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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Polls open for Idaho’s crowded, contested primary elections

In this Jan. 11, 2016 photo, the Idaho state Capitol building is shown in Boise, Idaho. (Otto Kitsinger / Associated Press)
By Rebecca Boone and Kimberlee Kruesi Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho – With polling stations open across the state, Idaho voters began casting ballots in several competitive and crowded races Tuesday morning.

The primary election is particularly important in Idaho, a Republican stronghold where the winners of the GOP primary often goes on to sweep the November general election as well.

Lines were short at some polling locations in north Boise just after 8 a.m. Many of the city’s polling stations often see their heaviest crowds during the lunch hour and in the early evening, coinciding with traditional office hours.

The most competitive and crowded races are for the open seats for governor and the 1st Congressional District, but Idaho’s lieutenant governor and state treasurer seats are also up for grabs without an incumbent. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra is hoping to secure a second term against GOP opponent Jeff Dillon. Meanwhile, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, Secretary of State Lawerence Denney and State Controller Brandon Woolf aren’t facing primary challengers.

Idaho voters must select a Republican, Democrat or nonpartisan ballot. Anyone can select a nonpartisan or Democrat ballot, but only people who are registered as Republicans can select the Republican ballot. That’s because the Idaho Republican Party closed their primary to non-members four years ago.

People can register to vote at the polls, and new or unaffiliated voters can declare themselves Republican at that time if they wish to vote in the Republican primary. But those who are already registered with a different party can’t change affiliation at the polls – that deadline was March 9.

The top GOP candidates running for governor are Lt. Gov. Brad Little, U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador and Boise businessman Tommy Ahlquist. Three-term Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter announced he would step down after serving nearly four decades in public office.

For Democrats, former state Rep. Paulette Jordan is vying to become Idaho’s first female nominee of a major political party. In her bid for governor, Jordan faces Boise businessman and longtime school board member A.J. Balukoff.

With Labrador stepping down to run for governor, seven Republicans have flocked to take over his congressional seat, including former state Sen. Russ Fulcher, former Attorney General and former Lt. Gov. David Leroy, first-time candidate Michael Snyder and state Reps. Luke Malek and Christy Perry.

Meanwhile, five Republicans are vying to become the state’s next lieutenant governor: Idaho Falls businesswoman Janice McGeachin, former Idaho Republican Party Chairman Steve Yates, state Rep. Kelley Packer, and state Sens. Bob Nonini and Marv Hagedorn.

Two Democrats are also running for the lieutenant governor seat: Kristin Collum of Boise and Jim Fabe of Sun Valley. Democrats Allen Humble of Boise and Cindy Wilson of Meridian are both vying for their party’s nomination for Superintendent of Public Instruction.