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Eye on Boise: GOP decides national delegate process

When the Idaho Republican Party holds its presidential primary election on March 8, it’ll determine how the state’s 32 delegates to the Republican National Convention are apportioned, and it’s not as simple as just proportional or winner-take-all.

That’s because national GOP rules require if a state party does its selection process – whether by primary election, caucus or convention – between March 1 and 15, its delegates must be apportioned proportionally based on the results, but with two optional exceptions, a “floor” and a “ceiling.”

The Idaho GOP has opted for both, and chosen a 20 percent floor and 50 percent-plus-one ceiling. That means any GOP presidential candidate who gets less than 20 percent of the vote in the primary won’t get any of Idaho’s delegates. And if one candidate gets 50 percent plus one or more – a majority – that candidate will get all of the state’s 32 delegates. If no candidate gets a majority, the delegates will be divided proportionally, based on the votes for all candidates who get 20 percent or more.

Dave Johnston, Idaho GOP executive director, said the party first went to a caucus selection system to move up the timing, so the outcome wouldn’t be determined based on other states when Idaho’s usual May primary rolled around. Then it became concerned that caucuses limited participation, so it pushed for the new March 8 primary.

“I think this move to a presidential primary is a win-win-win,” Johnston said. “We’re being an active player in the presidential nomination process. … We’ve already had two candidates visit Idaho, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we have more.”

The March 8 primary is solely for presidential nominee selection. At this point, two parties have notified the Idaho secretary of state’s office that they plan to participate: the Idaho Republican Party and the Constitution Party. Parties have until November to give that notification.

Tim Hurst, chief deputy secretary of state, noted that to appear on the presidential primary ballot, a party must have more than one candidate file; candidates have until Dec. 9, and there’s a $1,000 fee. If one Constitution Party candidate files, that party won’t be in the primary and the candidate will be declared its nominee.

The Idaho Democratic Party will hold caucuses for its presidential selection. All other federal, state and local primary election races will be part of Idaho’s regular primary election, which is scheduled for May 17.

Idaho Democrats have released their delegate selection plan: They’ll elect 384 delegates to their state convention at county caucuses on March 22, based on their presidential preference, and then the state convention in June will elect 24 delegates to the national Democratic Party convention in Philadelphia. The delegates will be apportioned based on results of the county caucuses, with a 15 percent threshold – candidates who get less than 15 percent won’t be assigned delegates.

‘… and there will be failures’

Idaho state schools Superintendent Sherri Ybarra sent a guest opinion to newspapers last week warning that as the state moves toward “mastery based education,” one of the recommendations of Gov. Butch Otter’s education task force, education will become more personalized for students, but the process may be “messy and chaotic, and there will be failures and misfortunes that we will need to learn from, in order for our educational system to get better.”

“We have been so centered on ‘not failing’ that we haven’t been aiming for success!” Ybarra writes. She recalls that in her classroom, she used to have a poster on the wall saying, “This is a mistake-making place.” The idea was that success isn’t always immediate, and students need to develop strategies to work through mistakes and move beyond them. Writes Ybarra, “Failure is just a stepping stone on our path to success!”

State loses sand, gravel fight

The state of Idaho has lost a legal dispute with a ranching company over rights to sand and gravel on a parcel of land the state endowment sold back in 1941; the winning company happens to be the family company of Lt. Gov. Brad Little. Based on legal advice from the Idaho attorney general’s office, the state Land Board voted unanimously last week not to appeal the 3rd District court decision.

The case, Little Enterprises LLLP v. State of Idaho, was over sand and gravel rights to Little’s property, which the state endowment sold in 1941.

Firefighting costs

Firefighting costs on state-protected lands in Idaho are up to $67 million for this year’s fire season, up from $59.7 million just two weeks ago. The huge Clearwater Complex in north-central Idaho accounted for about $27 million of that cost. “That’s been our largest, most expensive fire to date,” said state forester David Groeschl.

It destroyed 48 homes and 70 outbuildings.

Groeschl said about $16.7 million of those costs are reimbursable from other agencies, putting the net cost to the state at $50.3 million.

State lawmakers set aside $27 million for firefighting this year.