Irked at what they believe is Democrats interfering in their primary elections, state Republican Party delegates on Saturday called for closing their primaries and allowing only registered Republicans to vote in them. Delegates also voted to support a second measure calling for quick runoff elections in general elections between the two candidates with the most votes. Runoffs would take place if no one in the general election won the majority of the votes. Neither resolution will take effect unless the Legislature passes laws to implement them or a court orders them. They simply reflect the viewpoints of a majority of the 207 convention Republican delegates present. The resolution for a closed Republican primary sparked a debate.
Matthew Monforton, a Bozeman attorney and House candidate, said 35 states have closed primaries.
“If we want to remain the party of Lincoln and Reagan and not the party of the teachers’ unions, we need to follow suit,” he said.
State Rep. Jeff Welborn of Dillon opposed the call for closed Republican primaries.
“We have been here for two days. We have talked about unifying our party. This is a minority maker,” Welborn said.
Some delegates said they had received calls from local Republicans opposing closed primaries and saying they would not register as Republicans if closed primaries are adopted.