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ID Democrats in Spotlight Ahead of Presidential Primary

As in other states in the West, support for Democrats increasingly comes from urban areas such as Boise, Idaho. (Kenneth Freeman/Flickr)
As in other states in the West, support for Democrats increasingly comes from urban areas such as Boise, Idaho. (Kenneth Freeman/Flickr)
March 9, 2020

BOISE, Idaho -- Idaho Democrats on Tuesday will help shape the presidential race.

But as the state's population explodes, it's unclear what role Democrats will play on a statewide level going forward.

Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont are in a tight race for the Democratic Party nomination and looking to pick up as many of Idaho's 20 delegates as they can.

In the 2016 caucuses, Sanders captured more than three-quarters of votes in Idaho.

Jaclyn Kettler, a political scientist at Boise State University, says results could be different this year because Idaho Democrats have moved from a caucus to primary system. She points to the caucuses' problems.

"Some of them had just incredibly long lines," she explains. "Some people couldn't actually stay to cast a vote in the caucus. So having the primary's going to open it up, make it much easier for people to participate."

The Republican and the Constitution parties also are holding primaries on Tuesday.

Idaho has been one of the nation's fastest-growing states over the past decade, and some Democratic Party officials are contemplating a bluer future for the state.

Democrats picked up three state House seats in 2018, which had a historic number of voters for midterm elections in Idaho.

But Kettler says Democrats' increases are in concentrated areas, and it's unclear if new Idahoans lean to the left or are split between left and right.

"There's, perhaps, some positive momentum, but it's been a very long time since there's been a statewide Democratic elected official," she states. "So, you know, while there has been some positive movement, it's still a very Republican state in terms of who's in office."

Republicans hold all the statewide offices in Idaho, as well as super majorities in the House and Senate.

The last Democratic governor was Cecil Andrus, whose second stint as governor lasted into the mid-1990s. A Democratic Party presidential candidate hasn't won Idaho since Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID