The Idaho Way: In one-party, closed-primary state, best bet is to register Republican

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By Scott McIntosh, Opinion Editor

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This week, I wrote about the call from some corners to register as a Republican in order to vote in the closed Republican primary in Idaho. The calls, which have been around for a long time, have gotten louder this year, as Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin announced she’s running for governor, and then Ammon Bundy announced his gubernatorial run.

Scott McIntosh is the Idaho Statesman’s opinion editor.
Scott McIntosh is the Idaho Statesman’s opinion editor.

I talked to Idaho Democratic Party Chairman Fred Cornforth, who tweeted last week to let the Republicans fix themselves and to stay a registered Democrat.

When I talked to him, he further explained that he thinks fears over a McGeachin victory in May are overblown. He also said the more extreme the Idaho Republican Party gets, the more the Idaho Democratic Party aligns with the values of most Idahoans, including traditionally right-leaning groups like the Idaho Association for Commerce and Industry, which Republican Rep. Tammy Nichols equates with “the Idaho swamp,” worthy of being beaten with a barbed-wire-laced baseball bat. OK.

I took a look at the numbers of registered Republicans and Democrats and unaffiliated voters, and I looked at some past elections. I came to the conclusion that, yes, if you want your say on statewide races, your best bet is to register Republican and vote in the closed Republican primary, as even the best Democratic candidates can’t win statewide.

Perhaps more important are the 308,000 unaffiliated voters who essentially sit on the sidelines for the Republican primary. Many of them will vote Republican in the general election, but I suspect many of them would choose a more moderate, or at least more reasonable candidate in a Republican primary, particularly in down-ticket races for state Legislature, choosing someone sensible like Kirk Adams over a fringe legislator like Nichols, Britt Raybould over Ron Nate. Elections like that could change the tenor of the Idaho Legislature.

That said, if there’s going to be a mass exodus to the Republican Party, it hasn’t happened yet. But the early signs are there, and there’s still time to register Republican.

More on McGeachin

Art Macomber and Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin speak at a press conference at Ammon Elementary School on Oct. 14, 2021.
Art Macomber and Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin speak at a press conference at Ammon Elementary School on Oct. 14, 2021.

When Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin last week held up a piece of paper that, according to her, proved the Idaho Attorney General’s Office gave her bad legal advice and led to her incurring $50,000 in legal fees, most of us were skeptical.

Of course, McGeachin wouldn’t turn over the piece of paper, instead instructing reporters to file a public records request (which is what got her into trouble to begin with).

Well, Idaho Statesman reporter Hayat Norimine did file a public records request. Much to my surprise, McGeachin provided the document — an email from the Idaho Attorney General’s Office giving McGeachin legal advice on how to handle the original public records request that led to $50,000 of legal fees that McGeachin is now asking the taxpayers to cough up.

I have to admit that even I was stunned at how completely divorced from reality was McGeachin’s characterization of the legal advice.

The Attorney General’s Office, according to the email, essentially counseled McGeachin to turn over the documents requested. Had she followed that advice, she wouldn’t have incurred any legal fees at all.

As Idaho Statesman opinion writer Bryan Clark writes, McGeachin didn’t lose a records suit due to “bad lawyering.” It was her bad judgment.

More on Dr. Cole

Dr. Ryan Cole, a pathologist who is president of a medical laboratory in Garden City and has been nominated to be the physician on the Central District Health board, addresses the White Coat Summit of the group America’s Frontline Doctors on July 27 in San Antonio, Texas.
Dr. Ryan Cole, a pathologist who is president of a medical laboratory in Garden City and has been nominated to be the physician on the Central District Health board, addresses the White Coat Summit of the group America’s Frontline Doctors on July 27 in San Antonio, Texas.

It was welcome news last week that the Idaho Medical Association, the organization that represents doctors in Idaho, filed a complaint about the practice of Dr. Ryan Cole, a pathologist who was appointed this year as the sole physician on the Central District Health board. The sad truth, though, is that if you want a responsible person on the Central District Health board, you need to work on putting responsible people onto the Ada County Commission. Please read our editorial here.

COVID toll on children

While we often focus on the loss of life from COVID-19 and keep a running tally of Idaho’s death toll, what we talk less about are the people left behind — in particular, the children of those who have died. More than 140,000 U.S. children lost a parent or caregiver due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a recent study. In Idaho, that number is 497. You can read my column on the subject and details of the study here.

Election update

Starting Sunday, we’ll begin rolling out our endorsements in several local races: Garden City mayor, Nampa mayor, Caldwell mayor, Boise City Council and the Boise wastewater bond. Stay tuned.

Cloud Cuckoo Land

“Cloud Cuckoo Land,” by Anthony Doerr.
“Cloud Cuckoo Land,” by Anthony Doerr.

Finished reading the latest novel from Tony Doerr, of Boise. Wow. That’s it. That’s the review. Pulitzer-worthy.

What you’re saying

Letters To Editor
Letters To Editor

This week, we’ve received letters on the State Street location for Interfaith Sanctuary, allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices and the move to censor Central District Health.

You can read those letters and more by clicking here.

You can submit a letter to the editor or guest opinion by clicking here.

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