By Devon Downey, Idaho Reports
Idaho’s two largest counties make up nearly 40% of the state’s population, but rarely offer much excitement in legislative races on election night.
Why would Ada and Canyon counties not create more election headlines? Simply put, there are very few swing districts in these two counties.
Looking at election results from 2012 through 2018, there have been few changes in the parties of winners and the margin between the candidates.
Of the races that have at least two candidates in 2020, only six had at least one election since 2011 with a margin of ten percent or less.
Half of those were in District 15, where all three seats (Senate, House A, and House B) had a margin of ten percent or less in at least two of the previous four elections.
The other three only had one election with a margin of ten percent or less, and each of those had special circumstances. In 2012, the District 10 A election was decided by eight percent when Republican Brandon Hixon won over Democrat Travis Manning. The race was tight due to an open seat and voters’ concerns over Hixon’s criminal history. The race for House District 16 B was also decided by just over eight percent due to it being an open seat.
The third close election was the District 18 Senate seat in 2012 which was decided by seven percent. This election was a rematch from 2010 between Democrat Brandon Durst and Republican Mitch Toryanski. Since 2012, District 18 has become comfortably Democratic, though each of the incumbents has a Republican challenger this year.
The only district that has consistently been close in Ada and Canyon counties is District 15. In 2018, Democrats took both of the House seats and lost the Senate election to Republican Fred Martin by only 6 votes, leading to a recount. These two seats are the only ones contested in 2020 that have changed parties since redistricting following the 2010 census.
We expect those three races to be close again. Former Republican Rep. Patrick McDonald, who lost to Democrat Jake Ellis in 2018 by 320 votes for seat B, is challenging Democrat Steve Berch in the other House seat. Berch and Ellis flipped these two seats in a year that was strong for Democrats nationwide. If the national environment isn’t as strong for Democrats in 2020, both Ellis and Berch could lose reelection.
Of course, all eyes will be on the presidential election. But for those who are looking for exciting legislative elections in Ada and Canyon counties, look no further than District 15.
Election night will be different for Idaho Reports this year. Instead of having a live election show, Melissa Davlin (@davlinnews), Logan Finney (@lfinneytweets), and myself (@downeyIPTV) will be live-tweeting results. To stay up to date, follow us on Twitter (@IdahoReports).