Last week, two runoff elections were held in Treasure Valley.

The highest profile contest was for Boise mayor between incumbent David Bieter and Councilwoman Lauren McLean.  McLean won a crushing 68% of the runoff vote.

The other runoff was for a Caldwell City Council seat and featured former State Sen. John McGee and former Democratic legislative candidate Evangeline Beecher. McGee prevailed with nearly 61% of the vote.

Both runoff winners also won the earlier race. So what difference did the runoffs actually make?

Here are the numbers for Boise mayor in both the general and runoff elections:

Candidate

General Election

General Election %

Runoff Election

Runoff Election %

David Bieter

15,711

30.3%

15,998

34.5%

Lauren McLean

23,669

45.7%

30,306

65.5%

         

Total Votes Cast

52,303

 

46,345

 

Turnout

40.1%

 

35.2%

 
         

In the Boise runoff, the ultimate winner was McLean and she would have also won if the general election had been determinative.  The runoff increased her winning margin from 15.4% to 31.0%, roughly doubling the gap.

Turnout fell by roughly five percentage points which was not surprising given the fact that the runoff was the week after the Thanksgiving holiday. Still, Boise voters turned out in significant numbers in both elections for a municipal election, indicating significant voter interest in the race. Turnout was better than Idaho sees in most primary elections and not far from turnout for general elections for partisan offices in even-numbered years.

In some ways the Caldwell election was more interesting.  Here is the relevant data:

Candidate

General Election

General Election %

Runoff Election

Runoff Election %

Evangeline Beechler

1,005

30.3%

1,340

39.27%

John McGee

1,291

45.7%

2,072

60.73%

         

Total Votes Cast

3,361

 

3,419

 

Turnout

17.1%

 

17.4%

 
         

What is astounding is that turnout went up in the runoff by three-tenths of a percent. That is highly unusual in an Idaho runoff which typically sees a decline in turnout from the general election,

That race drew significant media attention as Beechler raised the issue of a runoff by pointing to a provision in Caldwell’s ordinances that had previously been ignored in past elections. Then, Caldwell acknowledged the previous failure to follow the ordinance and set up a runoff election.

Spending and campaigning by the candidates also likely played a role. In the end, McGee boosted his general election margin of 15.4% to a bit more than 20%.

Overall, the Boise and Caldwell runoffs solidified the legitimacy of the eventual winner.  Each can argue they have some sort of mandate because of their strong margin and overall majority.

Steve Taggart is an Idaho Falls attorney specializing in bankruptcy (www.MaynesTaggart.com).  He has an extensive background in politics and public policy. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..