Don’t say there was no difference in the received vote between Republican candidates who were noncontroversial and those drowning in negatives in the just-ended campaign. Yes, they all won, but the counts varied and even give us some measure of controversialness.
Atop the ticket, U.S. Sen. Jim Risch, whose re-election campaign didn’t draw massive public attention, despite strenuous efforts from his opponent, won about 285,000 votes. Fellow Republicans Lawerence Denney for secretary of state won about 44,000 less, C.L. “Butch” Otter for governor about 50,000 less, and Sherri Ybarra for superintendent of public instruction about 68,000 less, barely avoiding a loss. You likely remember, or can Google, the many issues surrounding them.
This means about 40,000 to 60,000 Republicans did split off from an otherwise Republican ballot when presented with compelling arguments to do so. That’s significant, and I’ll return to them on another occasion. But an operating majority of voters, somewhere around 220,000 of them, were by comparison impervious to the arguments that peeled off other Republicans.
That point is being made not just from the left. Kent Marmon, a sometimes Republican candidate in Canyon County who often critiques the Idaho Republican establishment from the right, said on a Facebook post, “As I watched the election results unfold last night, I couldn’t help but think that if Barack Obama moved to Idaho, joined the Republican Party, and ran for office as a Republican.... he could get elected. Issues apparently don’t matter. Neither does anything else.”
Also on Facebook, a woman from Nampa (a Democrat) sent an open request to Republican friends: “Please name three (3) reasons you voted for Sherri Ybarra. I’m not being snarky. I genuinely want to know why you would pick Ms. Ybarra over Ms. (Jana) Jones. Serious answers only, please.”
She got about 90 replies, but from down the line Republicans . . . nothing.
Of the many apparently non-Republican respondents, a few said the election was “rigged,” which it was not, and others thought gerrymandering was involved, which it could not have been. One said, “I cannot find a Republican that will admit to voting for her.” But, evidently, a whole lot of them did.
Another: “My guess is that people who voted for her didn’t even know what she was running for. They saw the “R” beside her name and colored the circle in. I don’t think you will find an educated Republican who did vote for her.” And: “Based on what I heard said: 1) she’s Republican. 2) there is a black man in the White House (who wants to take my guns). 3) she’s ‘good looking’.”
A variation: “It simply was the ‘obama/bogeyman syndrome’ that many in Idaho believe. It started with the IACI labeling Mr. (A.J.) Balukoff as a ‘liberal’ and using that simplistic tactic in all the races. Ibarra with “D” in front of her name would have gotten less than 10 percent of the vote.”
How close to the truth did these latter comments come? Good question. They’re guesswork from outsiders speculating about the opposition camp.
One writer said she had a number of tea party friends who “are very vocal on their own feed. This thread may not feel safe for them. But holy jelly donut – stand up for what you believe in, otherwise it’s just a herd of lemmings talking to themselves in the mirror.”
So I’ll pitch a request here, to party-line Republican voters (others, please hold off): Send me a note, at the email address below, noting the main reason or two why you voted for Ybarra, Denney and Otter. Call it a public service. Idaho will be better off if the whole of the state has a clearer idea why its next round of elected leadership was chosen, and few majority voters are clearly explaining that now.
I’ll follow up next week.