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For the week of Mar. 1 through Mar. 7, 2000

Super Tuesday, super showdown for the nomination

Caucuses prevent crossover voters, Democrats say

Express Staff Writer

Amid widespread belief that complex contest rules for presidential nominations have made for a so-far unpredictable race, Idaho Democrats tout their caucus system as authentically representing their party’s point of view, while Idaho Republicans stand by their primary system as simple and to the point.

In Idaho, the Republican primary is set for May 23, and Democratic caucuses in 44 Idaho counties are scheduled for the March 7 Super Tuesday, an important date nationwide when 15 states hold contests that could foretell final party presidential nominations later this summer.

A major issue for both parties are the high number of cross-over voters—or "Reagan Democrats," depending on your outlook—who many say drastically affect the nominating process in states, such as Idaho, where the Republican party counts votes cast by the opposition.

During an interview last week in Ketchum, Blaine County Democratic Party Chairperson Sally Donart said she believes as much as 18 percent of the people who have voted in state primaries so far for Sen. John McCain of Arizona, one of two Republican front-runners, were in fact not Republican.

Donart, who is organizing Blaine County’s caucus in Hailey, during which local Democrats select seven delegates to attend the June 22 state convention in Caldwell, said, "I think each of the parties should represent their own people."

Given that McCain could be a more difficult opponent than George W. Bush of Texas for a Democratic candidate to beat, Donart suggested cross-over voters during primaries may be trying to influence the Republican nomination process to favor Bush.

Donart said she believes those voters will again flip-flop for the November general election and vote Democratic.

Cheryl Miller, executive director for the Idaho Republican party, however, rejects that idea, saying those Democrats are fed up with sleazy government.
"There was a new phrase coined in 1980," Miller said during a telephone interview from her office in Boise, —‘Reagan Democrats.’ Those people are probably voting in the Republican primaries and are probably going to continue to vote Republican."

Either way, state and local Democrats stand by caucuses as a "grassroots" system that truly represents the values of their party.

The caucus process of meeting like-minded people face to face, Donart said, creates delegates who are "bound by party tradition" to carry the local message to the national level.

Because potential delegates will be asked to sign a declaration of their party affiliation and candidate choice on Tuesday, and agree to have that affiliation published in newspapers, Donart said, there is little chance of committed delegates changing their minds somewhere down the road.

After the ratios for each candidate have been determined early Tuesday night, sub-caucuses for Gore, Bradley or uncommitted proceed to elect their share of delegates for the state convention.

Donart encouraged any Idaho Democrat, who is an Idaho citizen at least 18 years old by Nov. 7, to participate in the Blaine County caucus, which she said most people find "energizing."

The caucus is scheduled for March 7, at the Blaine County Senior Center, 721 S. 3rd Avenue in Hailey.

Participants must arrive before 7:30 p.m. when the doors will be barred according to caucus rules.

For more information, call Sally Donart at 726-5808.

Super Tuesday; what's at stake for Presidential candidates on March 7


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