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If the tide rises

We’re still 25 days from election, but talk nationally continues along the line that a Democratic wave is coming. If so, what effect might that tide of blue have in kiln-dried red Idaho?

We’re inclined to think Idaho generally is one of the places where the impact will be relatively slight. But that doesn’t mean nonexistent. If the 1st district congressional race continues to close, for example, it might be enough to switch that seat Democratic. (It would take a high tide.)

In August, we listed 10 state legislative seats where the contests appeared competitive; those too could be affected. And among others, a correspondent suggests, let’s add a couple of state House seats in an unlikely place: Idaho Falls.

We’re talking about the House seats in District 33, which is central Idaho Falls – the most urban area in Idaho (along with central Nampa) that hasn’t demonstrated a substantial Democratic base. But even in central Nampa, you can find a significant number of Democratic voters, if not quite enough to elect someone to a legislative district. In District 33, the number has seemed to be just below that threshold. This year, there’s the possibility it may poke above.

The Republican House members here are Jack Barraclough, who’s been there for 14 years, and Russ Matthews, elected two years ago as a from-the-right challenger to Representative Lee Gagner. This part of Idaho Falls looks and feels not so different from parts of Boise’s North End or the upper Lewiston bench, and you have to wonder if the right kind of Democratic campaign might appeal there.

We may find out, as an article in the Idaho Falls Post Register (no link available) suggests. It notes that John McGimpsey, running against Matthews, has substantially out-raised Matthews, and (independently) we have heard he is substantially outworking him as well. Jerry Shiveley’s advantages against Barraclough in those categories are lesser, but he is a well-known figure in the area, a retired teacher whose students are voting. The Post Register: “Barraclough’s a successful campaigner, but Shively was an unusually popular music teacher at Skyline High School — and a proven vote-getter on the Idaho Falls School Board. Can a Democrat’s personal popularity trump Republican Party loyalty?”

Both have several issues at hand, notably the recent legislative special session on property taxes which, polls suggest, has not gone over well.

In an ordinary year, these races might be a footnote. This year, they are no slam dunks. But if you see the tide lifting them up on November 7, you’ll know it’s high indeed; it could get there.

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