Boundary County Watchman

7/6/23 Scott Herndon’s message: What happened to our Presidential Primary?
November 19, 2023 watchman
In Uncategorized


This past winter, Idaho’s new Republican Secretary of State ran a bill in the legislature that eliminated our Presidential primary election in 2024.

Phil McGrane says his intention was simply to move the Presidential primary election from March to our regular primary election in May, and sure enough that is what the statement of purpose that accompanied the legislation stated. But the reality is that House Bill 138 eliminated the Presidential primary altogether. Was this an accident, or was it a designed plan?

H138 was introduced on February 13 and passed the House overwhelmingly 61-6-3 on February 24. Probably many of the House members that voted for it (there are 58 Republican House members) liked the idea of saving money and consolidating elections.

They never consulted with the Idaho Republican party though. The Republican Party just successfully got the Presidential primary election moved to March a mere 8 years ago in 2015. The goal of the move then was to give Idaho more influence on who actually wins the Republican nomination for President, maybe even drawing Presidential candidates to visit Idaho on their campaign trail.

By the time H138 made it to the Idaho Senate in late February, the Idaho GOP was actively campaigning against the bill for two reasons – 1) The party wanted to keep the Presidential primary in March, and 2) the party knew the bill did NOT move the primary to May but actually eliminated a primary altogether, disenfranchising Republican voters.

Yet, the bill easily passed out of committee to the senate floor and from the floor was sent to the amending order. Was this to correct the glaring problem that the bill got rid of the Presidential primary altogether? No. It never got amended, but instead it was just parked in the amending order to buy time while senate leadership decided how to proceed.

Finally, on March 23 leadership moved H138 back to the floor for a vote. It was by then the last week of the session, and I debated against H138 on the senate floor. I voted NO and was joined predominately by other Idaho Freedom Caucus members and a couple of other Republican senators, yet it still passed 23-1-1. The proponents claimed that another bill that was in the works would clean up the mess of eliminating the election and place it back into Idaho code with the regular May primary.

That bill, Senate Bill 1186 was rushed into production and came to the senate floor the same day, March 23. But that bill still needed to make it through the House State Affairs committee and a House floor vote. Frankly, you learn in the legislature never to rely on these clean-up bills, especially one started in the Senate to fix a House bill, since there are many hurdles to a bill becoming a law.

If the main bill, in this case House Bill 138, was not ready for prime time because of major deficiencies, then it should have been amended or killed..

Sure enough, even with my No vote, H138 passed and went to the governor, and as it turned out we were in the final week of the legislative session. Senate Bill 1186, though it passed the senate on the same day as H138 and was immediately transmitted to the House for action, was NOT taken up in House State Affairs, much less ever voted on by the whole House.

The governor received H138 on March 28. At that point S1186 was already dead in the House, and the governor signed H138 anyway, completely eliminating our Republican Presidential primary election from either March or May in 2024.

So Now What?

As Chair of the Bonner County Republican Party, I am a member of the Idaho Republican Party State Central Committee. Last weekend, all 200 and something members met in Challis, Idaho for our summer meeting. One of our priorities was to address this new lack of a Presidential primary election.

At this point, Idaho must have a plan in place by the end of October for how we will choose delegates to the national Republican nominating convention in 2024 for our Presidential candidate in the November 2024 general election.

H138 is law as of July 1, 2023, just a few days ago. No Presidential primary now exists. The Idaho legislature is out of session until January 2024 and cannot thus fix this problem in time for the national party’s October 31 deadline.

Unless we have a special session called by ourselves or the governor. But, I don’t see any desire for that to happen (it takes 60% of both the Idaho House and the Senate membership to call a special session).

So at the recent Challis meeting, our Republican party decided that if the legislature and governor don’t fix this mess, then we will hold a caucus on Saturday March 2, 2024 for the purpose of selecting for Idaho which Republican Presidential candidate our Idaho delegates will support at the national Republican convention.

While this is not the ideal solution, it at least will be an exciting opportunity for Republicans in Idaho. The caucuses will be held in each county around the state on Saturday March 2. As the chair of the Bonner County Republican party, our local Bonner County Republican central committee will be responsible for paying for, planning and conducting the caucus meeting.

I hope you will make plans to attend. All Republican voters in Idaho will be eligible to participate and vote in their own county’s caucus. More details will be forthcoming, and I will communicate them to you, but it should be an exciting time!

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