Eye On Boise

THURSDAY, FEB. 23, 2012, 4:47 P.M.

Little breaks tie, sends bill ending May presidential primary to governor

Lt. Gov. Brad Little had to break a 16-16 tie in the Senate this evening, as senators deadlocked over HB  391, which removes the presidential preference primary from Idaho's May primary election ballot. Both parties are now using caucuses to select their presidential convention delegates, so the primary no longer served any purpose, and removing it will save the state $60,000. Little voted yes, so the bill passed.

Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, told the Senate he planned to "cast a little protest 'no' vote," saying, "I understand the bill probably needs to pass. I respect that each of our parties have the right to have a caucus." He said he scoffed at the notion that a Super Tuesday caucus would get GOP presidential candidates to come to Idaho, but was proven wrong, to his delight. But, he said, "I am not a fan of any process that is exclusionary by its actual application, and in my opinion, the caucus does it." People like his parents, who have a church assignment on Tuesday nights, won't be able to attend, Davis said; nor will deployed military members who are overseas, senior citizens who aren't up to participating in an hours-long caucus in the evening, and others.

"I also realize that frankly it needs to pass, and so I need 18 of you to vote for it," Davis told the Senate. "I just don't want to be one of them."

Sen. Nicole LeFavour, D-Boise, also spoke out against the bill. Even though Democrats long have selected their delegates through a caucus, she said the "beauty-contest" vote during the primary helped show if the caucus was a good representation of the party's desires. Plus, she said, "One of my concerns beyond that is how does that affect turnout in the primary election that's just about to be closed?"

Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, the bill's Senate sponsor, said, "It just doesn't make sense to print names on a  primary ballot when it doesn't mean anything." The bill, which earlier passed the House on a 56-12 vote, now heads to the governor's desk.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Russell covers Idaho news from the state capitol in Boise and writes the Eye on Boise blog.

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