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Biden wins Michigan, Wisconsin, now on brink of White House

WASHINGTON — Joe Biden won the battleground prizes of Michigan and Wisconsin on Wednesday, reclaiming a key part of the “blue wall” that slipped away from Democrats four years ago and dramatically narrowing President Donald Trump’s pathway to reelection.

A full day after Election Day, neither candidate had cleared the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House. But Biden’s victories in the Great Lakes states left him at 264, meaning he was one battleground state away from crossing the threshold and becoming president-elect.

Biden, who has received more than 71 million votes, the most in history, was joined by his running mate Kamala Harris at an afternoon news conference and said he now expected to win the presidency, though he stopped short of outright declaring victory.

“I will govern as an American president,” Biden said. “There will be no red states and blue states when we win. Just the United States of America.”

It was a stark contrast to Trump, who on Wednesday falsely proclaimed that he had won the election, even though millions of votes remained uncounted and the race was far from over.

The Associated Press called Wisconsin for Biden after election officials in the state said all outstanding ballots had been counted, save for a few hundred in one township and an expected small number of provisional votes.

Trump’s campaign requested a recount, though statewide recounts in Wisconsin have historically changed the vote tally by only a few hundred votes. Biden led by 0.624 percentage point out of nearly 3.3 million ballots counted.

Since 2016, Democrats had been haunted by the crumbling of the blue wall, the trio of Great Lakes states — Pennsylvania is the third — that their candidates had been able to count on every four years. But Trump’s populist appeal struck a chord with white working-class voters and he captured all three in 2016 by a total margin of just 77,000 votes.

Both candidates this year fiercely fought for the states, with Biden’s everyman political persona resonating in blue-collar towns while his campaign also pushed to increase turnout among Black voters in cities like Detroit and Milwaukee.

Pennsylvania remained too early to call Wednesday night.

It was unclear when or how quickly a national winner could be determined after a long, bitter campaign dominated by the coronavirus and its effects on Americans and the national economy. But Biden’s possible pathways to the White House were expanding rapidly.

After the victories in Wisconsin and Michigan, he was just six Electoral College votes away from the presidency. A win in any undecided state except for Alaska — but including Nevada, with its six votes — would be enough to end Trump’s tenure in the White House.

Trump spent much of Wednesday in the White House residence, huddling with advisers and fuming at media coverage showing his Democratic rival picking up key battlegrounds. Trump falsely claimed victory in several key states and amplified unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about Democratic gains as absentee and early votes were tabulated.

Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said the president would formally request a Wisconsin recount, citing “irregularities” in several counties. And the campaign said it was filing suit in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Georgia to demand better access for campaign observers to locations where ballots are being processed and counted, and to raise absentee ballot concerns.

At the same time, hundreds of thousands of votes were still to be counted in Pennsylvania, and Trump’s campaign said it was moving to intervene in the existing Supreme Court litigation over counting mail-in ballots there. Yet, the campaign also argued that it was the outstanding votes in Arizona that could reverse the outcome there, showcasing an inherent inconsistency with their arguments.

In other closely watched races, Trump picked up Florida, the largest of the swing states, and held onto Texas and Ohio while Biden kept New Hampshire and Minnesota and flipped Arizona, a state that had reliably voted Republican in recent elections.

The unsettled nature of the presidential race was reflective of a somewhat disappointing night for Democrats, who had hoped to deliver a thorough repudiation of Trump’s four years in office while also reclaiming the Senate to have a firm grasp on all of Washington. But the GOP held onto several Senate seats that had been considered vulnerable, including in Iowa, Texas, Maine and Kansas. Democrats lost House seats but were expected to retain control there.

The high-stakes election was held against the backdrop of a historic pandemic that has killed more than 232,000 Americans and wiped away millions of jobs. The U.S. on Wednesday set another record for daily confirmed coronavirus cases as several states posted all-time highs.

The candidates spent months pressing dramatically different visions for the nation’s future, including on racial justice, and voters responded in huge numbers, with more than 100 million people casting votes ahead of Election Day.

Trump, in an extraordinary move from the White House, issued premature claims of victory — which he continued on Twitter Wednesday — and said he would take the election to the Supreme Court to stop the counting. It was unclear exactly what legal action he could try to pursue.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell discounted the president’s quick claim of victory, saying it would take a while for states to conduct their vote counts. The Kentucky Republican said Wednesday that “claiming you’ve won the election is different from finishing the counting.”

