In the cities

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Idaho

With candidate filing for Idaho cities now done, it’s time to take a look at which races might carry some useful lessons come November.

The largest Idaho city with a mayoral contest, Nampa, shouldn’t be much of a firefight; Tom Dale, mayor for three terms, seems likely to move into his fourth (over three opponents). But one is a city council member, there’s a dispute over taxes, and this could turn into a fight over tax levels. If Dale runs into trouble, that may be why.

The next largest city, Pocatello, could be more interesting, though probably not. The 2009 mayoral came up with a surprise when veteran Mayor and former legislator Roger Chase lost to a little-known challenger, Brian Blad. Blad has not exactly been a major force in the Gate City, but he hasn’t stirred great controversy either. Chase has filed for a re-match, which could mean a hot contest for November. But Chase is said to have not to be getting a lot of traction. And there’s this: Incumbents on the ballot usually are helped by multiple opposing candidates – in the Pocatello mayoral, there are three. So it wouldn’t be a shock to see Blad get 50 percent of the vote, and avoid a runoff. If Chase does force him into a runoff, no bets will be accepted.

Idaho Falls and Coeur d’Alene are the largest cities with open mayoral seats – incumbents in each not seeking re-election – but they’re likely to be very different situations.

Idaho Falls city politics traditionally is low-key, involving long-time city hall people. The first election of current mayor Jared Fuhriman in 2005 was a surprise because he was relatively little-known and his opponent was a veteran and well-known county commissioner. Four candidates are running this time, one (Sharon Parry) a council member. Will an outsider prevail again?

If Idaho Falls is likely to be quiet and civil, Coeur d’Alene may rock and roll. Mayor Sandi Bloem is wrapping up her third term, the longest-serving mayor in Coeur d’Alene history – an indicator of the rapid rotation in the Lake City (a contrast from, say, Idaho Falls). She has played an outsized role in the city over the last decade, so the contest to replace her may be outsized.

But the bigger factor in Coeur d’Alene is ideology. Bloem has been on the moderate side, but battles between moderates and the hard-core Kootenai Republican organizations (which take little notice of the fact that city offices are non-partisan) have been ongoing for years. Bloem and three council members beat a fierce recall attempt only last year, and the nerves are still raw. The issue – the surface issue – was over renovation of the city’s McEuen Park, but the real disagreements are broader. McEuen is back as a campaign issue, but the core disputes run much deeper.

In Meridian, where four council seats are up and all are contested, they have ideological and growth elements attached as well.
One of the quietest larger cities is Boise. (Mayor David Bieter was elected in 2011 to a third term and will have to decide next year whether to run for a fourth, which would break a Boise record.)

In Boise, three council seats are open, and all are contested. The most interesting campaign may be one for the seat now held by T.J. Thomson: Challenger Bill Jarocki, who’s been a consultant for many local governments for some years, also was once an executive director of the state cities association.

He may have a few things to say about city politics around the state this year.

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