In a year when so many local and state-level incumbents are running unopposed, we are encouraged when we see a competition for open seats in both the Democratic and Republican parties — which is the case in the District 2 race for Ada County commissioner, an office Rick Yzaguirre will leave later this year.
We want to congratulate the two Democrats and two Republicans who have put themselves out there in this race, and wish there were more examples of this level of interest for the May 17 primary. TJ Thomson faces Stanley Johnson on the Democratic side, and Rick Visser faces Teri Murrison on the Republican side. The winners will square off in November.
After our research and interviews with all the candidates earlier this week, we prefer Thomson, a Boise City councilman, for the Democrats and Murrison, administrator for the Idaho Soil and Water Conservation Commission, for the Republicans.
We declined on Johnson, a Meridian retiree who was defeated by Yzaguirre in 2014. Johnson, who had a successful career in union administration, was vague about his goals for Ada County — he wanted to do “something progressive” without much elaboration — though he did say that he was for raising the minimum wage and that the county should do more to attract employers and thus create jobs.
By contrast, Thomson articulated a crisp agenda of supporting local control, making government more accountable and cooperative with other agencies, and creating jobs by recruiting and enticing employers to come to the county. Thomson, a certified internal auditor by occupation, pointed out that he identified savings for the city during his seven-year tenure — and would do the same for the county.
Thomson seemed more attuned to key county issues, such as repairing relationships with other agencies (the Ada County Highway District among them) and city jurisdictions; conducting a study on what to do with Les Bois Park and the fairgrounds; and working to find a solution between the county, Meridian and Garden City about providing courtroom space in their respective cities.
In the Republican race we were underwhelmed by attorney Rick Visser of Boise because he spoke too generally about how he would conduct himself as a commissioner — allowing that he would seek the best quality of living for county residents, but without providing much detail about specific agendas or issues.
Murrison, who lives in the Eagle area, impressed us because of her experience with the soil and water commission, Ada County planning and zoning commission, and as a supervisor for Tuolumne County, Calif., where she served from 2007-2010, including a stint as board chair for the east-central California community, which is located near Yosemite National Park.
An Idaho resident for five years now, Murrison is someone for whom the real problems of counties are not abstract, but are matters that can be solved by the hard work of seeking constituent feedback and stakeholder collaboration — which she said is her style. Conducting a study is the method she would use in deciding what to do with Les Bois Park or the fairgrounds. She, too, sees a role for local control — using the example of a city or county’s preference to deal with something such as plastic grocery bags. To her, that should be a local decision.
The Ada County commissioner elections are important and two of the three seats are up for grabs on May 17. (Republicans Sharon Ullman and David Case are squaring off in District 3.) The commission administers a $235 million budget and employs 1,700. There are estimates that the county population of 440,000 could swell by 272,000 over the next 25 years.
With such challenges, we prefer the experience of Democrat Thomson and Republican Murrison in the District 2 primaries.
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