Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence “Boss” Denney and state GOP Chairman Steve Yates have become oblivious to this simple fact:
The people of Idaho are doing the Republican Party a big favor by buying them a presidential primary election.
Beginning in 1976, Idaho set its primary for all offices — including president — in May. But by then, the presidential nominations had been set and no one cared.
For some time, Idaho Democrats held caucuses in March to pick presidential nominating delegates.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Idaho Statesman
Four years ago, Idaho Republicans did the same thing. Moving the selection up to Super Tuesday in March got the GOP candidates’ attention and gave the state more influence.
So ordinary Idahoans actually saw something rather unusual. Instead of jetting into Sun Valley, Boise or Idaho Falls to kiss a billionaire campaign contributor’s ring, three Republican hopefuls — Ron Paul, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney — actually took the time to court the voters.
The GOP establishment also got what it wanted — a ringing Idaho endorsement of Romney when the nomination battle was still in flux.
Only one problem rattled the GOP.
The caucuses cost money.
Apparently, they were too expensive because last year, the GOP convinced state lawmakers to spend $2 million on a separate presidential primary.
That’s right — a state that can’t properly fund its schools had money for two primary elections in one year: president in March followed by the conventional state primary held in mid-May.
Not a single Democrat voted for it — and the idea of subsidizing a GOP closed-door primary was a bit much for a handful of Republican lawmakers to stomach as well.
Democrats retained their presidential caucuses, which are set for March 22. Unlike 2008, when Barack Obama dominated the field, and four years ago when as the incumbent president he was unopposed, this year’s contest is shaping up as a spirited fight between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
In fact, as columnist Randy Stapilus notes, nobody’s sure how it will turn out.
But you wouldn’t know it from the billboards Boss Denney has purchased at a cost of $20,000 to the taxpayers.
Denney — the most partisan figure in modern times to preside over Idaho’s election apparatus — doesn’t see Democrats. They don’t exist.
So his billboards advance the Republicans — and a handful of Constitution Party voters — who will pick delegates in the March 8 Idaho presidential primary.
Neglected entirely are the Democratic caucuses two weeks later.
If this was an oversight, Denney could have easily corrected it. Why not drape a line of print advancing the Democratic caucuses across the billboard?
Nothing doing. When Idaho Democratic Party Chairman Bert Marley complained, state GOP Chairman Steve Yates became indignant.
Doesn’t Marley know this is a Republican state?
Who cares about them?
Not Yates, who belittled the minority party’s complaint as “invalid, untruthful, and nothing more than a shallow attempt to mislead voters and advertise their caucus, an event that very few know about and even fewer will participate in.”
With no state or congressional offices and only a fifth of the legislative seats, Democrats may be Idaho’s perennial also-rans. But they have the self-respect that comes with self-reliance.
They are paying their own way.
Which is more than you can say about Yates and Denney, who not only raided $2 million from the public purse for their own ends, but are content to lift another $20,000 to promote it.
And these people claim to be the party of fiscal restraint?