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Forgotten Election

Analysts fear the overshadowed city election may fail to bring out the vote.


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There's no dearth of politics in the public arena right now. Obama and Clinton, Romney and Giuliani, Risch and LaRocco are all bidding for your attention—and your vote. And, who could forget Sen. Larry Craig and the circus sideshow that has become his political career.

But does anyone remember there's a city election fast approaching?

On Nov. 6, Boise residents will have the chance to select a mayor and three City Council members, thereby determining the course of the city over the next four years.

They might not be household names, but the men and women running for Boise city offices are the ones who will have the most direct effect on the daily lives of most Boiseans. From development and transit to community safety and infrastructure, this is where the most basic and farthest-reaching decisions are made.

Unfortunately, this is also the level of government that historically sees the lowest voter turnout, and this year may be worse than usual.

Jim Weatherby, emeritus professor at Boise State and Idaho political guru, said he fears low participation in the election as a direct result of the Craig scandal—and not simply from voter disillusionment.

Weatherby believes the attention focused on Craig and the ever-developing story has eclipsed the city elections. While the two candidates for mayor, incumbent Mayor Dave Bieter and Council Member Jim Tibbs, have faced off in several debates and forums, the candidates for City Council have yet to appear at any event, and even political signs are a rarity.

In fact, only the three incumbents running for re-election have collected any measurable amount of funds for their campaigns.

According to the Boise City Clerk's Office, there have been 783 requests for absentee ballots, and 290 ballots returned as of the end of last week. The number of absentee ballots in an election is a traditional predictor for voter participation in the general election. There are currently 107,065 registered voters in the city, according to the Ada County Clerk's Office.

All these factors combined lead Weatherby to believe turnout could be particularly bad.

According to Weatherby, turnout for a city election in Boise hasn't passed 50 percent since 1975. In the 32 years since then, the highest turnout was 46.5 percent in 1993, and it has been as low as 10 percent in 1989, and 14.5 percent in both 1987 and 1999.

But we here at BW say buck the trend; get out there and vote, Boise.

To help voters make their decisions, we asked all 10 candidates running for city office to answer a set of questions based on issues currently facing the city. All the candidates answered the same questions, allowing voters a comparison.

Their answers, in the candidates' own words, follow. Answers have been edited only for space and clarity.

—Deanna Darr