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News >  Idaho

Idaho GOP to consider dropping presidential primary

BOISE – Idaho Republicans have dropped a proposed rule change that would have let party committees screen candidates for primary elections and select just two for each office, but they’ll consider plenty of other big changes when they gather today in Moscow for their annual state central committee meeting.

One of those changes could be doing away with their May presidential primary entirely.

Also on tap: an array of resolutions including kicking the EPA out of the Silver Valley; studying a gold currency to replace the “failing” dollar; and calling on the Legislature to look into GOP Gov. Butch Otter’s “Project 60” trade-building initiative and declaring it a bid by the Chinese to take over Idaho’s sovereignty.

“Just because they’ve been submitted doesn’t mean it necessarily has broad support,” Idaho GOP Executive Director Jonathan Parker said. “Any member of the central committee can submit a resolution, and that’s why we like to consider ourselves a party of ideas.”

Not on the agenda for the two-day meeting: letting independents vote in the GOP primary for state offices next May.

Current party rules ban anyone other than registered Republicans from voting in the Idaho GOP primary.

If the party doesn’t change its rules, independents wouldn’t get to vote in the primary election for the party that controls the vast majority of Idaho’s elected offices.

“Apparently nobody wants to propose that – I certainly don’t,” said party activist and central committee member Rod Beck. “If an unaffiliated voter does not want to affiliate with the Republican Party, then they can wait until the general election to make their selection.”

Rule changes can be proposed from the floor at the meeting, but it takes a two-thirds vote of the rules committee to consider any that weren’t in 10 days before the meeting.

Barry Peterson, chairman of the Elmore County Republicans, said he decided to withdraw the proposed rule change letting party committees vet candidates for the primary ballot because “the plate is so full,” with the meeting already including debate about moving to a presidential caucus rather than a primary, and discussion of redistricting.

Beck agreed, although he said he still supports that change. “When you have, for instance, eight candidates or seven or whatever number you have … in a lot of cases they’re not really legitimate candidates,” he said. “I don’t think it’s fair to us as a party.”

The presidential primary change may be the biggest issue debated at the central committee meeting in Moscow, Idaho, which runs through Saturday. Currently, Idaho Republicans select their delegates to the national GOP convention in the May primary election. Idaho Democrats make their presidential picks in earlier caucuses, and the May presidential primary is a meaningless “beauty contest” on the Democratic side.

Parker said the proposal would have Idaho Republicans instead hold caucuses in every county on “Super Tuesday,” the first Tuesday in March. If it passes, he said, Republicans will confer with Democrats and look toward canceling Idaho’s presidential primary.

Parker called the change “quite a big deal,” saying Idaho has 32 delegates to the national GOP convention, more than Iowa, New Hampshire or Nevada, because of its heavily GOP election results. “This rule change would … hopefully make Idaho relevant on the presidential scene,” he said.

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