By Sharon Fisher
It may be only December, but this is shaping up to be the most interesting primary season in years.
In 2014, not only are all the state legislators up for re-election, but so are the statewide offices, from the Governor on down. And unlike some years, where incumbents were a shoo-in, several already have primary challengers, while for some open seats it’s pretty much a free-for-all.
The Republican primary, held on May 20, is important for statewide offices and many legislative seats because, generally, the person who wins the Republican primary goes on to win in November. Even so, not as many people vote in the primary as in November, and typically the people who do vote tend to be more conservative than those who just vote in November.
That’s even more true now. You may remember a couple of years ago that the Republican Party closed its primary, meaning only people who are registered as Republicans can vote in it. That makes it even more likely that the people eligible to vote in the primary are more conservative.
If you want to register as Republican to be able to vote in the primary, you need to do so by March 14. That’s an important date for a couple of reasons. First, it’s still in the middle of the legislative session. Second, it’s the same day as the end of the filing period for candidates.
Apparently, a number of legislators are already planning to hold all the controversial stuff in the upcoming legislative session until after that deadline. They’re trying to avoid either drawing a primary challenger, or encouraging more people to register as Republican in time to vote in the primary. That includes things like raising revenue for transportation funding to make the roads and bridges better, and increasing the number of people eligible for Medicaid because of Obamacare.
Here’s some of the statewide races that have interesting primaries shaping up.
Governor: Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter is running for his third term. His challenger is Sen. Russ Fulcher, Senator for District 22, which includes Kuna. Fulcher is challenging Otter because of his support of Obamacare, the Common Core educational standards (even though Fulcher voted for them in the education committee), and the ability of the Land Board to run commercial businesses.
Secretary of State: Secretary of State Ben Ysursa decided not to run again, and a lot of people have announced they’re going to run for his seat, including former Speaker of the House Rep. Lawerence Denney (R-Midvale), who was voted out as Speaker last session in favor of Rep. Scott Bedke (R-Oakley); former Rep. Evan Frasure, who was a major player on the recent redistricting commission, which redrew the legislative districts after the 2010 census; and Ada County Chief Deputy Clerk Phil McGrane. Former Sen. Mitch Toryanski (R-Boise) is also thinking about it.
Controller: After Controller Donna Jones was hurt in a car accident, she resigned, and her deputy, Brandon Woolf, was appointed to the position. Todd Hatfield, who came in second to Jones in the primary last time, already announced last summer he would be running again, and he is more conservative.
Superintendent of Public Instruction: Superintendent Tom Luna hasn’t drawn a primary challenger yet, but the rumor is that Sen. Steve Thayn (R-Emmett) – who’s also been traveling around the state with Sen. Fulcher – is going to run against him. Luna isn’t very popular because of the failure of his Students Come First plan, which was overturned by referendum last year, and for his support of Common Core.
It’s going to make for an interesting legislative session.