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Ada County's election breaks records for votes, sets up November races

The 2020 primary is historic in terms of the sheer number of votes cast, and that it’s the state’s first all-absentee ballot election because of COVID-19.

BOISE, Idaho — Amid the most fraught Election Day in recent memory, Ada County residents voted in record numbers in Tuesday’s primary with ballots being counted as a protest decrying the death of George Floyd took place a few blocks away.

The Idaho Press reports that in a couple of key local Republican primaries, two well-known political figures — Rod Beck and Ryan Davidson — will go on to the November election to attempt to wrest back control of the Ada County Commission from Democratic leadership, while other races remained closer to status quo.

The 2020 primary is historic in terms of the sheer number of votes cast, and that it’s the state’s first all-absentee ballot election because of COVID-19. Ada County residents mailed in more than 79,000 ballots over the past two months, and at least 8,000 were dropped off at select points throughout the county on Tuesday.

May 19 was the scheduled Election Day, but voters got a weeklong extension to request a ballot because of Idaho Secretary of State website glitches; ballots were due back to county clerks by 8 p.m. Tuesday.

RELATED: May 2020 Primary results: County-by-county election results breakdown

Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane said that by 4:30 p.m., his crew had finished counting about 70,000 of the 79,000 collected votes but still had a lot of work ahead of them.

“The big challenge is receiving and checking the signatures on them,” McGrane said about the process for determining the accuracy of a ballot.

“It’s great to see so much participation,” he said. “With the ballots we received this morning, we surpassed the number of ballots received in a primary election,” a record previously set in 2018. “There will be historic numbers in overall participation.”

Ada County Republican Primaries

The Ada County Republican primary had several contested races for high-level county positions, including two county commission seats and the sheriff’s office.

In District 1, Ada County Republican Party Chairman Ryan Davidson defeated Davidson Haworth. As of 10 p.m. Tuesday, Davidson had collected 60.6% of 35,640 cast ballots, while Haworth had gathered 39.4% of the vote. Davidson will next face incumbent Diana Lachiondo, who ran uncontested in the Democratic primary.

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Davidson has a long history in Ada County politics and has recently been under investigation for potential violations of Idaho lobbying laws, while Haworth is a relative newcomer who, on his campaign’s Facebook page, said he has worked for U.S. Veterans Affairs.

“I feel good, looking forward to bringing the fight to the Democrats in November,” Davidson said.

In District 2, longtime Idaho politician Rod Beck won his race against three other Republicans. Beck is running for recently retired Commissioner Rick Visser’s vacated position, currently held by Patrick Malloy, who withdrew from the election just a few days before Gov. Brad Little named him as Visser’s successor.

Beck faced four other Republicans in his primary, but came away with nearly 50% of the vote, with the counted ballots at 10 p.m. giving him 48.2% of the total. Mary McFarland and Teri Murrison followed, with 18.6% and 18.2% of the vote, respectively.

Reached by phone Tuesday night, Beck said it felt good to put on a campaign that Republicans responded to.

“I want to congratulate all the other candidates for the hard work and energy they put in, and I’m calling on every Republican to join in to take on the Democrats in the fall,” Beck said.

In his candidate survey, Beck said that his primary goal would be to reduce property taxes in Ada County, and tapped his previous experience as the Idaho Senate Majority Leader as a means for him to make that effort.

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“There are several approaches to use in this effort. 1. I would support the legislation brought forward by Representative Mike Moyle to freeze property taxes for one year thereby allowing all parties to negotiate a long term solution. 2. We must stop the growth in the Ada County budget. This year alone the budget has grown 11.4% which is beyond the population growth,” Beck wrote in answer to a survey question.

Sheriff Steve Bartlett ran against Lisa Marie and rolled to an overwhelming victory on Tuesday, gathering 89.3% of the vote as of 10 p.m. Bartlett will face write-in Democratic candidate Zachery Wagner in November’s election

Ada County Democratic Primaries

Ada County’s Democrats, at least at the county level, ran uncontested in their primaries on Tuesday.

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Lachiondo and newcomer Bill Rutherford moved through their races unhindered and will face Davidson and Beck in November.

Democrat Ron J. Twilegar will face incumbent Republican Ada County Prosecutor Jan Bennetts in the general election.

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