Election 2020

Dem, Republican Leaders in Idaho Agree: Moderation's Not Our Business

Idaho voters head to a new food truck-inspired voting unit in Boise on Sept. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Kimberlee Kruesi)

You’d think he would welcome the new voters and their wallets, but no. The outraged chairman of the Idaho Republican Party, Jonathan Parker, said the very idea of persuading Democrats to turn Republican so that they can vote in the state’s 2018 GOP primary is “both alarming and disturbing.”

Bert Marley, chairman of the Idaho Democratic Party, doesn’t think much of the idea, either. In fact, a party press release ridiculed the concept as being “absolutely absurd.”

“There is no way to effectively infiltrate the Idaho GOP and make it less radical. These dissatisfied Republicans are the ones to blame — they’ve handed the keys to the extremists and let them drive the car straight into the ditch,” the Idaho Democratic Party statement continued. “We shouldn’t be expected to save their party.”

Former Idaho state Rep. Kathy Skippen (R), who is “former” because of another Republican, now Sen. Steve Thayne, who convinced voters he was more conservative than she, wants Democrats and independents to start voting in the state’s closed GOP primary.

“People who consider themselves as moderate or independent have to understand they’re getting played,” Skippen said. “We’ve got to take the middle back.”

Skippen served in the Idaho state House from 2002-2006, before Thayne used their differences on issues like a constitutional ban on gay marriage to win the Republican primary.

She thought about running against Thayne in the 2016 primary, but was warned voters would still consider her to be too moderate.

“I still consider myself a Republican, but I’m angry that ultra-conservatives took my party away from me and I’m angry that nobody else is willing to stand up and fight to get it back,” Skippen told the Associated Press.

To steer the Idaho GOP back to a more centrist path, Skippen used the last $5,000 in her state House campaign account to open the Moderates Are Taking Hold PAC. She said the political action committee would work to educate Democrats and independents on the importance of helping to moderate the Republican Party.

If nothing else, Democrats in Idaho have to realize they are vastly outnumbered — 396,500 to 88,000 — by Republicans in every election. Democrats can’t even come close to the number of voters who consider themselves independent, or unaffiliated: 303,000, according to the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office.

Those registered voter numbers, along with the 2012 presidential election results, current political representation, and consumer habits led Livability to list Pocatello, Idaho, as the second-best city in America for one who holds “moderate” political beliefs to set down roots.

And Skippen is hardly the only Republican who is concerned about the direction of the GOP, whether they reside in Idaho or not.

There are fewer disgruntled Republicans than those who are optimistic about their political party, according to a Pew Research Center survey.

But the Pew survey showed the number of Republicans nationwide who are very or somewhat concerned about the future of the GOP doubled from 20 percent in December 2016 to 39 percent in the survey released Oct. 3.

The decline in Republican optimism is evident in all subgroups of the Party of Trump, but is especially apparent among college-degree holding GOPers. Seventy-three percent of them were optimistic about the party’s future in December. Only 44 percent felt the same way in the October 2017 survey.

Still, Jonathan Parker wants Republicans, and only Republicans to be allowed to vote for Republicans in the closed GOP primary.

“A federal judge’s decision just five years ago reaffirmed the basic constitutional right guaranteed under the First Amendment that allows Idaho’s political parties to decide how candidates will be selected,” Parker said.

“We believe that this is a fundamental constitutional right,” he added, “a cornerstone of our freedom and democracy.”

Parker also said the idea of allowing Democrats and independents to turn the Idaho GOP back to the center would be disastrous for the party.

Democratic Party chairman Bert Marley agreed that Republicans should vote for Republicans and his Democrats needed to dance with the one who brought them.

“We believe it’s ridiculous that instead of urging Idahoans to vote for a balanced, two-party system, this misguided PAC is encouraging Idaho voters to stick to the status quo and support the party that put Idaho last in education,” Marley said.

“Since the Republican Party closed their primary, they have gotten what they wanted— a ‘pure’ ideology,” Marley added. “So now, disgruntled Republicans are asking Idaho Democrats to save them from themselves.”