Vote tabulations routinely continue beyond Election Day, and states largely set the rules for when the count has to end. In presidential elections, a key point is the date in December when presidential electors met. That’s set by federal law.

Dozens of Trump supporters chanting “Stop the count!” descended on a ballot-tallying center in Detroit, while thousands of anti-Trump protesters demanding a complete vote count took to the streets in cities across the U.S.

Protests — sometimes about the election, sometimes about racial inequality — took place Wednesday in at least a half-dozen cities, including Los Angeles, Seattle, Houston, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis and San Diego.

Several states allow mailed-in votes to be accepted as long as they were postmarked by Tuesday. That includes Pennsylvania, where ballots postmarked by Nov. 3 can be accepted if they arrive up to three days later.

Trump appeared to suggest those ballots should not be counted, and that he would fight for that outcome at the high court. But legal experts were dubious of Trump’s declaration. Trump has appointed three of the high court’s nine justices — including, most recently, Amy Coney Barrett.

The Trump campaign on Wednesday pushed Republican donors to dig deeper into their pockets to help finance legal challenges. Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, during a donor call, spoke plainly: “The fight’s not over. We’re in it.”

The momentum from early voting carried into Election Day, as an energized electorate produced long lines at polling sites throughout the country. Turnout was higher than in 2016 in numerous counties, including all of Florida, nearly every county in North Carolina and more than 100 counties in both Georgia and Texas. That tally seemed sure to increase as more counties reported their turnout figures.

Voters braved worries of the coronavirus, threats of polling place intimidation and expectations of long lines caused by changes to voting systems, but appeared undeterred as turnout appeared it would easily surpass the 139 million ballots cast four years ago.


Elections
2 CWI incumbents lose seats, creating all-women board

NAMPA — Voters selected three new trustees for the College of Western Idaho, creating a board comprised of all women.

Two CWI trustees, including one of the community college's founding board members, lost their reelection bids Tuesday, paving the way for two new younger board members.

C.A. “Skip” Smyser lost his seat in Zone 1 to Samantha Guerrero, who earned 55.2% of the vote in Ada and Canyon counties, and Mary Niland lost in Zone 3 to April Baylon-Mendoza, who received 51.3% of the votes. 

In Zone 5, retiring state Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb of Boise ran unopposed for the seat held by outgoing trustee Mark Dunham. 

The incoming board is made up of all women; three of them are women of color. 

Guerrero, who is Latina, said she believes that the incoming board is more representative of the community in Canyon and Ada counties than the previous board.

"We are multigenerational and we come from different cultural backgrounds," Guerrero said. "To me that allows us the ability to bring all those backgrounds to the table and remove barriers to education to folks who look like us."

Guerrero is the bilingual community organizer for the Idaho Organization of Resource Councils. She is a first-generation Idahoan and a daughter of Mexican immigrants. She graduated in 2017 from the College of Idaho with her Bachelor of Arts in anthropology/sociology and political economy.

Symser, who lost reelection, is an attorney and restaurant owner from Parma. He was the CWI board chairman and a former state legislator. 

Guerrero said her opponent did great things for the college, but she is excited to be part of the next generation of CWI board members. 

Guerrero said her main objectives after being sworn in as a board member are to address the needs for teachers and students during the pandemic, she hopes to increase grant opportunities for students and to work on areas of diversity and equity at the college.

Niland, the retired CEO and founder of Witco, helped establish CWI in 2007, when she was appointed as a founding trustee. Niland was unseated by Baylon-Mendoza, a Filipino-American, who received three degrees from CWI before graduating from Boise State University with a Bachelor of Science in political science and government.

Baylon-Mendoza is a supervisor with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. She also worked for 11 years at Money Tree, where she said she obtained leadership skills and the ability to manage a large institution. 

As a former CWI graduate and "civil servant at heart," Baylon-Mendoza said she is "attached to the educators at CWI, they were influential in my growth and in what I decided to do in my own life."

Baylon-Mendoza said she is thrilled to serve on a board made up of completely women. She said she has been a long-time fan of Buckner-Webb's work in the Idaho Legislature. 

"If other girls and young women are inspired to put themselves out there and make a change, I think now is our time," she said.

Baylon-Mendoza said her main goals as a board member will be trying to create more of a community at CWI. She plans to help the college use social media to create that community and outreach to students who may be struggling with the impacts of COVID-19 and other setbacks. 

