commissioner and two terms as an Idaho legislator.