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John McGee

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CALDWELL — Caldwell City Councilman John McGee has requested to withdraw from the Caldwell mayoral runoff election. McGee on Monday petitioned Idaho's district court to declare the race uncontested.

But Judge George Southworth dismissed the petition Tuesday, because Caldwell city officials have yet to say how they will 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.

McGee finished second in last week's mayoral election after tallying 1,075 votes, or 22%. Fellow City Councilman Jarom Wagoner collected 2,236 votes, or 47%. That was less than the majority required to avoid a runoff election per Caldwell city code, which mandates a runoff between the top two candidates if one does not collect more than 50% of votes. 

The runoff election is scheduled for Nov. 30.

But McGee hopes to withdraw and save taxpayers the expense, said his attorney, Idaho Rep. Greg Chaney, R-Caldwell.

"John feels strongly that the voice of the voters was expressed the first time around, that Jarom's percentage of the vote was decisive," Chaney told the Idaho Press in a phone interview Tuesday. "It's John's desire … that we not create a taxpayer expense unnecessarily."

A phone call placed to McGee seeking comment was not immediately returned.

Legal questions remain, however, Chaney said. There is no explicit avenue in state code for McGee to withdraw at this point in the race, Chaney said.

Caldwell city code — which the city council updated this year to add the runoff requirements — does not mention what should be done if one of the two runoff candidates withdraws. 

McGee filed a civil suit asking Southworth to intervene. The suit lists as defendants Canyon County Clerk Chris Yamamoto and Caldwell City Clerk Debbie Geyer. Chaney noted the suit is "not adversarial" but rather was the quickest way toward a resolution.

The city does not object to McGee's court petition and would have complied with the court's decision, Geyer's attorney, Mark Hilty, said during Tuesday's hearing.

"Election campaigns are a tough duty, and John feels beat up, and he's ready to concede," Hilty said. "That's based in no small part on the actual outcome of the election, which put Mr. Wagoner virtually on the threshold of the 50% majority that he needed."

But Southworth ruled that Geyer should decide how the city will interpret McGee's withdrawal before the court will intervene.

"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," he said.

McGee, a former state legislator, previously told the Idaho Press he was running for mayor because he has the “skills and the background” for the job. But a rocky past drew some Caldwell voters to the polls to oppose him. In 2011, McGee resigned his position in the Legislature after he was arrested for driving under the influence and crashing a car and after he served jail time in connection with allegations that he harassed a Statehouse staffer. 

Ryan Suppe is the Boise City Hall and Treasure Valley business reporter for the Idaho Press. Contact him at 208-344-2055 (ext. 3038). Follow him on Twitter @salsuppe.

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