The primary election provided some close races, some surprising results (at least for some) and some lessons for us to take for the future. My fearless forecasts turned out to be twelve correct out of fifteen races for 80%. That is much higher than my basketball shooting percentage and better than my NCAA basketball pools. It is also much better than the Statesman endorsement record though they were choosing who they thought SHOULD win while I chose who I thought WOULD win.
For the state legislature in Canyon County, I was only one for three. Pat Takasugi beat Curtis Bowers by over 500 votes in a race that wasn’t really close. I think I was taken in by Bowers’ support around Caldwell as compared to the rural areas and underestimated the distain many in the district had for Bowers’ views and written opinions. District 10 is a more moderate district than one would believe at first glance based upon the candidates who get elected from here (e.g. McGee, Bolz, Ring). In the other wrong prediction, I let my heart win over my head. I guess I just wanted my former student Roberto Olvera to win. I did write that race was my long shot prediction and he was endorsed by the Press Tribune and Statesman.
In Ada County, I only missed one state legislative race: Julie Ellsworth beat Gail Hartnett. I just got caught up with what I had been hearing from some voters in the area and not using my senses. Name recognition, which I have mentioned before, will usually win out in any race. Since Ellsworth has represented the district in the past, she was better known by the voters. Her race in November against Brandon Durst should be very interesting and too close to call now. I think Durst is better off running against Ellsworth in November. Chuck Winder won in District 14 for a bit of an upset though in line with my predictions. I got all of the county races correct (including Kathy Alder in Canyon which wasn’t expected by many) and the larger races including Horton (boy, that was close), Risch and Sali (OK, they were easy though at least one “analyst” thought Salisbury had a chance based upon a poll that had 41% undecided).
Gov. Otter went two and two with his appointments with McKague and Horton winning but Bowers and Thomas, in District 9, losing. The College of Idaho also had a mixed evening with alumni John Bujak, Pat Takasugi, and Chuck Winder winning (John McGee was unopposed) but Olvera, Scott Syme, and Diana Thomas losing. Outside the Treasure Valley, former C of I student John Reuter lost in his bid for commissioner in Bonner County. Deborah Holmes, who won the Democratic primary for the 2nd CD, has a son currently at the College.
So, what can we learn? Incumbents usually win. Duh? The advantage of incumbency, which is translated into name recognition and the ability to raise money, is a very difficult hurdle to overcome. The only incumbents to lose were Dave Young (incredible baggage), Thomas and Bowers (who were appointed) and Stan Bastian and John Vander Woude (both in their first terms in that position). The Democrats will have to work very hard just to hold onto their gains from 2006. If the Democrats do not lose seats in the state legislature, they should declare victory. The Governor has short coat-tails. Being appointed and/or supported by the Governor does not guarantee victory. Moderate candidates do not do well in elections with low turnout. If the general election in November has high turnout, some of the more extreme nominees could lose.
These elections were tiresome at times, included some rough tactics and were often more personality-based than policy-based. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, this is the worst means for choosing our leaders, except for all of the other systems.
Dr. Jasper M. LiCalzi
Department of Political Economy
The College of Idaho