Smyser and Niland could not be reached for comment Wednesday. 

CWI launched its first classes in January 2009 and grew into one of the nation's fastest-growing community colleges, serving more than 31,000 students in 2019 and operating on a $71.6 million budget in fiscal year 2020. 

Ten percent of CWI's students are full-time, and the bulk of the part-time students are high schoolers earning dual credit. 

The college has tried to expand its facilities in recent years but has failed to secure voter support for a bond or tax levy increase. In May 2019, voters rejected a 10-year, $4.7 million per year plant facilities levy that, coupled with state funding, would have paid for a new health science building. Three years earlier, voters turned down a $180 million bond to pay for four new buildings.

There has also been some unrest among staff. Last year, a majority of the 146 full-time faculty gave a vote of no confidence in CWI President Bert Glandon, claiming the administration used a "culture of fear" and cared more about making money than caring for students or faculty. One month later, trustees approved a contract extension for Glandon and a roughly $5,000 raise. 

CWI trustees are elected from zones within the CWI district, which covers Ada and Canyon counties. Citizens in both counties vote for commissioners in all zones.


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Local
Idaho GOP celebrates election wins, Dems say pandemic hurt them
  • Updated

BOISE — Idaho Republicans celebrated election gains Wednesday, as minority Democrats said they faced a “double whammy” from the presidential race and the pandemic.

“One thing we learned is we’re a fast-growing state, and the people that choose to move to the state of Idaho, they’re conservative and they vote Republican,” declared Tom Luna, state GOP chairman.

House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, said, “You can count on us to continue to hold the line to make Idaho a business-friendly state and to continue to attract like-minded people to move here.”

Republicans already held 80% of the 105 seats in the Idaho Legislature before this election; they upped that to 82% on Tuesday by gaining two seats in the House. They also flipped the Ada County Commission from a 2-1 Democratic majority to a 2-1 GOP majority.

Ada County Commissioner-elect Ryan Davidson attributed his victor to increased voter turnout.

“I think one of the biggest factors was President Trump,” Davidson said. “Our president inspired a lot more people to go to the polls who otherwise never would have.”

Davidson defeated incumbent Democratic Commissioner Diana Lachiondo. He also benefited from an independent campaign against Lachiondo funded by developers; she’s an advocate of development impact fees.

Idaho House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, said Idaho Democrats suffered from the impact of a presidential year in a GOP-heavy state, coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic putting a crimp on Democrats’ usual modes of campaigning.

“In Idaho … presidential years are always really tough for Democrats,” Rubel said. “It’s sort of the inverse of the national trend. I think at the national level, presidential years are usually stronger for Democrats in other states, but it’s always the opposite in Idaho.”

She noted Idaho’s high Republican registration numbers. As of Monday, 53% of Idaho’s registered voters were registered Republicans; 14% were registered Democrats; and 32% were unaffiliated, according to figures from the Idaho Secretary of State’s office.

“When you have the higher turnout, you have more people coming out to the polls who aren’t necessarily following all the ups and downs of the issues, they’re just coming out to vote their party ticket,” Rubel said. “And that does not benefit Democrats in a state where there are substantially more registered Republicans than there are Democrats.”

She said the pandemic also hurt Democrats.

“So many candidates and so many volunteers, particularly on the Democratic side where there was more concern about not wanting to be part of transmission … were afraid to knock doors. People were just very nervous about getting out there and facing all those in-person contacts,” she said.

Rubel said registered Republicans will vote with their party unless they have a reason to do otherwise, “and the way to do otherwise is to knock at the door and have a personal conversation and explain that you’re not a communist and Antifa.”

“The Republican apparatus is very good at caricaturing us and painting us as a lot of wild people who want to burn down everything,” she said. “The in-person knocking has always been our most valuable tool in debunking a lot of the nonsense that’s thrown out there about Democrats.”

Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, agreed. “We work very hard to keep our seats,” she said. “This has been a pretty uncertain time. Our strengths are to meet people and be with people and door-knock and be present, and have that one-on-one face time, and it’s extraordinarily hard during the era of COVID to do that.”

Republicans continue to hold every seat in Idaho’s four-member congressional delegation — including three they retained on Tuesday — and every statewide office.

GOP Gov. Brad Little said Wednesday, “I think it’s prima facie evidence that the people of Idaho agree with the principles of the Republican Party.”