In Act II of Hamilton, the Broadway sensation about political change, there's a song titled "The Room Where It Happens" that includes this lyric:
"When you got skin in the game, you stay in the game / But you don't get a win unless you play in the game / Oh, you get love for it / You get hate for it / You get nothing if you wait for it."
Those particular lyrics most likely resonated with Diana Lachiondo, who recently attended a performance of Hamilton at Broadway's Richard Rodgers Theatre. Lachiondo, a Democrat, scored an upset in the recent race for Ada County Commissioner, unseating incumbent Republican Commissioner Jim Tibbs. In fact, Lachiondo was one of two Democratic women—the other being Kendra Kenyon—who succeeded in the Nov. 6 race for Ada County Commission seats. Lachiondo said, win or lose, she and her husband had planned to go to New York City soon after the election.
"We're staying with friends and splurged to get Hamilton tickets," she said. "No matter what would have happened, we wanted to do something special."
In the wake of her electoral success and just before she hopped on a flight to New York, Lachiondo, who will leave a post as Boise Mayor David Bieter's director of community partnerships for her new seat on the Ada County Commission, sat down with Boise Weekly to talk about her first-ever campaign and her own opportunity to make a bit of history.
We have to assume that when you decided to run, you needed to be sure that you could win.
I never would have done this if I didn't think I could win.
That said, you're leaving quite a bit behind you at City Hall.
I loved my job. Sorry, you're going to make me get teary-eyed. I never set out to go into politics. I just got really frustrated over how things were going at the Ada County Commission. I tried to convince other people to run. But I recognized I had to do it. It's a really scary thing right now.
You mean politically?
To run in a particularly partisan climate, I knew that A: It was going to be harder, and B: People might be mean or rude. The decision of taking this on was not something I did lightly.
It's the worst-kept secret in Idaho that you knocked on a lot of doors during this campaign.
More than 46,000—more than any other campaign in the state.
Other than door-knocking, what made the difference?
It's about the county landfill, it's about land-use, it's about the jail, all bread-and-butter issues. That said, deciding who should be a county commissioner is such a down-ballot race. Quite frankly, a lot of people don't even know who their commissioners are or what they do. So we did a lot of education. No matter what the outcome was, I thought it was really important to show people what a county commissioner actually does.
What was the bottom dollar of the cost of your campaign?
Can I assume that you and your fellow Ada County Commissioner-elect Kendra Kenyon got together occasionally during the campaign?
We did. She brings such a deep conservation background to the table. I'm really excited about that.
Of the many conversations we've had over the years, the ones that are most indelible are when you talked about your concerns for the Ada County Jail.
I'll take you back even further. Do you remember when you and I talked about how the City of Boise was applying for a Pay for Success grant? That's how we got Vanessa Fry from Boise State to conduct an analysis that found homelessness was costing our community $53,000 per person, per year. Those are costs from the jail, paramedics, the public defender's office and the indigent fund. I'm really disappointed in the county's lack of leadership on these issues. You and I have talked a lot about homelessness over the years; and, quite frankly, I had a lot of sleepless nights on this issue.
But what can the County Commission do about it, sooner than later?
We're still at a place where the numbers are not insurmountable. Right now, we have between 100 and 200 people experiencing chronic homelessness in Ada County.
Can you speak to how many of those people end up behind bars at the county jail?
Look, there some who are counted as homeless who, for whatever reason, absolutely need to be in jail. But there are too many people in jail who are there on a charge of trespassing or public intoxication and they don't have the means to bond out. This doesn't mean that I'm going to wave a wand and magically find a place for those 100 people to go, but I'm totally opposed to spending millions of dollars without finding a way to solve this. These people need our help. That's why, for example, the county is going to participate more directly in supporting Allumbaugh House [treatment facility]. You can count on it.
Looking at your electoral map, it's striking to note that the county was nearly evenly split between Republicans and Democrats.
I knew I wasn't going to win Star, for example, but I was going to lose by less than previous Democratic candidates. That's because I went out there and met people where they were at. I spent a lot of time in Kuna and Meridian, too. I truly believe the race was about competency, about leadership, and not about partisan politics.
Editor's note: At the time of this interview, BW asked Ms. Lachiondo if she had received a concession call from Commissioner Jim Tibbs on Election Night. At the time, Lachiondo said she had yet to hear from the outgoing commissioner. But after BW went to press, Lachiondo told BW that she had, indeed, heard from Tibbs:
"I did receive a nice phone call from Jim," she said.