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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eye On Boise

Idaho’s first early presidential primary draws a crowd

Here’s our full story today on the final numbers from Tuesday’s Idaho presidential primary election, which drew a surprisingly strong turnout, though all that was on the ballot was the GOP and Constitution Party presidential primary picks plus some local school levies. In the GOP race, Ted Cruz won, and a map of by-county results shows Donald Trump captured the central part of the state, but Cruz dominated in the more populated areas that ring it.

BOISE – Tuesday’s early Idaho presidential primary was an experiment for the state, and Idaho Republicans on Wednesday pronounced it a successful one, with more than 200,000 votes cast.

That’s well over the 168,000 votes cast in Idaho’s last presidential primary vote in 2008. That time, both Republicans and Democrats were voting, in a contest that also included legislative and congressional seats. On Tuesday, it was just the Republican Party and the Constitution Party presidential races; Idaho Democrats will hold their presidential caucuses on March 22.

“Idaho matters, and last night served as confirmation of that,” Idaho GOP Chairman Steve Yates said. He pointed to visits to the state from five Republican presidential candidates in 2015, followed by campaign rallies in the state for both Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio the weekend before the election.

In 2012, both the Republican and Democratic parties in Idaho held caucuses, so there was no presidential primary election in the state; the GOP caucus that year drew 44,672 participants.

Final, unofficial results were released midday Wednesday by the Idaho secretary of state’s office. Cruz won Idaho’s Republican primary with 45.4 percent of the votes cast, and will receive 20 of Idaho’s 32 GOP delegates. Donald Trump, who got 28.1 percent of the votes cast, will receive the other 12.

Rubio didn’t do as well as expected, garnering 15.9 percent of the votes, despite robocalls from Mitt Romney on Monday urging Idahoans to vote for him. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who was endorsed by Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, came in fourth with 7.4 percent. Neither made the 20 percent threshold required to receive any of Idaho’s GOP delegates.

Turnout figures haven’t yet been calculated because same-day registration changes the percentage turnout. “A number of people registered or affiliated or changed their affiliation on Election Day,” said Chief Deputy Secretary of State Tim Hurst.

The Idaho GOP said by its calculations, the turnout was the equivalent of 74 percent participation among registered Republicans or 30 percent among all registered voters in Idaho.

In the Constitution Party race, Scott Copeland beat two challengers to win with 51.7 percent, or 250 votes.

Idaho still has its regular primary election – when Senate, House, legislative and local offices all are on the ballot – on May 17.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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