According to political scientists, when a political party becomes superdominant and its opposition effectively neutralized, deeper divisions will emerge from within the party itself.
That dynamic was on display in this year’s primary elections. The Republican Party, which has long dominated the state, has seen divisions brewing for several years and they were especially pronounced on May 20, 2014. Steve Shaw, political analyst at Northwest Nazarene University, called it “an internal battle for the soul of the Idaho GOP.”
With contested primary races in all statewide positions, and with a large number of strong incumbent opposition races for legislative positions, the pundits were pondering if this would be a viabilit test for the Tea Party in Idaho. According to Chuck Todd, political analyst for NBC, Idaho was one of six states where the Tea Party power was to be determined, in addition to Oregon, Kentucky, Arkansas, Georgia and Pennsylvania.
In a nutshell? In Idaho, “the Idaho GOP establishment seems to be the big winner,” according to Shaw, as is the establishment in the other five states. From the top down in Idaho, incumbents and mainstream republicans ruled the roost: Governor Butch Otter won handily over single-issue Obamacare foe Russ Fulcher, Lieutenant Governor Brad Little over anti-federal government Jim Chmelik, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden over abolish-the-EPA Chris Troupis, former Idaho Speaker of the House Lawrence Denny over a crowded 4-way race, and Controller Branden Woolf over Todd Hatfield.
The highest profile race was between 2nd District U.S. House Congressman Mike Simpson and his opponent Bryan Smith. The “conservative” cash floodgates were opened to irrigate the campaign of Smith by such groups as Club for Growth, The Madison Project and American Conservation Union. Smith, accusing Simpson of working with Democrats, lost by a wide margin.
Legislative incumbents around the state who fell in the primary included Tea Party conservatives: Rep. Lenore Barrett, R-Challis, losing to Merrill Beyeler; Sen. Monty Pearce, R-New Plymouth, falling to challenger Abby Lee; and freshman Rep. Doug Hancey, R-Rexburg, losing to Ron Nate.
As is no surprise in republican-dominated Idaho, most races are decided in the primary; a few general election races will be competitive.
Chatter: If you didn’t see it — and it went viral — two fringe gubernatorial candidates received their 15 minutes of fame at the one and only debate for Governor; read the story and watch the video here. Out-of-state friends believed they were watching a Saturday Night Live skit!