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Canyon County voters stand in line outside the O’Connor Field House in Caldwell on Nov. 3, 2020, to cast their ballot in the general election.

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CALDWELL — Races for Caldwell mayor can now end with a runoff.

Caldwell City Council unanimously voted Monday night to adjust city code to allow a mayoral race to have a runoff election if none of the candidates receive more than 50% of the vote. Previously, whichever mayoral candidate received the most votes would win.

Monday’s change came about a year after Caldwell adjusted city code to eliminate the possibility of runoff elections for city council positions. It also came three days after 23-year Mayor Garret Nancolas announced he won’t seek a seventh term in November.

“In our case, the mayor’s position is the city manager, CEO, chief cook and bottle washer, whatever the duty of the day may be,” Nancolas said Monday before councilmembers voted. “I think it’s prudent that we make sure for both whoever’s mayor and citizens that the person sitting in that seat does have a majority of the citizens behind them in an election.”

Changing city code to allow for a mayoral runoff election means no one can be elected mayor until receiving the majority of the votes, either in the general or runoff election.

Considering there will be an open seat, Monday’s city code change could play a role in the mayoral election just months away. Though Nancolas said Monday he never received less than 50% of votes, he pointed out the realistic possibility of that happening for the leading candidate, especially if there are as many as six or seven candidates on the ballot.

“That, to me, is just a difficult position for that person to be in as mayor,” Nancolas said, “as well as it puts the public more at odds without that finalization of who it could be.”

When the city council reviewed runoff election rules last year, the mayoral election also raised discussion.

In 2019, Caldwell held its first runoff election in city history after John McGee won 39% of the vote for a seat on city council. Second-place Evangeline Beecher earned about 30%. After initial confusion about whether a runoff was allowed, McGee won the head-to-head matchup with Beechler.

Three months later, the Caldwell City Council clarified language in the city code to eliminate runoff elections for city council races. The candidate with the highest number of votes would be elected.

To become mayor, though, a candidate now must receive more than 50% of the vote. If none of the candidates reach that mark, the two candidates with the most votes will then have the runoff.

City attorney Mark Hilty said Monday most of the cities he looked at recently do allow for mayoral runoff elections, such as Boise, which had a runoff in 2019 when Lauren McLean defeated incumbent Dave Bieter.

Caldwell’s previous system of basing mayoral elections on most votes received no matter the percentage, is “not how it typically is in other cities in the valley,” Hilty said.

By adding language to allow for the mayoral runoff, Hilty said he believes Caldwell is more closely aligned with other cities.

Paul Schwedelson covers growth, Nampa and Caldwell. Follow him on Twitter @pschweds.

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