Like I Was Saying

Primary Importance

There is a lot to dislike about presumptive nominees for president

Just when you thought our nearly last-in-the-nation primary may make a difference in the presidential election, and candidates would soon be campaigning across our state in hopes of adding to their delegate haul, Indiana happened.

On April 28, the press office for GOP nominee Ted Cruz sent out an email to Montana’s media offering interviews of those supporting Cruz’s bid. The list included family members (Ted Cruz’s dad), authors (David Limbaugh, who is also Rush Limbaugh’s brother), and politicians (Iowa Congressman Steve King) and family members of former politicians (Neil Bush, the brother of George W. and Jeb).

On May 3, Donald Trump crushed Cruz in Indiana’s winner-take-all primary by 16 percentage points. That night, Cruz, a Texas senator, dropped out. John Kasich, the Ohio governor, followed suit the next day. The GOP primary is over.

On the Democratic side, Sen. Bernie Sanders beat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton 53 to 47 percent in the Hoosier State. The problem for Sanders is all the Democratic primaries award delegates proportionately and time is running out to overcome Clinton’s sizable lead. Nonetheless, Sanders has vowed to continue to the convention and is campaigning this week in Montana.

Montana votes on June 7, so does delegate-rich California and New Jersey along with three other states. A lot has changed since pundits predicted these primaries could make a difference.

Perhaps it’s best we avoided much of the circus. Imagine the media scrum following a Trump rally at one of our local airports. Imagine the headlines: “Candidates Trade Insults in the Last Best Place.”

Still, it’s unfortunate if the presidential campaign winding down saps Montanans’ energy to cast a vote in the primary. There are plenty of contested races with high stakes across the state, including locally in Senate District 3 and House District 11. Republican County Commissioner Pam Holmquist is also facing a challenger.

It’s easy to get caught up in the theatrics of the presidential race with its wall-to-wall coverage. It’s also easy to forget that local elections can affect your life in more tangible ways.

For instance, last week’s school levy votes determined how much property owners will pay in taxes in several communities. Whitefish and Marion rejected those requests. Creston and Libby approved them. Many of the votes were incredibly close.

The Marion levy failed by seven votes and Whitefish’s elementary levy by 27. Those passed in Creston and Libby eked out victories, by 27 and 48 votes respectively. Whether you agree with the results, it’s hard to argue your vote wouldn’t matter in these elections. Nonetheless, school bonds notoriously struggle to draw voters. In Whitefish, for example, just 16 percent of those eligible cast a ballot.

There is a lot to dislike about presumptive nominees for president. In fact, according FiveThirtyEight, “Clinton and Trump are both more strongly disliked than any nominee at this point in the past 10 presidential cycles,” or the last 40 years. Clinton’s average “strongly unfavorable” rating was 37 percent from late March to late April. Trump’s was 53 percent.

A few voters insist, based on their choices, they won’t cast a vote for either candidate. That happens, to a degree, every presidential election cycle and most of them will likely fall in line with their respective parties. But if you have the urge to leave that part of the ballot blank, have peace of mind knowing that your other votes, for those candidates and on those issues closer to home, matter just as much if not more.