Elections: Close state races

by Judy Ferro

Got the election spirit yet?

The debates are over except for an Oct. 30 meeting of candidates for lieutenant governor.  (You can still view them at the IDPTV and KTVB websites.)

The Idaho Press-Tribune has published the first segment of candidate answers to a wide range of questions.

A flood of TV ads and postcards are delivering candidate messages.

Early voters are lining up to fill in the dots at the Elections Office.

Callers and door-knockers are talking to voters, answering questions about candidates, and offering rides to the polls.

And this week legislative candidates will be squaring off in person at forums on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.

At times like this—when volunteers are out in force and candidates are pushing their limits—it’s easy for me to imagine big Democratic victories.  In the spring I remind myself what the odds are and vow not to get too optimistic, but by September I can’t help myself.  I’m like the kid who never quits believing she’ll get a pony next Christmas.

So, when a poll was released last week showing Democrats could possibly win three of the six state races, I was saying “just three?” while much of the nation was saying “Idaho?”  (With our low population and one-party history, Idaho politics usually gets attention only when things get weird; e.g., five versions of the Republican primary gubernatorial debate last spring have gotten a combined one million views on youtube.com.)

Although an incumbent Senator dropping nine points in the polls after his sole debate performance hadn’t cause ripples, a contested race for Idaho governor did.  Especially after the Republican National Committee moved not just once, but twice, to inject money into Idaho’s gubernatorial race.

This isn’t business-as-usual; the national parties seldom inject dollars into Idaho campaigns unless there’s a Congressional seat without an incumbent.

The three races that are close are Governor, Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Secretary of State.  Clearly, many Idahoans are getting informed and weighing their vote.

Does that mean that more voters will caste ballots this year?

Voter turnout drops without a presidential race.  Turnout of registered voters in Canyon County was 80% in 2012, but only 60% in 2010—or about 56% and 42% of potential voters.

Yet, state officials have a lot to say about your schools, your courts, your roads, even about when and how you vote.

Nationally, Senate races dominate the news.  Thirty-three of the Senate seats before the voters this year were last up for election in 2008, a presidential election year with heavy Democratic turnout.  A lot of first-term Democratic senators are facing the voters for the first time since the Tea Party sprang into being and the Republicans captured the House of Representatives.  Three additional seats are up because of mid-term vacancies.

Only nine seats are considered contested; seven are currently held by Democrats.  The loss of just three seats could give Republicans control of the Senate.  New polls are released daily indicating vote differences smaller than the margin of error.

Will citizens of these states show up to vote?  There’s a lot at stake.  Will the Affordable Care Act be repealed?  Will social security be revised or ravaged?  Will more conservatives be added to the courts?  Will immigration be reformed?

Idaho has a Senate seat up for election and a challenger of merit, Do we understand the difference our combined votes could make?

Get informed.  Vote.  Vote for your future, your kids, and your country.

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