After uncertainty, Caldwell to hold runoff election in City Council race

Evangeline Beechler and John McGee, candidates for Caldwell City Council, are headed to a runoff election.
Evangeline Beechler and John McGee, candidates for Caldwell City Council, are headed to a runoff election.

The city of Caldwell plans to hold a runoff election in the City Council race in which no candidate received more than 50% of the votes.

City officials decided Friday morning to ask the Canyon County Clerk’s Office to hold an election on their behalf, according to Caldwell Mayor Garret Nancolas.

“This is not an easy thing, as you know,” Nancolas said. “ ... We are going to be having a runoff.”

John McGee received the most votes — and was declared the winner by the county — in Tuesday’s election. McGee got 1,291 votes, or 39.24%, in a three-way race, falling short of a majority. Evangeline Beechler received the second-highest vote total, at 1,005, or 30.55%. Incumbent council member Chuck Stadick came in third, with 994 votes, or 30.21%.

Even though McGee was the top vote-getter, city code states, “Members of the Caldwell city council shall be elected by a majority of the qualified electors as established by the Idaho Code,” causing some question as to whether there should be a runoff election.

At issue is whether a “majority” of votes means “the highest number of votes” or “more than 50% of the votes.”

The Canyon County Elections Office initially indicated that no runoff was required based on Idaho Code 50-412, which states, “the candidate with the highest number of votes shall be declared elected.”

“This is consistent with 30 years of practice in Caldwell City Council races where no candidate received more than 50% of the votes cast,” according to a press release sent by the city Friday afternoon. “Caldwell has understood the language of City Code 2-01-03, which refers to ‘a majority’ being required for election to the Caldwell City Council, to mean the candidate with the most votes.”

However, the release states, the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office and the Idaho Attorney General’s Office advised that Caldwell’s ordinance means “that a Caldwell City Council candidate must receive more than 50% of all votes cast in order to win the election,” according to the city’s release. “In the event that no candidate receives more than 50%, a runoff election between the two candidates with the most votes is required by Idaho Code 50-707B.”

The Canyon County Clerk’s office issued a statement Friday afternoon that a tentative date for the runoff election is Tuesday, Dec. 3, and that county officials are looking into the availability of poll workers and polling locations.

The clerk’s office also estimated the cost of the election to be about $30,000, which would be paid for by the city of Caldwell. Nancolas confirmed the city would bear the cost of the election.

Beechler on Friday had sent a letter to city and county officials formally requesting a runoff, but Nancolas said city officials had already made the decision Friday morning.

Stadick told the Statesman on Thursday that he would vote for Beechler over McGee and would encourage his supporters to do the same.

Related stories from Idaho Statesman

Always full of opinions and tolerant of others, Scott McIntosh is the opinions editor for the Idaho Statesman. He has won dozens of state and national awards, including Best Editorial from the Idaho Press Club for 2017.