Democrats can certainly rejoice in Barack Obama's win and be proud of Walt Minnick picking up the 1st Congressional District seat, but beyond that, there is little to celebrate. In fact, we lost a seat in the legislature, a sitting commissioner in Ada County and another commissioner in Bonner County. So, no matter how you spin it, we have to get back to work if we are ever really going to turn Idaho any shade other than deep red.
Some of the numbers do not really make sense. Ada County is one of the best examples. How does Barack Obama get more votes than either Paul Woods or David Langhorst? How does Walt Minnick win in West Ada County when neither Obama, Woods, or Langhorst carry the county when they have the North End and the Bench, an advantage that Walt didn't have?
The answer is that Walt's win probably has more to do with what is happening in the Republican Party than it does with the Democrats. Make no mistake, Walt's win was fantastic and he deserves the credit, but it seems clear that the Republicans were fed up with Sali's antics and decided that if they were ever going to get rid of him, 2008 was the time to do it. If Sali had won, he would have been the virtual leader of the Idaho Republican Party, given the leadership fight they had at their last state convention. Voting him out gives the party back to Governor Otter and crew and also clears the way for their up-and-coming talent in future Congessional races.
The one thing that means is that the Republicans will be doing everything they can to win the seat back in 2010. We Dems will have to work very hard to keep the seat. And in a straight up vote between a reasonable Republican and Walt, it will be as hard a fought race as we have ever had in Idaho. So get ready.
But between now and then, it is time to do what we always say we are going to do but never quite get it done, and that is recruit candidates for city elections and school boards. Many of these elections take place in 2009. If we are ever going to make real headway in Idaho, we need to start by fielding candidates in these local elections. Doing so provides us with people who learn how to campaign as well as govern. More importantly, these elections are non-partison, so our candidates are not hampered by having a D behind their name on the ballot. That makes it much more about name identification and GOTV, things we can control.
So, if you are thinking about running for office anytime soon, please think about running for city council or school board in your local community. It is a great way to learn the ropes and, more importantly, get set up for a county or legislative race in the future.