Oct 31 2008

ID: At the courthouse

Published by at 3:35 pm under Idaho

The Idaho Democratic Party sometimes has to grab on to whatever slices of good news it can find, even if the news doesn’t objective look all that great. (You do what you have to.) But this is of interest for non-obvious reasons:

A party article by Julie Fanselow highlighting county commission candidates around the state, “42 Idahoans running for county commission seats as Democrats this fall, an unusually high number.”

On one level, that’s an admission of a problem, since in any given general election year, 88 county commission seats are up for election in Idaho’s 44 counties. Democrats are contesting fewer than half of those seats; the rest will be snapped up by unopposed or virtually unopposed Republicans (apart from maybe one or two independents). And of the 42, just 15 are incumbents, an indication of how lightly represented Democrats are at the courthouses.

There is another way to look at this, though. Let’s run through recent election history and see how Democrats have done earlier this decade in Idaho county races.

bullet 2000. In this presidential year, when Democrats lost a number of relatively high-profile incumbents at the courthouses, the election record shows 39 Democratic candidates for commission seats. Of them, 12 – fewer than a third – won.

bullet 2002. A slightly more Democratic year, but not by much, saw Democrats nominating 36 candidates to the commission. That number was down a little, but their wins rose to 17, close to half.

bullet 2004. Another rough presidential year for Idaho Democrats, nominating just 31 for commission seats (a low in recent times). Still, 16 of them won, more than half this time.

bullet 2006. Democrats filled their candidate slate this time to 35 (again, out of 88 total seats). Not a great ballot presence, but the win-loss ratio was little noted: Democrats won 24 of those races, more than two-thirds.

There could be something of a pattern here.

These races are not all created equal. The Democrats in Benewah County, for example (where Democrats have held two or three of the commission seats for many decades), are simply a conservative group who have little to do with Couer d’Alene or Boise Democrats. (One of those Benewah Democrats is Republican Representative Bill Sali’s highest-profile Democratic endorser.) But taken as a whole, they’re a bit of an indicator.

How many seats do they win this time with 42 candidates? It’ll be another number to watch on Tuesday.

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