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ID: Watching for Tuesday

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Tuesday will be an election day in Idaho, but not a big election day. When the most interesting elections in the state are apt to be city council races, you know you’re scratching.

The top rank races in a sense will be mayoral. But Boise’s mayor isn’t up this year, and the next couple largest city mayors who are, aren’t especially controversial.

In Nampa, the second-largest city, there’s something of an interesting race, but there’s a problem: Mayor Tom Dale, running for a third term, appears to be generally popular and uncontroversial, and no one seems to have made a compelling case for why he should be fired (which is what any challenger to any incumbent has to do). Not only that, he has four challengers, who likely will split whatever opposition vote there is. One of them seems most worked up about traffic roundabouts. Another has drawn some interest for entirely different reasons: Melissa Sue Robinson, who has been a transgender activist, has gotten attention in large part because of that part of her background. If Dale doesn’t win decisively, something unusual is going on in Nampa.

In Pocatello, the third-largest city, Mayor Roger Chase also is after a third term. There seems little doubt he’ll get it; his one opponent is little-known.

Beyond that, top interest has gone to the Boise city council, where most of the candidates have divided into two generally clear groups: One close to or siding with a liberal/moderate council and mayor (David Bieter, previously a Democratic state representative), the other being a more or less conservative insurgency.

Three seats are up. Two are being defended by incumbents: Vern Bisterfeldt (a long-time local elected official, who has been elected in the past as a Republican) and Maryanne Jordan. The third seat is open, and is being sought by T.J. Thomson, who last year was one of Barack Obama’s main Idaho organizers. Thomson has endorsements from Bieter, Bisterfeldt and Jordan, among others. Loosely (very), this could be considered the Democratic side.

The other side is what amounts to the Republican slate: attorney David Lister for the open seat (against Thomson), Lucas Baumbach against Jordan and Daniel Dubham against Bisterfeldt. (A couple of other sliver candidates are also in the field, but outside the main equation.)

Some of the issues involved are parochial, notably a streetcar proposal which Bieter has been pushing and may be politically problematic. But the main candidates seem reasonably well defined, and many of the voters are likely to see them through a larger lens. Boise has been migrating toward a city with a slender Democratic majority, which suggests the incumbents and Thomson (who has run a massive and intensive campaign) have the edge. If it doesn’t turn out that way, some re-evaluation of Boise politics will be in order, because something significant will have changed.

We’ll know soon enough.

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