Election Night 2020: A viewer’s guide

It’s all been overshadowed, of course, by the presidential race.

But next week’s Idaho elections will settle a long list of federal, legislative and local races.

And below the top of the Idaho ticket — and the races for U.S. Senate1st Congressional District and 2nd Congressional District — some down-ticket races could have a more direct impact on state education policy and education funding.

Here’s an overview.

CWI trustees

After years of meteoric growth, Idaho’s largest community college is reporting an enrollment drop. As the College of Western Idaho navigates the enrollment decline and the pandemic, three of its five trustee seats are on the ballot.

Zone 1. Incumbent board chairman Skip Smyser of Parma — a lobbyist, attorney and former legislator — is facing a challenge from Samantha Guerrero of Caldwell.

In his response to a League of Women Voters Education Fund questionnaire, Smyser said CWI faces three key challenges: growth, affordability and response to the coronavirus. He said CWI has addressed affordability by freezing tuition, and said the college’s staff and faculty “have done a topnotch job” of adapting to the pandemic by offering a blend of face-to-face and online courses. Guerrero did not respond to the survey.

Zone 3. Longtime trustee M.C. Niland of Nampa — a founding CWI trustee, who co-chaired the campaign to create CWI more than a decade ago — is seeking a fourth term. She faces a challenge from April Baylon-Mendoza of Kuna, a supervisor in state government, who has received three degrees from CWI.

In a League of Women Voters questionnaire, Niland said CWI’s greatest challenge is “generating the resources to sustain growth. … We must be more proactive in meeting the needs of all our community members.”

Baylon-Mendoza said she would push to grow the campus by developing land already owned by the college. “We are severely hampered by lack of space — this makes it harder to deliver education and it makes it harder for students to build a community where they feel supported,” she said in her League of Women Voters questionnaire response.

Zone 5. Retiring state Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb of Boise is running to succeed Mark Dunham on the board. Dunham is retiring.

(More about the CWI races from Nicole Foy of the Idaho Statesman.)

Trustees serve staggered four-year terms and run across Ada and Canyon counties.

One legislative race to watch closely

District 15, House Seat A: Rep. Steve Berch, D-Boise (incumbent); Patrick E. McDonald, Republican, Boise; David W. Hartigan, Constitution Party, Boise.

This is worth watching, in part, because of the clear education nexus. Berch sits on the House Education Committee. McDonald, a retired U.S. marshal, was vice chairman of House Education before the November 2018 election.

Now, factor in the implications on the political map. West Boise’s District 15 is split, or purple, and a district Democrats look to lock down following years of Republican control. In 2016, Republicans won all three District 15 legislative seats. In 2018, Democrats won the two House seats, ousting McDonald and Rep. Lynn Luker.

Then there’s the money. Berch is running a spendy race, by legislative campaign standards, raising nearly $58,000 to McDonald’s $13,450.

Hartigan, a wild-card third-party candidate, could siphon off some conservative votes.

Other legislative races to watch

Here are thumbnails of some of next week’s contested legislative races — including several with an education connection.

District 1, Senate: Sen. Jim Woodward, R-Sagle (incumbent); Vera Gadman, Democrat, Hope. Woodward sits on the Senate Education Committee and the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. Idaho’s northernmost district is a GOP stronghold.

District 5, Senate: David Nelson, D-Moscow (incumbent); Dan Foreman, Republican, Moscow. No education nexus, but an interesting rematch. Nelson ousted Foreman, a first-term conservative, in 2018. It’s a swing legislative district; Republicans now hold the two House seats.

District 5, House Seat A: Brandon Mitchell, Republican, Moscow; Dulce Kersting-Lark, Democrat, Moscow. An open race to succeed retiring Republican Rep. Bill Goesling. Kersting-Lark has raised more than $51,000; Mitchell has raised more than $30,000.

District 8, Senate: Steven Thayn, R-Emmett (incumbent); Kirsten Faith Richardson, Constitution Party, Emmett; Bill Sifford, independent, McCall. Thayn trounced both of these opponents in November 2018, but the rematch has some added stakes. If re-elected, Thayn is in line to chair Senate Education.

District 14, House Seat B. Gayann DeMordaunt, R-Eagle (incumbent); Shelley Brock, Democrat, Eagle. West Ada County legislative districts skew strongly Republican. Brock is running an aggressive challenge, raising $28,000. DeMordaunt, a House Education member, has raised about $31,000.

District 15, Senate: Fred Martin, R-Boise (incumbent); Rick Just, Democrat, Boise. No education nexus, but another key race in West Boise’s swing district. Martin won by only six votes in November 2018. Martin has raised more than $50,000, and Just has raised more than $48,000.

District 15, House Seat B: Jake Ellis, D-Boise (incumbent); Codi Galloway, Republican, Boise. No education connection, but another spirited District 15 race. Ellis, who defeated McDonald in 2018, has raised about $38,000 in his re-election bid. Galloway has raised about $30,000.

District 18, Senate: Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise (incumbent); Mark Bost, Republican, Boise. Ward-Engelking sits on Senate Education and JFAC. South and East Boise’s District 18 is a traditional Democratic stronghold.

District 24, House Seat A: Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls (incumbent); Paul Thompson (Constitution Party). House Education’s chairman faces a third-party opponent.

District 26, Senate: Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum (incumbent); Eric Parker, Republican, Hailey. No clear education nexus. But Stennett is the Senate’s minority leader, opposed by a leader of the Real 3%ers Idaho, a militia group. Comprised of Blaine, Camas, Gooding and Lincoln counties, District 26 leans Democratic.

District 29, House Seat A: Chris Abernathy, D-Pocatello (incumbent); Dustin Whitney Manwaring, Republican, Pocatello. Another rematch. Abernathy, a House Education member, ousted Manwaring by less than 350 votes in 2018. Democrats hold all three seats in District 29.

District 33, House Seat A: Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls (incumbent); Miranda Marquit, Democrat, Idaho Falls. Ehardt, a House Education member, led the push for the state’s controversial transgender athletics ban. Marquit has raised nearly $36,000 in her run in a Republican stronghold.

Make your vote count

  • Early in-person voting is still available in Idaho but ends Friday.
  • Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., local time, on Election Day on Tuesday. Idaho does allow voters to register at the polls.
  • All absentee ballots must be received by the voter’s local county clerk’s office by 8 p.m. on Election Day on Tuesday.
  • To double-check voter registration status and your polling place, which may have changed since the last election, visit www.idahovotes.gov.


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