A few preliminary thoughts about the highly nationalized election in Idaho, which was evidently less nationalized in Idaho than in many other places.
Generally, you can divide the Idaho results into big picture and granular, and the picture looks a bit different from those differing perspectives.
Big picture, not a lot changed. For major offices, Republicans won across the board as they normally have. For governor, Republican Brad Little stopped just short of 60%, which is in the ballpark of his predecessor’s recent results.
The race where Democrats had the best shot, for superintendent of public instruction, fell just about where their experience from four years ago, against the same Republican opponent, would suggest – close but still short of the majority they need. In 2014 what became apparent was that a Republican firewall of just about, or just over, 50% of the vote had been put in place, and on a statewide level that seems to be pretty much still in place.
The state legislature’s partisan numbers will not change greatly. There were not many flips in legislative seats. The next Idaho Legislature will look and act a lot like the last one.
That’s the big partisan picture. Shift the lens a little, and you also see some other things.
The biggest was the passage of Proposition 2, Medicaid expansion, and not barely but by a landslide. The same voters overwhelmingly supported Medicaid expansion and a whole lot legislators who do not. There’s a significant dissonance here, and I’ll return to that soon.
The other important development – and it will merit a separate column too – concerns legislative District 15, in western Ada County.
I’ve argued for years that the path, if there is one, to expanding Democratic party opportunities in Idaho, is in the Ada County and Canyon County suburbs. Nationally, shifts in those suburbs are what allowed Democrats to take over the U.S. House. In Idaho, ground zero for that development is District 15, adjacent to the Boise legislative districts that have become solidly Democratic. Up to now, District 15 has seen a series of increasingly close legislative races, but Republicans have held on, election after election.
Until now. On Tuesday, the two House seats in 15 flipped from Republican to Democratic, and the Senate seat is hanging by a margin of six votes. (A recount probably is in the cards there.) For the first time since Idaho’s current political environment started to lock in around 1992, the suburban wall has been breached.
Whether that will be pushed back or expanded upon is for future elections to say. But an important transition occurred there.
The 2018 election was not politically important for big, immediate, sweeping changes in the state’s politics. But it may have laid some groundwork.
More on these point to come …