Republican Trail won’t switch parties in face of closed primaries

At the end of the 2011 legislative session, House Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, stripped two committee chairmen of their posts and explained that the duo should have voted with leadership on procedural matters.

Even without the chairmanship and staring down a closed primary election next year that could ultimately mean his electoral demise, Rep. Tom Trail, R-Moscow, the former top man on the House Agricultural Committee, says he will not switch parties to save his legislative career.  “I’ve communicated that I will represent my constituents – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – under the flag of the Idaho Republican Party,” Trail

Trail, in the middle of his eighth term in the Legislature, indicated that the closed primary system – created this year after the Idaho GOP sued over the old system, claiming right of association – could mean that the Republicans lose his seat in District 6. “We have a unique constituency here in the district, obviously,” Trail explained, pointing to a large number of Democrats in the area thanks to the University of Idaho.  “It (the closed-primary) will make it tougher for moderate Republicans to get elected.”

Trail’s seat mate in Moscow, Democrat Rep. Shirley Ringo, told Thursday that she hadn’t spoken to Trail about switching parties and isn’t sure if that’s something she wants.

“I think it would be better for people like Tom to try to moderate the Republican Party because I’m not comfortable with where they have gone,” said Ringo, adding that she believes House leadership has worked to marginalize moderate members of the majority party.  “The actions of leadership have made it harder for moderate Republicans to function effectively.”

Ringo said that while re-districting set to take place this year could drastically alter the area’s legislative makeup, she believes that the new primary system could have a greater effect when it comes to Trail.

“Large numbers of people in my area have told me that they are Independent,” she explained.  She believes that if those unaffiliated – and more moderate – voters aren’t willing to register as Republicans, Trail could go down in electoral flames.  “I think that it (the closed primary) could dilute the ranks of moderates willing to do that,” she concluded.

One man who ran for the Senate as a Republican in Trail’s district in 2010 was Tea Party-backed Gresham Bouma.  Having some experience with Republican primaries, Bouma thinks Trail is in for a steep test in 2012. “There is a lot of the GOP base that is unhappy with his voting record,” Bouma said. “I kind of doubt he could survive a primary challenge.”

Bouma said that he’s heard some locals in the area have been pushing for Trail to switch parties but doesn’t anticipate that happening.  He has no plans to run against Trail.

For now, Trail will continue to focus on two issues that he has made his signature issues: medical marijuana and industrial hemp production.  He is researching federal legislation concerning the legalization of hemp and plans to track that issue in Congress.  He introduced a bill to legalize medical marijuana earlier this year, but it received only informational hearings and no formal vote.  He plans to bring the legislation back next year.


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About The Author

Dustin Hurst serves as the Communication Director for the Idaho Freedom Foundation. He graduated from Boise State in 2009. His work has been featured by Fox News, Townhall, Public Sector Inc., the Daily Caller, Reason, Human Events, the Spokesman Review and more. He and his wonderful wife Julia have two cute kids. The family resides in Middleton.


  1. Moderate or not, I’m sure many conservative Republicans ask themselves why must we get hemp from Canada and not grow it here in the States? The species used for hemp is not the same species used for drug purposes. Hemp is made of the high fiber species of cannabis and isn’t meant for drug purposes because of the high fiber content. As a result legalizing hemp doesn’t mean legalizing marijuana for those concerned about it.

    Most importantly hemp has many uses, rope, clothes, nutrition from the seeds, high in fiber, good source of amino acids, high in essential fatty acids, anti inflammatory, can be used for construction, and most importantly can be fermented to make bio diesel. Imagine that fuel from a plant that has high yields and one you hardly have to spray chemicals on, seems like a great idea when $5 gas comes around.

  2. Good article, Dustin.

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