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ACHD President Arnold ‘encouraged’ to run for Boise Mayor

Boise Mayoral Election

Right now, three people officially put their hat into the ring to run for Boise mayor – with two active campaigns.

But could another local politician join Dave Bieter and Lauren McLean in the race for Boise’s future?

Speculation that Ada County Highway District President Rebecca Arnold would run for the seat continues to work its way around local political circles. But an exchange on the BoiseDev Facebook group added fuel to the fire.

Arnold responded to a comment critical of current mayor Dave Bieter and spending priorities like a circulator and library.

Arnold weighed in, saying she agreed with the comment.

Then, things got interesting.

“Bieter and Clegg think they are invincible and will be re-elected…. probably will be re-elected unless we can turn out the vote ….”

That prompted Don Kostelec, a former Ada County Highway District employee who actively watches the agency closely to post video of fellow ACHD commissioner Sara Baker inadvertently addressing Arnold as “Madame Mayor” during a meeting earlier this month. (Baker once served on the Boise City Council). Baker quickly realized her apparent mistake and said “Madame President,” to laughs in the room.

Arnold quipped “I get a demotion (laughs)?”

Back on Facebook, Arnold replied to Kostelec’s video “That was funny Don Kostelec! I’ve made no commitments to run.”

I followed up with Arnold to ask her if she was planning to run for mayor.

“I’ve been asked and encouraged by a number of people (both Democrats and Republicans) to run for Mayor but I have made no commitments,” she wrote.

Arnold’s background

Arnold is the longest-serving member of the ACHD commission, first taking her seat in 2004. Over the years she sparred with Bieter on a number of issues – including this spring with a strongly-worded letter to the Capital City Development Corporation.

Arnold briefly filed to run in the Republican Lieutenant Governor primary last year before withdrawing. She told Betsy Russell an ill parent in Kentucky prompted the move to withdraw.

Arnold, an attorney, ran unsuccessfully for Fourth District Judge in 2014.

Along with her part-time role on the ACHD commission, Arnold works as general counsel for local developer WH Moore Company. Arnold and Moore live near each other in Boise, a fact that caught widespread attention last fall when ACHD initially moved to build a new bridge to their homes. The agency later canceled the bridge project after public scrutiny.

Entry could change race’s dynamics

In a long deep dive on the state of the race for Boise Mayor last month, BoiseDev noted that the filing deadline for mayor runs until September 6th. While coverage of the race so far centers on Bieter and McLean, Arnold’s entry could add a layer of unpredictability to the campaign.

While both Bieter and McLean started campaigning months ago, both lean to the political left. The voter-base in Boise is increasingly progressive, but Republicans still hold countywide offices as well as two Boise legislative districts.

Boise city code still includes a provision for a runoff if no candidate wins a majority of votes. If Arnold enters the race, it increases the likelihood that no candidate will hit that mark – setting up a second election in December with the top-two candidates. The three most-possible runoff matchups – Bieter vs. McLean, Bieter vs. Arnold or Arnold vs. McLean all present interesting dynamics.

Election day in Boise is Tuesday, November 5, 2019.

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