Primary 2012: Write-In Candidate James Mace Secures Ballot Spot

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At least one Democrat broke into a happy dance after Tuesday's primary races. Many toasted in celebration. And a few were angry.

Some Democratic Party loyalists felt a twinge of a wild mood swing Tuesday night, knowing that not every one of the tribe members voted in an election that saw a slew of Democratic winners.

“We have no losers in the Democratic Party. We are all winners,” more than one blue camp loyalist said Tuesday night.

Democrats welcomed handfuls of so-called "recovering Republicans" to the party and cheered vows to keep Idaho from looking a little too red.

“Idaho is too red. Schools are in the red. Workers are in the red,” First District Congressional Democratic candidate Jimmy Farris said. “Our campaign is all about getting Idaho out of the red.”

Anna Marie Rhodes considered herself a happy blue girl in a red state Tuesday night. She found plenty of company and a number of reasons to volunteer for the Buckner-Webb and LeFavour campaigns. Environmental sustainability, equality and civil liberties topped Rhodes' laundry list.

“Being part of their success is important to me,” Rhodes said.

A first sign of success came at 9:43 p.m. A tally of just a handful of votes had campaign manager Lisa Perry calling victory. The count of mostly absentee votes showed that her candidate, District 20 Democratic Senate hopeful James Mace, had secured all the write-in votes he needed to make it onto the November ballot.

“I’m dancing! Fifty-five votes so far!” Perry shouted across party headquarters at Beside Bardenay’s banquet hall. Mace only needed 50 of those votes to go head-to-head against Boise Republican incumbent Sen. Chuck Winder in November.

But the night left some wondering if the final tally might have looked a little different had the GOP not insisted on a closed primary.

“We are concerned that a lot of people left the polls without casting a vote,” Boise Democrat Rep. Cherie Buckner-Webb said.

The closed primary forced voters to align with a party and register as Democrat, Republican or unaffiliated so that only Republicans could vote Republican in the election. The closed primary, in theory, keeps Democrats from crossing over and sabotaging the Republican frontrunner with a vote for the GOP underdog, but plenty of Democrats reported changing party affiliation at the polls for the moment. Others, however, left their precincts without even casting a vote when they found out that what team you pick isn’t exactly a secret. It’s part of the public record.

“It’s pretty bad because people are refusing to vote. I reached out to a lot of people and found many people who wanted to keep their vote private,” Boise Democrat Rep. Sue Chew said. “There’s a lot of anger right now from people who didn’t feel like their vote was heard. But they’ll be out in November.”