CALDWELL — The city of Caldwell is calling for a historic runoff election in the Seat 6 race for Caldwell City Council, Mayor Garret Nancolas announced Friday.
The tentative date set for the runoff election is Tuesday, Dec. 3, according to a statement from Canyon County Clerk Chris Yamamoto. That’s the same day as the Boise mayoral runoff election between incumbent Dave Bieter and Boise City Council President Lauren McLean.
Canyon County officials had not determined a polling location for the Caldwell runoff election as of Friday afternoon. The election is estimated to cost $30,000, which will be paid for by the city, Yamamoto said.
There has never been a runoff election for any office in the city’s history, said Nancolas, the city’s longtime mayor.
The city’s legal team sent an official statement confirming the runoff election announcement shortly after noon Friday. The statement followed three days of confusion as candidates, residents and local officials debated whether a runoff was necessary.
“I was so stoked,” second-place Seat 6 candidate Evangeline Beechler said after hearing the news.
Beechler had sent a formal request for a runoff to the city late Friday morning but had received no word from the city or county on whether a runoff was possible until early Friday afternoon.
Caldwell voters will get to choose between the top two candidates for the city council’s Seat 6: Beechler and former state Sen. John McGee. Incumbent Councilman Chuck Stadick will not be in the running after coming in third, 11 votes behind Beechler.
A handful of Caldwell residents showed up at Caldwell City Hall early Friday afternoon to ask city officials if a runoff was in the works.
“We wanted to talk to them since they’ve been ignoring everyone,” resident Kristianna McAlister said.
City officials could not be reached Friday evening for a response to that comment.
Residents had been calling for a runoff since Wednesday, the day after an election in which McGee received the highest number of votes in the Seat 6 race but failed to get more than 50% of the vote.
McGee won 39% of the vote, while his opponents, Beechler and Stadick, each received roughly 30%.
McGee’s lead sparked outrage from the community, as his past history in office ended with him resigning in disgrace and pleading guilty to sexually harassing a female Senate staffer in 2012. He spent 39 days in jail after being sentenced to up to 88 days.
McGee had agreed to be interviewed Friday afternoon but cancelled after the runoff was announced. He could not be reached for comment Friday.
Confusion has lingered surrounding Caldwell’s city code, adopted in 1989, which states, “Members of the Caldwell City Council shall be elected by a majority of the qualified electors as established by State Code.”
Canyon County officials sought input from the Secretary of State’s Office and the Office of the Idaho Attorney General, which both said the applicable ordinances and statutes indicate a Caldwell City Council candidate must receive more than 50% of the votes or a runoff is required, according to the city’s statement.
Previous Caldwell City Council candidates have been elected with less than 50% of the vote. Beechler was a candidate in one of those races in 2017, when Councilman Rob Hopper defeated her and two other candidates with just 37% of the vote.
Nancolas and the city’s legal team statement said Friday they believe Caldwell’s city code was not violated.
“The City Attorney’s Office has advised Caldwell that because such candidates took office in good faith under the prevailing application of City Code, and in the absence of any objection or election contest, they hold their offices legitimately and legally,” the city’s press release said.
McAlister said it bothers her that Caldwell has let this slide for so long.
“The city has had this law for 30 years, and they have not been following it,” she said.
Yet Beechler agreed with the city’s conclusion, and said she does not think this was a purposeful or malicious move by the city. She said she believes this was something that was “completely overlooked” for the past 30 years after Caldwell adopted the ordinance.
Canyon County officials previously said there was no need for a runoff election based on Idaho Code. Decker said Idaho Code Section 50-412 specifies that in the case of a single office to be filled in a municipal election, “the candidate with the highest number of votes shall be declared elected.” Because Caldwell’s city code refers to the state code, that means a runoff election would not be necessary in Caldwell, he had said earlier Wednesday.
However, Caldwell’s city code also references Idaho Code Section 50-707, and part B of that code states, “In the event no candidate receives a majority of the votes cast, there shall be a runoff election between the two (2) candidates receiving the highest number of votes cast.”
The city’s press release said that portion of the code means Caldwell must hold a runoff election in the event that the leading candidate does not receive more than 50% of the vote.
“I am very pleased and encouraged that Mayor Garret Nancolas has decided to put the citizens of Caldwell first and move forward with a runoff election for Seat 6 on the city council,” Beechler said in a statement Friday afternoon. “This is about ensuring the next city councilperson has the confidence, comfort and trust of all Caldwell voters, and I’m more confident than ever now that we can win this race.”