Election day this coming week is a big national event, truly one of the most significant of our time. (That’s often said, but unusually true on this occasion.)
Idaho specifically has some items on its ballot worth a close watch. Here are some I’ll be watching closely on Tuesday night, and probably writing about in the next few weeks.
Top of the line is Proposition 2, the Medicaid expansion ballot initiative. It will have national implications, and may rock Idaho specifically - and not only for the 70,000 or so people whose insurance would be most directly affected. It will be a signal for how Idaho might handle health care in other ways and for other populations. Its implications even could reach beyond health care, and into other areas of politics.
The vote on this Prop 2 is so potentially significant it could overshadow everything else, though the race to fill an open governor’s seat is, of course, no small potatoes. On that ballot line, I’ll be watching most closely how this current contest compares to the last two for the office, four and eight years ago.
Several statewide office races have become significantly active, but the other one drawing the most interest and where the outcome is least clear is for superintendent of public instruction. That is the one statewide office that has been persistently (not always) competitive between the two parties; was the last one held by a Democrat and one a Democrat came very close to winning in the very Republican year of 2014.
The Republican winner then, Sherri Ybarra, now is up against an unusually strong Democratic candidate Cindy Wilson, who has educational background and ties in all corners of the state, and some endorsements from sources unusual for a Democrat. I’ve heard regular comments to the effect that if just one major-office Democratic candidate wins this year, she’s probably that candidate.
This one deserves a close watch on Tuesday night.
Then there are a handful of heated legislative races.
There are two I’ll be checking with top interest: Senate District 5, and House A in District 15.
District 5 is centered in Latah and Benewah counties, and is closely competitive between the parties; its mostly Democratic area at Moscow is countered by most of the rural precincts around it. The district in this area often has supported centrist Republicans and Democrats alike, but now has as senator the hard-edged Dan Foreman, who has “for example” referred to Moscow as a “cesspool.” His opponent, David Nelson, is thought to have an edge. But the district’s dynamics mean this race may be close.
The District 15 House race is a case of perseverance: Democrat Steve Berch has been running for this seat, or a nearby one, for several cycles, losing the last several times to Republican Lynn Luker. In 2012 and 2014 he came within about two points of beating Luker, and in 2016 within about one point. More than a few people think 2018 may be the year he crosses the line, which could have big effects: If Democrats are ever to become a competitive party in Idaho, the Boise suburbs - and District 15 specifically - is where that would almost have to begin.
Beyond those, kept watch on legislative races in Lewiston (District 6), Twin Falls (District 24) and Pocatello (District 29).
Of course, it’ll never hurt to scan up and down the list. There are always surprises.