Editor's Note: Emily Anderson, a Junior at Boise State, is interning with the Boise Weekly editorial team this summer. We asked her to bring her unique insights as a student to join our news team on primary night.
Inside the Tamarack ballroom at Boise's Riverside Hotel, the GOP Primary Night party kicked off with a somewhat sleepy start. In fact, the campaign posters of Rep. Raul Labrador, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, and other, less high-profile Republican candidates plastering the walls outnumbered attendees well past 7 p.m., when the rally began. Is was not until 8:30 p.m. that some of the big wigs (including Labrador, Luna and Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter) and their supporters began to soothe the boredom (and empty pockets) of bartenders catering the event.
In the meantime I spent my time chatting with a robust cheery-faced fellow, Gordon Browning, who was one the early bird candidates to show up at the event. Earlier in the day, after an afternoon nap, he escaped the “honey-dos,” or house chores, his politically-unenthusiastic wife had in mind for him. In fact, Browning said that his wife was one of many Idahoans who chose not to vote on Tuesday. When asked if he thought the poor voter turnout might have been influenced by the fact that this year Republicans created a potentially confusing closed election, he shook his head briefly and noted, “she didn’t mind that.” Neither did he.
Even when Idaho First Lady Lori Otter ordered a fizzing beverage from the bar, she remarked on the low turnout.
“They said this was the lowest turnout at the polls since 1988,” said Otter.
She speculated that people were "probably just feeling campaign fatigue" and that many were more focused on the presidential campaign, as witnessed by the significant turnout at this year’s Idaho GOP Caucuses at Taco Bell Arena.
But not everyone was fatigued by Idaho campaigning. Walking down the halls at the Riverside, I came upon Tom Luna’s quietly advertised hospitality suite, featuring a full spread of veggies, droopy chilled cocktail shrimp, and taquitos. As soon as Luna’s gaggle of supporters learned I was from Boise Weekly, one balding man piped up, “Try the taquitos. They’re homemade from Luna’s mother sitting over there.” He gestured his finger toward an elderly women affixed to a television screen in the hotel room. “She just had knee surgery, too,” the stranger added. Luna, who was standing by the door to the room, nodded in agreement.
By the end of the evening, Republican Party leaders, who still hold the lion's share of seats in the Idaho Statehouse, gave off an extremely casual and confident persona from their “fashionably late” attendance to their overall outlook toward the event, captured in Lori Otter’s statement, “Tonight, some people are gonna win and some people are gonna lose.”