Primary Call

Will primary races get out the vote?


For politicos around the state, May 27 is like the circus coming to town.

For weeks, the hype has been building around the primary election, but political observers are wondering if it's enough to interest a typically apathetic voting population.

John Freemuth, political science professor at Boise State, said it's hard to anticipate voter turnout in any election, let alone a primary. Even the national attention brought by the race for the Democratic presidential nomination may not be enough to get voters out.

"The electorate is getting revved up for the general [election]," Freemuth said. "We're watching for signals, but we don't know."

Stephanie Witt, director of the Public Policy Institute at Boise State, said she worries about turnout for any election falling the day after the Memorial Day holiday.

Of course, voter turnout probably won't be helped any by a misprinted flier sent out to 185,000 voters in Ada County. The flier, outlining the county's new optical scan voting machines, switched State Legislative and Congressional district numbers.

When it comes to races, Freemuth, like many others, will be closing watching the battle between Republicans Nancy Merrill, former mayor of Eagle, and House Majority Leader Mike Moyle.

Moyle, a five-term incumbent from District 14, was running unopposed until Merrill announced she was running as a write-in candidate (BW, News Shorts, "Don't Write Her Off," May 14, 2008).

Merrill has launched a 15-day all-out-blitz, trying to keep her name fresh in voters' minds and buck the low success rate of write-in candidates.

"If she should win, it would send some interesting shock waves," Freemuth said.

He will also be watching some of the races where big-name Republican candidates are expected to dominate—especially Lt. Gov. Jim Risch's race for the U.S. Senate. If Risch fails to trounce his competition, it could show some dissatisfaction within the Republican Party.

The Republicans will also be duking it out at the county level with Steven Kimball, Jay Larsen and Sharon Ullman, all of whom are vying for the party's First District nomination in Ada County.

Former county commissioner Ullman said she's running because she feels the county's budget needs work. Ullman served one term on the commission before being defeated in the primaries in 2002.

Kimball, a roofer by trade, said he'll continue to focus on growth. He defeated former commissioner Judy Peavey-Derr in the 2006 primaries, but lost the seat to Commissioner Paul Woods.

Other races to watch include the District 14 Senate race, where incumbent Sen. Stan Bastian will be facing a strong challenge from former Ada County Highway District Commissioner Chuck Winder and Eagle mayoral candidate Saundra McDavid.

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