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Idaho's 2024 presidential primary could move from March to May

Courtesy State of Idaho

A Senate committee follows the lead of the House in voting to consolidate Idaho's presidential primary with its regular primary election the third week of May.

In the years 2016 and 2020, Idaho held its Republican and Democratic Party presidential primary elections in March. In 2024, the state may push that date back to the third week in May.

For the past two presidential elections, Idaho joined the legion of states holding early primaries, hoping to lure candidates out West and put issues such as water and agriculture on their radar screens.

“Unfortunately, what we have seen over the past two cycles is we haven’t had the candidates coming to Idaho like we had anticipated. We still just don’t have the delegate counts in the major political parties to draw," Secretary of State Phil McGrane told members of the Idaho Senate State Affairs Committee on Friday.

McGrane concluded Idaho could save more than $2.5 million by consolidating its presidential primary with the state’s traditional third-week-in-May state primary.

At the committee hearing, that idea drew protests from Idaho Republican Party Executive Director Kiira Turnbow.

“What is certain is that moving the primary back will prevent Idaho from obtaining any of the advantages that other early nominating states currently receive," she said.

"For example, South Carolina, a primary state that holds its contest just a few weeks before Idaho’s current date in March, estimates that it has obtained several billion dollars in enhanced revenue for its hospitality and tourism sector," Turnbow said.

She and other Republican Party officials, including Kootenai County's Brent Regan, said they want the earlier date so that Idaho can have more influence in choosing the GOP nominee. Furthermore, they say they should decide the date of their primary, not the legislature. That brought this response from Boise Republican Senator Chuck Winder.

“I think the party has the right to establish any date it wants and they have the right to set their own rules if they want. But I don’t know that the public has the obligation to pay for that process of selecting for a private party that’s becoming much more restrictive," he said.

Turnbow asked the committee to delay its vote to push back the primary until they could decide their next step.

One of those steps, Winder suggested, could be the party choosing to finance the election, therefore allowing it to pick its own date. He said he’s dismayed about his party’s direction, saying its recent trend is to become an exclusionary, rather than inclusive, party.

The committee chose not to delay its vote and moved the election consolidation bill to the full Senate. The House has already approved it by a 61-to-six vote.

Doug Nadvornick has spent most of his 30+-year radio career at Spokane Public Radio and filled a variety of positions. He is currently the program director and news director. Through the years, he has also been the local Morning Edition and All Things Considered host (not at the same time). He served as the Inland Northwest correspondent for the Northwest News Network, based in Coeur d’Alene. He created the original program grid for KSFC. He has also served for several years as a board member for Public Media Journalists Association. During his years away from SPR, he worked at The Pacific Northwest Inlander, Washington State University in Spokane and KXLY Radio.