My thoughts and observations on a variety of current topics . . .

Real Clear Politics matchups for next November’s presidential election. Real Clear Politics is a great site.  If you haven’t checked it out, go here.  In addition to its great mix of news and opinion pieces, RCP averages polling data in various races.  This approach tends to wash out polls that are outliers.  Here are the current averages for key match-ups for the 2016 general election (I presume Clinton will be the Democratic nominee):

General Election Match-up Leader
Trump vs. Clinton Clinton by 2.2%
Bush vs. Clinton Bush by 0.7%
Carson vs. Clinton Carson by 5.2%
Fiorina vs. Clinton Fiorina by 1.0%
Rubio vs. Clinton Rubio by 0.6%
Cruz vs. Clinton Clinton by 5.5%
Paul vs. Clinton Clinton by 4.0%

Source:  http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2016/president/2016_presidential_race.html

My takeaway is that the November 2016 race is likely to be pretty tight unless the GOP nominates a candidate who cannot pull in a broad swath of voters (ie. Cruz, Paul or, potentially, Trump).

School District 93 Bond Election attracts huge turnout & wins big. School District 93 is a Bonneville County School District that takes in the City of Ammon and other nearby communities in the Idaho Falls area. The district put on the ballot (for the fourth time) a bond to build a new high school to add to two existing ones that are already over-stuffed.

The area is experiencing phenomenal growth and the anticipated student population is such that the school district is preparing to move to split school sessions ie. two sessions per day.  Last time, a similar measure failed by 17 votes.  This time the school board did something different. They actually put two bond measures on the ballot, one to build the new high school and the other to add an auditorium and stadium to the construction plan (if the high school bond was approved).  The turnout this time was phenomenal.  Over 11,000 folks cast ballots. In contract, Idaho Falls (which is roughly the same size and had 4 city council races) saw about 5,000 turn out. The bottom line is that the school bond won with 73.47% in favor. The second bond for the auditorium and stadium prevailed with 67.52% of the vote.  I don’t think anyone saw this coming.  Kudos to the bond supporters.  They ran a highly effective grassroots effort. Opponents also deserve credit for their previous wins and convincing the school district to reduce the overall amount of the proposed bond.

Rubio leads in quality of Idaho endorsements – for now. As the GOP presidential primary race continues to heat up, key Idaho Republicans are slowly stepping forward to back the various contenders.  The big one last week was U.S. Sen. Jim Risch, who announced he is backing fellow senator Marco Rubio for president.  That is a big win for Rubio’s Idaho effort. Risch is well-respected by Idaho conservatives and has the chops to create a strong Idaho organization. 

Rep. Raul Labrador is backing Rand Paul. Only a few state legislators have embraced a candidate. Combined with previous endorsement of State Controller Brandon Woolf, the Rubio campaign is the campaign to beat in terms of attracting impactful Idaho endorsements for the GOP primary contest. Watch Gov. Butch Otter to see if he weighs in or if he stays on the sidelines.  My guess is that Sen. Mike Crapo will avoid giving an endorsement given his own 2016 race.  I have no idea what stance Rep. Mike Simpson might take.

A bit of a surprise in Rexburg. Rexburg chose a new mayor on Nov. 3.  The winner was Jerry Merrill who beat fellow city council member Chris Mann 55% to 45%.  Mann ran on the idea of collaborating with BYU-Idaho to deal with community issues.  Merrill pushed the idea of involving a variety of community groups to tackle problems.  Of note, Merrill was trailing badly in the money race (at least in the pre-election reports).  

Salmon Whitewater Park on track. Every election some unique issues are put on ballots around the country.  One of them this year was in Salmon, Idaho. A local group has been proposing to build a whitewater park in the downtown area along the Salmon River on city property.  They’ve worked hard to attract private funding and pitched the idea as a means of attracting tourists.  But they ran into a vigorous local opponent, Robert Weiderrick, who put on the ballot a measure to make it a misdemeanor to use city property for the park. He argued that, despite the assurance of supporters that they would raise money to maintain the facility, Salmon taxpayers could be stuck with the maintenance costs.  The measure lost overwhelmingly, 38% in favor to 62% opposed.

Should Idaho move to Vote-by-Mail? Off-year elections are known for low voter turnout.  But, this year’s Salt Lake City contest for mayor drew out a remarkable 48.4% of voters to cast votes.  The mayoral race heightened interest, with Mayor Ralph Becker facing a stiff challenge from a former state legislator, Jackie Biskupski.  Becker appears to have lost with some ballots still to be counted. That substantial turnout was driven by a vote-by-mail option where ballots are mailed out to voters and returned by mail.  In Utah, voting officials can choose to use this method and many counties and cities are taking advantage of this alternative.  Voters must sign the ballots and election officials are required to compare signatures to ferret out fraud.  If Idaho wants to boost turnout, this might be an option.

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..