Voters line up at the Robert E. Smylie Building in east Boise Tuesday. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

NEWS ANALYSIS

For the first time in its history, Ada County can be described as firmly blue.

Turnout in Idaho’s most populous boomed, with more than 192,000 ballots cast – an astounding 47% growth from the 2014 election, and just 10,000 fewer ballots from the presidential election two years ago. That means 78.2% of registered voters cast a ballot, according to Ada County Clerk.

Blue wave in 1A

And while the races and candidates are very different, comparing the Trump/Clinton presidential race of 2016 and the Little/Jordan gubernatorial contest of 2018 provides a litmus test on the county’s overall politics of the moment.

Donald Trump won the county by 9 points over Hilary Clinton – 48% to 39%. But while losing the race statewide by a large margin, democrat Paulette Jordan edged out Republican Brad Little by 1% or just more than 2,000 votes.

Jordan won much of the City of Boise, growing the blue zone beyond the north and east ends – taking over much of the Boise Bench.

In District 15, Republican incumbents Lynn Luker and Patrick McDonald lost their house seats to Democrats Steve Berch and Jake Ellis – turning this West Ada County district solidly blue.

Women take the night

The national trend has seen a marked increase in female candidates running for, and winning political office, with more than 100 women in the US congress for the first time,  and the local trend matched.

Political newcomer Diana Lachiondo, a Democrat, turned away veteran incumbent Jim Tibbs to take a seat on the Ada County Commission. 

Another newcomer, Kendra Kenyon, also a Democrat, beat perennial candidate Sharon Ullman to snag the other open commission seat.

Elizabeth Mahn, a Republican, handily beat Democrat Scott Jones for Ada County Treasurer.

Political unknown Mary May beat incumbent Ada County Highway District Commissioner Paul Woods.

Molly Lenty won in a three-way race to join the CWI Board of Commissioners.

Raising taxes: not this time

Ada County voters said no to an increase in taxes on vehicle registration by nearly 7 points. The ballot initiative would have increased the current county tax on your car from $40 per year to $70 per year. An Idaho Statesman story in the closing days before the election reported the measure was backed by a coalition of developers and the local trade group for real estate agents. ACHD argued it needed the cash infusion to keep up with infrastructure needs driven by growth – but primarily focused those efforts and promotion on auto-centric transportation modes.

Ada and Canyon voters also had the chance to approve a $39-million levy to build a new health sciences building in Canyon County. To win, the initiative had to snag a 55% supermajority.

Despite the building being planned for Canyon County, Ada voters approved it by 56.7%. But folks who went to the polls in Canyon voted against the levy. When combined, the levy passes by less than a quarter of a percentage point (55.0233%) in unofficial results.

UPDATE: With additional vote totals in, the levy fails by 144 votes.

Path to local option?

Boise Mayor David Bieter said in his State of the City address earlier this year that he was hopeful voters would give the thumbs up to an initiative to approve slot machine-like devices at horse racing tracks around the state. The so-called Historical Horse Racing initiative was endorsed by both Bieter and Republican Governor C. L. Butch Otter but failed to muster the support of voters statewide, failing by nearly eight points.

Bieter’s thinking was that if the gambling issue got the support of voters it could provide a path and template to run a statewide vote to give individual areas the option to raise their own taxes. In the Boise area, Bieter hopes a local option tax could put funds toward transit.

A separate proposition to expand Medicaid in Idaho passed overwhelmingly statewide, by more than 20 points.

Heading into the muncipal election

Candidates backed by Bieter faced a mixed-bag. Lachiondo currently serves on the mayor’s staff and will move into new digs at the Ada County courthouse.

But on the Ada County Highway District, the Bieter-endorsed candidate, Woods, lost to May. May told the Idaho Statesman she was in favor of wider roads, the tax increase and better working relationships with other county governments.

Kenyon & Lachiondo were the beneficiaries of a $55,000 Democrat buy from a PAC from the Conservation Voters of Idaho that went to TV ads in final days.

Voters in the cities of Ada County will head to the polls to elect new mayors next November. Bieter has signaled he plans to run for an unprecedented fifth term, while Meridian Mayor Tammy de Weerd has also indicated she will consider running for reelection.

3 COMMENTS

    • It’s definitely a subjective term. Overall more folks voted for Democratic candidates than Republicans for the first time in memory – and numerous Republican seats flipped. It’s a bit out of the recent pattern.

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