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Democrats' failure to recruit this year

Seriously, I should have done more. It may not have made a difference. Others tried; there’s no reason to think I could’ve done better.

But the 15,000 Democrats and 12,500 unaffiliated voters in legislative Districts 12 and 13 deserve to vote for their representatives. How could we Democrats not find any candidates in Idaho’s third largest city? It’s bad enough that none of us in 2C get a say on county offices this fall, but legislative contests involve only one-fifth that vote.

Now, thanks to an article by Betsy Z. Russell in the Aug. 14 Idaho Press, we’re aware we don’t just have six uncontested seats in Districts 12 and 13; we have five uncontested “open seats,” i.e, opportunities where there are no incumbents with the advantages of name familiarity, well-practiced political speech, and generous financial support from lobbyists and corporations. Such opportunities are usually few and far between.

And, statewide, Democrats failed to file for 29 open seats.

Although District 13 had only seven Democratic candidates in the 15 legislative contests from 2012 to 2020, they always had at least one. District 12 Democrats managed to contest 13 of those 15 races.

Why the big drop this year?

The fact Democratic candidates can be qualified and hard working and still only get 30 to 45% of the vote plays a part. Yet, many of us understand that running makes a difference even if a candidate doesn’t win. Candidates can run to give voters a choice, to air important issues, and to let the winning candidate know he or she doesn’t have 100% support. Incumbents who rack up repeated 100% wins are apt to believe everyone in the district agrees with whatever they do


But that didn’t change this year.

Perhaps schools cutting hours during COVID increased parents' childcare duties? Or the worker shortage made it possible for more workers to find jobs that are more fulfilling or carry more responsibility. Qualified Democrats often plan to run after they retire.

Personally, I think Democrats need big meetings to energize people. Fourteen hundred Democrats attended the presidential caucus in 2008; 1700 in 2016. It’s easy to believe that a group of that size can make a difference. Yet, no caucus could have managed the 17 candidates or the 8500 voters of Canyon County’s 2020 Democratic primary.

The most probable reason for the failure to recruit is the increasing disrespect and rudeness toward those in public service. A Facebook friend posted, “Who in their right mind would want to be an educator when the public is being encouraged to attack and stigmatize everything they say or do.”

We can substitute political candidates and members of boards–school, health, library, etc.-- for the word “educator.” And the threats often extend to individuals’ families.

Unfortunately, moderate Republicans are also under attack and, apparently, finding it harder to recruit strong candidates.

Here’s where I should present a solution–but I don’t have one. As long as voters admire bullying, bullies will thrive in politics. Somewhere along the way, too many of us started interpreting aggression as strength. A Republican faction actually admires Putin.

It would be a little more democratic, however, to require a runoff election when no one in a legislative primary gets 50% of the vote. It’s tragic–and undemocratic–that crowded Republican primaries make it possible to win with only a fraction of the primary vote.

The winner is often from the faction that has the least candidates. That is, with two extremists and three moderates running, the extremist is most apt to win.

I’d hope a majority of Republicans would support a change.

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