Election 2012 Preview: District 18 Senate


It doesn’t matter how the votes swing in the District 18 Senate race. Either way, someone will reclaim a seat.

Republican Sen. Mitch Toryanski could keep his Senate seat warm for another term or it could swing back to Democratic challenger Branden Durst, who lost his title to Toryanski by a mere 103 votes in 2010.

It’s a flip-flopping, swinging, 50/50 kind of district and that has its Senate candidates taking nothing for granted and bridging politics between Republicans and Democrats.

“It is my responsibility to represent all residents of District 18,” Toryanski said of his inaugural term. “I take the same approach to campaigning. I walk neighborhoods and try to meet with everyone. You can learn so much, especially from neighbors with diverse political philosophies.”

Elections proved the political diversity of the district, which covers east Boise, the Bench and now the nonvoting prison population south of Boise.

Parts are known as the “New North End” by young Bench dwellers or as the “University District” by campus commuters. Some see emerging multicultural alcoves in the variety of ethnic businesses along Overland Road, while others see a Capitol Boulevard corridor ripe for gentrification.

District 18 offers a hodgepodge of flavor and socioeconomic diversity to the political map, where stately tutor homes and Rim estates sit blocks from distressed neighborhood pockets and beaten trailer parks. Swells of professors call District 18 home, as do some of the county’s more improverished elementary school students.

The contrasts, diversity and eclectic mix of Idaho paint the district blue and red and make every election a potential game-changing, anyone-could-win kind of race. It also has its candidates eschewing blatant campaign partisanship in favor of contrasting, issue-based platforms.

“I try to balance interests where possible and always vote for sound public policy. I listen to my constituents, draw upon my life experiences, research issues, and use my best judgment,” Toryanski said.

Durst, a managing partner for a strategy consulting firm, aims to reoccupy the seat he claimed from an incumbent in a surprise 2006 win by drawing distinctions between his platform and Toryanski’s voting record.

“The contrasts couldn't be clearer in this campaign,” Durst noted.

Toryanski backed the so-called “Luna Laws,” favored abortion ultrasound mandates, and shied away from supporting a Boise schools levy—positions Durst opposes.

Toryanski, an attorney, stamps his campaign literature with “FREEDOM, FAITH, FAMILY,” and puts job creation, low taxes and education at the top of his platform while noting that, “America’s health care system is the best in the world, but it is unnecessarily expensive and the cost of medical insurance is out of reach for many.”

Boise-born Durst entered the Statehouse as a fresh-faced newcomer but went on to co-author and co-sponsor legislation designed to assist gifted students and stood out as the only member of the House Business Committee to oppose legislation that would have forced individuals to turn over the results of DNA tests to insurance companies.