By Zach Hagadone
The unprecedented mail-in-only 2020 primary election concluded June 2, with a significant decrease in turnout from the initial ballot requests. According to Bonner County elections numbers, of those previously reported 15,100 ballot requests, 10,803 valid ballots were recorded. County Clerk Michael Rosedale said that could be for a number of reasons, including the lack of a signature on the back of the form, damaged documents, incorrect or mismarked boxes on the ballot or simply missing the deadline for getting the completed ballot to elections officials.
Among the complaints Rosedale said came to his office was from voters who requested a “nonpartisan” ballot, which only included options for nonpartisan offices, such as judges. Those voters may have been turned away from submitting their ballots, he said.
Regardless, the turnout was still larger than usual — and “more accurate” for counting, Rosedale said in an interview June 4 with KRFY radio. Four years ago, in a similar non-gubernatorial but presidential year, the county recorded about 32% participation. This time, even with the dropoff of valid ballots, the franchise registered 38.5% — a robust number considering the unusual circumstances faced by elections workers amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Regardless, the power of incumbency made itself felt in the primary returns, with Republican Bonner County Commissioner Steve Bradshaw besting challenger Butch Horton 66.48% to 33.52%. Bradshaw will now face Democrat Steve Johnson in the November General Election.
The other big Republican race, for Idaho representative District 1 Seat B, went to three-term Rep. Sage Dixon, who took 74.72% of the vote over Gary Suppiger, who garnered 25.28%. Dixon will go against Democrat Stephen Howlett in November.
For Legislative District 1 Seat A, incumbent Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, will face Democratic challenger Gail Bolin. Legislative District 1 Republican Sen. Jim Woodward ran unopposed but will go against Democratic candidate Vera Gadman in November.
For U.S. Senate, it’s former interim-governor and current Republican Sen. Jim Risch against former Democratic legislator and ontime gubernatorial candidate Paulette Jordan. In the First Congressional District, freshman Republican House member Russ Fulcher is seeking a second term against Democrat Rudy Soto.
Cornel Rasor — Army Surplus owner, once Bonner County Central Committee chairman and former Bonner County Commissioner — lost to fellow Republican Charlie Shepherd, of Riggins, for the District 7 Seat B legislative seat.
Perhaps the most interesting local race, however, is the contest between incumbent Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler and Democrat write-in candidate Cindy Marx. Wheeler drew 5,793 votes to Marx’s 518. While that might seem lopsided, as Rosedale pointed out, voters had to both know about Marx’s candidacy — she wasn’t on the ballot — and take the extra effort to write her in on the ballot.
“[That is] actually huge for a write-in,” Rosedale said.
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