With two months left before this year's state and local primaries, the list of candidates running for political office is starting to take shape. While a few of them are looking to make it through the May elections unscathed since no one is running against them, others could see some significant opposition this time around.
In some cases, this opposition involves people from within their own political party. I suppose the one word of advice I'd have to offer these incumbent candidates comes down to this: Be concerned. Be very concerned.
As this community has seen over the past year, if you've been in office for more than one term, people are starting to notice. In some recent elections in our community, that also meant your time as an elected official was up.
Case in point: During the last school board election, three seats were up for grabs with only one of them being vacated by a representative that was stepping down for personal reasons. The remaining seats involved representatives that had been with the school board for many years.
Both of those incumbents faced defeat at the polls in what appeared to be a referendum against the establishment. It seemed that a majority of people in Mountain Home wanted new voices to speak on their behalf.
Then there was the election for the Western Elmore County Recreation District in which a long-time member of the board and an interim representative were resoundingly defeated. They lost at the hands of two candidates that promised to take the district in a new direction, although it's not really clear at this point where that direction leads.
Following the outcome of both of these elections, I'm genuinely curious whether this anti-incumbent fever will carry over into other elections as well. Among the ones I'm looking at closely are those involving our representatives at the state capitol.
While State Senator Bert Brackett didn't have anyone running against him, according to the latest information released by the Idaho secretary of state's office, both of our representatives in the Idaho House have some competition. Granted, both Pete Nielsen and Rich Wills have survived a number of challengers over the years, but I wonder if that's about to change.
In each case, Nielsen and Wills gained enough votes in Elmore County and eastern Owyhee County to slip past their opponents with both of them now into their seven terms of office.
However, it seems apparent that Nielsen's support in this district seems to be waning. During the 2012 primary, he actually lost in Elmore County by just 42 votes.
Two years later, he lost the vote in Twin Falls County (which he also represents) and held onto a slim 54-vote lead in this county. During both primaries, voters in Owyhee County gave Nielsen the votes he needed to remain in office.
At the same time, Wills has remained mostly unscathed in these elections since he's been unopposed in at least the last two primaries. He easily won reelection, mostly likely because he had the designation (R) next to his name.
In this strongly conservative state, that letter apparently means "reelect." In comparison, the designation (D) seems to mean "don't elect," regardless if you were the stronger candidate.
This time around, however, Wills is facing at least two challengers this election season. Depending on the outcome of the primary, he would have another political rival during the general election this fall if he hopes to keep his seat at the state capitol.
From what I'm reading from a number of people or hearing from others on the streets, voters in this county are growing sick and tired of the "career politicians," and these angry citizens could end up making a significant difference this time around. If the elections in recent months are any indicator, anyone going into this election as an incumbent should definitely be very worried right about now.
It's entirely possibly this anti-establishment sentiment is not just localized to Mountain Home, Elmore County or even Idaho. As I watch the outcome of the presidential primaries and caucuses happening in states like Idaho, I'm beginning to see a trend with a number of voters. They seem to be turning their backs on traditional politicians and focusing their attention on those who don't represent the "Washington elite."
Perhaps that's the underlying reason why Donald Trump is doing so well in the polls. He's gaining a lot of support despite his reputation of "shooting from the hip" and pushing away potential voters representing various ethnic groups in this country.
Trump doesn't seem to fit the political mold that others tend to follow, and maybe that's the reason why people are willing to give him their support. While other politicians are more reserved when voicing their opinion, Trump has no reservations about saying whatever's on his mind, even if it causes him to deal with the backlash from the media and voters.
What I think Trump has forgotten due to his "fire, ready, aim" mentality is that he needs the support of a majority of Americans, regardless of their political leanings, to win this election. So far, he's pretty much ensured that no Hispanic or black voter will support him.
The same is likely true regarding other ethnic groups and those of various religious followings. If Trump thinks he can win this election betting on the support of ultra-right wing Republicans and evangelical voters, he's in for a serious wake-up call.
I have to point out that the newspaper went to press before the outcome of Tuesday's state primary was known. However, I'm convinced that people had already made up their minds on who they wanted to support during the presidential election. I just wonder if they're willing to stay with that choice, regardless of who wins.
-- Brian S. Orban