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Posts published in “Day: December 3, 2006”

Vacant bench

No doubt you can find similar cases elsewhere, but here's something striking about politics in Idaho's counties these days: That is, the absence of it.

unopposed county offices
Dark green - all partisan offices unopposed; light green - just one partisan office contest

By which we mean: So many seats to be held by partisan elected officials, and so many unopposed candidates for them.

This year, counties typically had six seats up for election: two for the commission, plus clerk, treasurer, assessor and coroner. (Local vacancies or appointments vary the number slightly in some places, but generally Idaho's 44 counties had about partisan 264 seats, all of them (at least on initial read-through) won by either of a Republican or a Democrat. But in 14 counties, only one person filed for each of those seats - about a third of all Idaho counties. (We're excluding last-minute write-ins.) And in another 12 counties, of the six or sometimes seven partisan races, only one was contested.

That means only a little over a third of Idaho counties had a genuinely contested set of elections for courthouse offices this year (in many cases, just two or three seats contested).

There are a lot of implications for this. Here's one: That's not a way for parties to build their "bench," their farm team of candidates who will one day run for higher offices. Here's another" No one has a real motivation to provide serious oversight at all those courthouses.