There’s a story going around that Senate President Pro Tem Chuck Winder is trying to get a special session of the Legislature organized for the purpose of saving face over the fact that lawmakers inadvertently deleted the presidential primary from next year’s election calendar. There’s a lot of misinformation about this issue, chiefly coming from a band of leftist Republicans calling themselves members of the “Main Street Idaho Caucus.”
First of all, the deletion of the presidential primary was a completely avoidable situation caused by legislative hubris: That is, lawmakers and Gov. Brad Little were completely aware, by the time House Bill 138 had made it to the Senate, that it got rid of the state’s March presidential primary and replaced it with nothing. But the Senate passed the bill anyway, and Little signed it, expecting that a follow-up “trailer bill” would pass to correct the mistake, pushing the presidential primary to May. That bill failed.
Winder is said to want a special session to take up the failed May primary bill. What a silly ploy, since by May 2024, it will be abundantly clear who the likely GOP presidential nominee is. Idaho would have almost no voice in the matter. Additionally, if that’s the direction the Legislature wanted to go, it certainly can take that action during the regular session in January. But the push for a May primary is a good part of the reason House members rejected the Senate’s follow-up legislation. The March date simply made more sense.
Meanwhile, the “Idaho Main Street Caucus” Republicans are claiming two unbelievable things. One is that Idaho GOP Chairman Dorothy Moon is responsible for the lack of a presidential primary election. Last I checked, Moon isn’t a member of the Legislature.
While Moon had no vote to cast, the Main Street caucus members did, and they voted to support the flawed bill. Reps. Marco Erickson, James Petzke, Stephanie Mickelsen, Chenele Dixon, Jerald Raymond, Britt Raybould, Chris Allgood, Matt Bundy, Julie Yamamoto, Dan Garner, Lori McCann, Greg Lanting, Josh Wheeler, Rick Cheatum, Rod Furniss, Jack Nelsen, Jon Weber, and Mark Sauter voted for the bill that got rid of the presidential primary. Moon did no such thing.
These lawmakers gloss over this inconvenient fact by claiming the bill had a “technical loophole.” It wasn’t a loophole at all. It was a mistake in the drafted bill that they voted for. The mistake was fully revealed to be a known defect by the time the measure reached the Senate, where Main Street Caucus members Van Burtenshaw, Linda Wright-Hartgen, Kevin Cook, Abby Lee, Dave Lent, Treg Bernt, Geoff Schroeder, Mark Harris, Julie Van Orden, Jim Guthrie, and Chuck Winder voted for it.
Second, each of these leftist Republicans claim that they wanted to move the March presidential primary to May in order to save money. The March election is projected to cost around $2.5 million. Holding an election in May would supposedly defray those costs. Moon argues correctly that the May presidential primary would be too late for Idahoans to have their voices count.
If lawmakers are really concerned about the money, they don’t show it, often voting for billions of dollars in state appropriations to expand the size and scope of Idaho government. Fiscal conservatives they are not. Their voting records, to a person, are mostly aligned with those of the leftist Democrats in the Statehouse. They whine about $2.5 million for a March presidential primary but think nothing of voting for ten times that amount for social justice programs on college and university campuses, or more than $4 billion in funding for medical welfare.
There are plausible reasons for holding a special session of the Legislature, such as restoring gun rights stripped away by the Idaho Supreme Court or stopping the University of Idaho’s purchase of the University of Phoenix. Both occurred after the Legislature had adjourned. Moving the presidential primary to May is a terrible reason to reconvene lawmakers. It’s just an effort to give cover for politicians who screwed up in deleting the March primary and are content to blame everyone except themselves.
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