Saturday, June 17, 2023

[From FHQ Plus] A glance inside one of the primary alternatives for Idaho Republicans

The following is a cross-posted excerpt from FHQ Plus, FHQ's subscription newsletter. Come check the rest out and consider a paid subscription to unlock the full site and support our work. 


[NOTE: Earlier in 2023, the Idaho legislature eliminated the separate March presidential primary in the Gem state. And due to a drafting snafu did not reinsert the necessary language to consolidate the primary with the May nomination contests. That has put both parties in the state in a bind for 2024.]

Already, Idaho Democrats have called for a special session to restore the primary, scheduling it along with the primaries for other offices in May as was the intent of the bill that was initially brought before the state legislature earlier this year. But Gem state Democrats have also put forth a contingency plan for caucuses on Saturday, May 18 if the legislature does not act to fix the primary problem in time for 2024.

But what about Republicans in the Gem state? 

For Idaho Republicans both the demands and the contingency plans are different. In fact, there are two plans from which the Idaho Republican Party State Central Committee will choose at the summer meeting in Challis on June 23-24: a caucus plan and a convention plan.

Presidential Caucus Plan

Idaho Republicans do have some recent experience with the use of caucuses for allocating and selecting delegates. The party last used one in 2012. But the 2024 caucus plan proposed by Region 2 Chair Clinton Daniel strays from the vote-until-a-candidate-receives-a-majority, winner-take-all method the party used in the cycle when Mitt Romney won the caucuses. 

Instead, the Daniel’s proposal would provide for a more traditional caucus with a more conventional allocation scheme. First of all, the delegates would be pooled under the provisions of the plan. There would be just one allocation for the at-large, congressional district and automatic/party delegates combined. Additionally, there would be a winner-take-all trigger, where, if a candidate wins a majority of the caucus preference vote statewide, then that candidate would be awarded all of the Idaho delegates. Otherwise, delegates would be proportionally allocated with a 15 percent qualifying threshold. Any rounding would be to the nearest whole delegate with any unallocated delegate going to the winner. 

Again, all of that is fairly conventional. But there are a few unique provisions in the proposed caucus plan:

  1. The date: The proposed date for the presidential caucuses in this plan? Saturday, March 2, the same day as the Michigan Republican district caucuses. Basically, both of those contests would fall into a position on the calendar similar to that of the South Carolina Democratic primary in 2020, the Saturday before Super Tuesday.1 That is not the February date that Idaho Republican Party Chair Dorothy Moon talked about in the committee hearing that derailed the presidential primary fix, but it is close. 

  2. A conditional caucus: But there is a catch in the caucus plan. If the state legislature restores the presidential primary before the October 1 RNC deadline for delegate selection plans to be submitted to the national party, then the Idaho Republican Party would use the state-run primary. However, Idaho Republicans would only use the primary if the election is scheduled for the second Tuesday in March as it was before H 138 unintentionally eliminated it this past legislative session. [This seems unlikely. What drove the elimination of the separate presidential primary in the first place last winter was the cost savings associated with consolidating the presidential preference vote with other primary elections in May.]

  3. A two-tiered filing process: If the prime, March 2 date is not enough to draw candidates out to the Gem state to campaign and spend money, the system under which candidates will file to participate in the caucuses may. The baseline filing fee is set at $50,000 under the proposal. Candidates may choose not to campaign or spend money in the state, but the campaigns would have to fork over an exorbitant fee to the state party, a fee that may cushion that blow to Idaho Republicans of candidates skipping out on the state. But that is not the only filing option. The fee is cut in half if the candidate holds an event in the state sometime during January or February 2024. That is still a lofty fee and it has the benefit of bringing the candidates into the state. It is a clever twist that a state party can more easily pull off with a party-run process (than a state-run one, the parameters of which are defined by state law).


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