Many politicos love to scoff at the “Great State of Ada,” a left-leaning hotbed that just doesn’t see the world as the rest of Idaho does.
It’s a durable zinger, but a misleading one. Once again, on Tuesday, the residents of the two “Great States of Ada” dutifully cast their votes.
• Mitt Romney received 53.5 percent of the presidential vote in Ada County, compared to 64.5 percent statewide.
• Propositions 1, 2 and 3, the rejected K-12 overhaul pushed by state schools superintendent Tom Luna and Gov. Butch Otter, fared slightly worse in Ada County, with the no vote running at least 2.2 percent higher on all three laws.
• HJR 2, the amendment to designate hunting, fishing and trapping as constitutionally protected rights, received 66.3 percent backing in Ada County. The statewide tally was 73.4 percent.
Those countywide totals tell only part of the story. Dig deeper, and you see sharp differences between Boise and the rest of the state — and even between Boise and the rest of Ada County.
• In the 2nd Congressional District, encompassing much of Boise, Democrat Nicole LeFavour carried Ada County, at 52.4 percent. Elsewhere in this Eastern Idaho district, she pulled 27.9 percent of the vote, losing to GOP incumbent Mike Simpson. LeFavour is well-known in Ada County, having served Boise’s North End in the Legislature for eight years. Even factoring home-field advantage into the equation, the gap between her numbers is startling.
• Republican incumbent Raul Labrador got 64.8 percent of the vote in Ada County’s share of the 1st Congressional District, which includes Meridian, Eagle and Kuna. Like LeFavour, Labrador has Ada County roots; he represented the Eagle area in the Legislature. He fared better in Ada County Tuesday, but not by too much; elsewhere in the 1st District, Labrador rang up 62.3 percent of the vote en route to an easy re-election. In this race, Ada County voters were pretty much in line with the rest of a district running from the Owyhee Canyonlands to the deep forests of the Canadian border.
• Legislative District 18 again went all-Democrat, as South Boise voters ousted Sen. Mitch Toryanski and Julie Ellsworth, replacing them, respectively, with former House member Branden Durst and Janie Ward-Engelking. Consider this: Democrats hold only 20 seats in a 105-member Legislature. Twelve of those Democrats come from Boise and Garden City’s Districts 16, 17, 18 and 19.
• Elsewhere in Ada County, Republicans swept the legislative races. The GOP held West Boise’s District 15, although the margins suggest this is at least a competitive district. West Ada County remained reliably Republican, with GOP candidates rolled up landslide margins more or less in line with Canyon or Kootenai counties.
None of this is new. It’s merely reinforced by another election cycle. But here’s where it complicates matters, from a public policy perspective.
When the Legislature reconvenes in January — for the first session after redistricting — Ada County will have added numerical clout. Twenty-seven lawmakers will come from Ada County, up from 24. Another 12 lawmakers will come from Canyon County, up from 10 in 2012.
Theoretically, this should give Ada County and the Treasure Valley, increased power — but only if Republican and Democratic lawmakers can find ways to work together. And on Tuesday, 17 of Ada County’s 27 lawmakers won with better than a 60 percent majority, or ran unopposed. That doesn’t exactly give the winners a built-in incentive to collaborate.
These election results don’t render bipartisanship impossible — only difficult. Such is life in the Great States of Ada.