The primary election was not so much sound and fury as it was anti-climactic. Fireworks and change predicted by many among the Republicans produced some fireworks, but not much change. Now that Tuesday’s primary election has ended, what does it mean?
Well, in the grand scheme of things, not a whole lot has changed. Most incumbents held their ground, the public infighting within the Republican Party seems to have had little effect on the election, but what might transpire won’t be known until the session actually begins in January. And, of course, winners are breathing a sigh of relief. The closed primary seemed to have little impact, at least for the candidates themselves.
Much was made about Republican leaders attacking fellow legislators in an attempt to oust them. But, most of those attacked came away unscathed. House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, and House Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, gave money to a PAC that supported incumbent Ken Roberts’ opponent. Roberts, R-Donnelly, won handily.
Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, gave money supporting the opponent of Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, the co-chairman of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee (JFAC). Cameron also won easily.
The infighting led state Republican chairman Norm Semanko to release a statement Wednesday, asking for Republicans to commit to working together.
In a race that matched two incumbents against each other thanks to redistricting, Sen. Tim Corder, R-Mountain Home, lost to Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson. Corder is seen as a very moderate Republican. What makes this interesting is that last April, during an appearance at an Idaho Education Association conference, Corder told the crowd he would not win in a closed primary.
So, do candidates feel the closed primary or riffs within the party will have much, if any, long-lasting repercussions?
Rep. Steve Thayn, R-Emmett, who was running for a Senate seat and won, says he stays away from the fighting within the party and instead will focus on the issues he has always focused on: education, health and welfare issues, empowering people. “I stick with issues,” he said. “That’s what I do, that’s what I’ve always done.”
Rep. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, who also was running for a Senate seat and won, agreed with Thayn and says he sticks with the issues as well. Hagedorn does, however, believe the changes in the primary, as well as the caucus, had an affect on the voter turnout. “The low voter turnout, in my opinion, is directly attributable to the closed primary, as well as the presidential caucus. I think both of those things influenced voter turnout.”
Hagedorn also believes that some of the party fighting won’t be checked at the door. “Those kinds of things are bound to be reflected, either in the session or in the November election.”
He also said the back and forth within the party isn’t a good thing. “Internal battles like that are just not good to have and you don’t want to ‘pick em.’ It’s just not a wise thing to do.”
He agreed with Thayn on not changing his approach simply because he’ll be in different chamber. “I’ll continue to do what I always do, look at things that need to be taken care of and build coalitions of people to take care of them.”
While Hagedorn felt the party infighting wasn’t a good thing, in north Idaho, Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Silverton, was appalled by it. Keough, in an interview with Boise Weekly, described the opposition to her and others as being nasty. “It’s the people who are supporting our opponents who are bringing the nastiness that we’re not used to.”
Keough also said the Republican Party in the state has shifted in recent years. “There’s definitely a divide in the party and it’s expressed itself in Bonner and Boundary counties and also in Kootenai. I think some folks have become active in our party about four years ago and have really taken it in a different direction that lines up differently than has our traditional Republican Party. It’s very strict ideology.”