Election 2012: Idaho Democrats Turn 18 (The District)


In early September, Boise Weekly readers got the inside scoop on how Idaho Democrats were crafting a new strategy to take back two Statehouse seats in the newly redistricted and expanded District 18 (BW, Sept. 5, News, "Turning 18"). The Dems' playbook employed new tactics that used voter's displeasure over the so-called Luna Laws in neighborhoods that had a high percentage of parents of Idaho students. Additionally, Democrats zeroed in on the Harris Ranch region of eastern Ada County.

"They're selling houses in Harris Ranch at the rate of one a day. I ask you, who's moving out there?"

Answering his own question, veteran Democratic political coordinator George Moses told Boise Weekly, "A lot of people from the North End. Let's just say that Democrats will get their share of those votes."

In fact, the Harris Ranch area turned out in significant numbers last March to support the Boise School District's $14 million, five-year supplemental levy.

"Seventy-six percent supported that levy. That's pretty huge," Janie Ward-Engelking told Boise Weekly. "Education is a big, big issue with these voters."

And indeed Ward-Engelking, and fellow Democrats Branden Durst and Phyllis King used education as a key platform in their races: Ward-Engelking and King for the Idaho House and Durst for the Idaho Senate. And Tuesday night, as voters in District 18 turned down each of the controversial Luna Laws, they also said "yes" to the Democratic slate of Statehouse candidates.

Ward-Engelking and Durst's victories were doubly sweet. Not only did they unseat incumbents—Ward-Engelking defeated Julie Ellsworth and Durst defeated Mitch Toryanski—but the Democrats won by comfortable margins after each lost two years ago against the same opponents in two of the closest races in recent memory.

Ward-Engelking told Boise Weekly that after her 2010 loss, she obsessed over the fact that she lost by only seven votes. She didn't need to worry Tuesday night, as she built a winning margin of nearly 1,000 votes.