Monday, May 20, 2024

The primary lesson in local politics

| May 3, 2020 1:00 AM

The caller said she needed to vent, and boy, did she.

Her absentee ballot had arrived and, much to her chagrin, it was like an invitation to a party with no address and no time.

“I think it’s outrageous that I can’t vote for our county commissioners or sheriff,” she said.

The caller is either fairly new to the area or has not been a Press subscriber for very long.

Back in 2011, the Republican-heavy Legislature implemented a law that essentially restricts a person to voting only in the primary election of the political party for which he or she is registered. In other words, you can’t be a registered Democrat and vote in the Republican primary.

Ladies and gentlemen, like it or not, the Republican Party is where all the action is around here.

You have to go all the way back to 2006 to find a Democrat elected to a Kootenai County office. That was County Clerk Dan English, who had been appointed in 1995 and served until Republican Cliff Hayes won the office in 2010.

Rep. George Sayler was the last Democrat in Kootenai County to be elected to the Idaho Legislature, and that was in 2008.

Basically, the minuscule window on Democratic representation in local county and legislative positions slammed shut a full decade ago. This election cycle offers only more of the same.

While final winners won’t be chosen until Nov. 3, primary elections here are primarily the general elections. If you aren’t voting on the Republican ballot this cycle, the chances are overwhelmingly good that you will have zero say in who represents you at the county or legislative levels next year.

Is there a solution? Of course there is. If you’re independent-minded, non-affiliated or otherwise have not been inculcated in some deep form of partisanship, register as a Republican.

Within the Republican Party is a wide range of political philosophies and practices. If you don’t believe it, consider that a badge of honor for many local Republicans is to be called a RINO — Republican In Name Only — by someone from the furthest right reaches of the political Twilight Zone.

Implacable Democrats should hold true to their mantle, but in independent-minded Idaho, the big tent of the Republican Party has plenty of room for active and responsible citizens.

And as we’ve just attempted to illustrate, if you want a real voice in representation, for the moment you have no other choice.