ajsmilePrimary day came and went in Idaho last week and the most startling result was not the results in the party that dominates the state.  Rather, it was the results in the minority party’s vote totals.

Republicans closing their primary seemed to have minimal impact on their primary.  The  majority of voters cast ballots in their primary and a majority of contested constitutional offices were contested .  Don’t believe me.  Take a look at the vote totals from the Secretary of State’s office here.  Maybe Democrats best success is that they fielded challengers for every major constitutional office expect state treasurer.  Unfortunately, this provides scant comfort to the party.  The harsh reality is primary day 2014 revealed the irrelevance of the Idaho Democratic Party,

Specifically, in the GOP Governor’s primary 155,333 votes were tallied.  In the contested Democratic primary a mere 25,643 were tallied.  Want more examples?  In the Republican primary for US Senate 148,824 votes were tallied to a mere 24,288 votes for the two Democratic contenders.  In the 1st Congressional GOP primary 71,540 ballots were cast (for four candidates) to a mere 11,028 for two Democrats.  This massive voting discrepancy even continued in the State Treasurer race.  Incumbent Ron Crane, running unopposed, garnered 138,832 votes to 23,759 for two Democrats fighting for their party’s nomination.

Certainly some voters registered as Republican to participate in the state’s defacto election but this also highlights the Democrats struggles in the state.   Democrats have kept their primary open but even so far more voters chose to participate in the GOP’s closed primary.  Despite protestations Idahoans are not Republican the primary results suggest otherwise.  Or if they are not Republican they sure know which primary is more important.

Even in races where Democrats have historically run competitively in November, their numbers were abysmal compared to the GOP’s.  These results also show other problems Democrats face in Idaho.  First, Democrats struggle to convince voters even with centrist candidates they can win ANY constitutional statewide office.  Second, Democrats struggle to attract media attention and fundraising to their causes.  Indeed, a cursory look at the Idaho Statesman’s political coverage shows it is almost all about Republicans.  Third, Democrats cannot separate themselves from their national party despite their best efforts.  One should expect Balukoff to be tied to Obama at least once before November.

Democrats best hopes for being competitive at some point lie in the future.  Demographic shifts suggest Idaho is becoming a younger, more diverse and urban state.  All these patterns have benefited Democrats elsewhere across the country.  Democrats also need a young, transformative candidate for state office to remake the image of their party. Much as Cecil Andrus made the party relevant in the state until the 90’s, Democrats need another Andrus to revive their fortunes.

Good luck with that!

addendum: The 2014 GOP primary is yet another data point to show the closed primary has had minimal impact on the GOP’s relations with voters.

This post originally mistakenly labelled Brent Crane as the GOP State Treasurer.  Brent Crane is a state rep.  Ron Crane is the GOP State Treasurer.




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