CALDWELL — Caldwell City Councilman John McGee wants to withdraw from an upcoming mayoral runoff election, but the law won’t allow it. Taxpayers may be on the hook to fund an unnecessary election, unless a court intervenes.
On Wednesday, Caldwell City Clerk Debbie Geyer rejected McGee’s request to bow out of a runoff with fellow Councilman Jarom Wagoner, who beat McGee by more than 1,100 votes in last week’s general election. McGee, with his attorney, Rep. Greg Chaney, R-Caldwell, may challenge that decision in court.
Citing state and city code, Geyer and a city attorney decided McGee’s withdrawal is “not effective” and “insufficient” to remove him from the Nov. 30 runoff ballot. State code says a candidate must withdraw from a race 46 days prior to an election. And neither Caldwell nor state code mention what should be done if a candidate attempts to withdraw from a runoff.
“Due to the fact that the Idaho law does not provide a clear mechanism for the City Clerk to cancel the election or remove Mr. McGee from the ballot, the determination has been made to proceed with the runoff election between Jarom Wagoner and John McGee,” a Wednesday news release said.
Caldwell city code requires a runoff election when one candidate doesn’t collect more than 50% of votes in the general election. The top two vote-getters must compete in the runoff. Wagoner notched 47% of the vote in the general election, and McGee was second with 22%, triggering the automatic runoff.
A runoff would cost about $30,000, Geyer told the Idaho Press.
On Monday, McGee petitioned Idaho’s district court to declare the race uncontested.
In a news release, McGee said, “The people of Caldwell have spoken and I believe that they would like Mr. Wagoner to be their next Mayor. It is in the best interest of the City of Caldwell to avoid a long, costly run-off.”
But Judge George Southworth dismissed the petition Tuesday, because Caldwell city officials had yet to say how they would interpret city statute related to runoff elections.
“I’m really uncomfortable … deciding this before the city clerk has issued a decision,” Southworth said in a court hearing. “I think that decision should be issued by the city clerk and then, if there’s a conflict, then it can be filed in court.”
Chaney told the Idaho Press that he and McGee are reviewing the clerk’s decision, and they “will have a decision to announce” sometime Wednesday.