By Melissa Davlin, Idaho Reports
Tuesday’s results offered no big surprises or upsets in the winners or losers, but there is plenty to pick apart when you look at the percentages each candidate got.
Take the race for governor. As of 11 am MT Wednesday, with 43 of 44 counties fully reporting, incumbent Brad Little won handily with 60 percent of the vote.
But consider the next top vote getters. Independent Ammon Bundy, a prominent anti-government activist, got 17 percent of the vote. Democrat Stephen Heidt, who didn’t run the same traditional active campaign as his predecessors like Paulette Jordan and AJ Balukoff, got 21 percent. He was the lowest performing statewide Democratic candidate by far, and in multiple counties, like Gem, Idaho, Benewah, and Lemhi, Bundy easily beat Heidt.
You can look at this a few ways: Heidt has established a floor for the Democrats, and Bundy has performed better than most statewide independent candidates in Idaho’s recent history. He drew support from prominent conservatives, including the Idaho Freedom PAC and Ron Paul. Arguably, he and his supporters have had, and will continue to have, enough momentum to shape policy discussions moving forward, if not actual policy outcomes.
Or, as Gary Raney with Defend and Protect Idaho argued, Bundy underperformed.
“Ammon Bundy’s campaign for the highest office in our state was an embarrassment — and today we saw Idahoans resoundingly reject him and his extremist politics and violent rhetoric,” Raney wrote in a Wednesday press release. “Bundy tried and failed miserably. He lost to Democrat Stephen Heidt despite outspending him 8 to 1. He had almost no impact on Brad Little’s sweeping re-election even though the incumbent governor did nearly no campaigning since winning his primary.”
Back to the Democrats, a few statewide candidates, like Dianna David and Shawn Keenan, didn’t campaign in the leadup to the general election.
Not only did they perform better than Heidt, but they weren’t far off lieutenant governor candidate Terri Pickens Manweiler or superintendent candidate Terry Gilbert, who actively campaigned and appeared in statewide debates. Part of that may be because of the strong Republican candidates in the lieutenant governor and superintendent races. But it does draw attention to the fact that thousands of voters supported absent Democratic candidates like David, but declined to check the box for Heidt.
This, coupled with the fact that Democrats didn’t run candidates in more than half of the 105 legislative races across the state, made for a fairly rough night for Idaho Democrats. It wasn’t all bad news for Democrats, who picked up a couple legislative seats in 15 and 26, and held hotly contested races in 29.
And then there’s SJR102, which will almost certainly pass once the rest of Kootenai County comes in. Throughout much of Tuesday night, the “Yes” and “No” votes hovered within 1,000 votes of each other — remarkable for a statewide ballot question with hundreds of thousands of voters weighing in. Early in the morning, the “Yes” side pulled ahead, thanks to voters in north Idaho.
We’ll have much more analysis on this week’s Idaho Reports, airing Friday night at 8 pm on Idaho Public Television. In the meantime, see the rest of the statewide results below.