Our public schools and libraries are the center of our communities. They uphold and strengthen some of the most fundamental ideals of our country. As Idahoans went to the polls this week, Democrats took action to protect these critical institutions. I was relieved to see that Idaho voters largely sided with Idaho Democrats and rejected extreme conservative activists trying to spread fear and division.
Far-right ideologues have made school and library boards into tumultuous battlegrounds in recent years. When threats of violence, misinformation campaigns, and an attempt to dissolve the Meridian Library Districts failed, they turned to the May 2023 election to push their extreme agenda. Recognizing the grave consequences of slashed school funding and a far-right takeover of libraries, Democratic county parties across Idaho made the rare decision to make endorsements in many high-stakes races.
One of the most watched elections was the Coeur d’Alene School District supplemental levy. If it failed, a quarter of district jobs would have been lost, two elementary schools would have closed, and sports would have been eliminated. Alongside community leaders, Kootenai County Democrats knocked on doors and made calls in support of Coeur d’Alene schools. In the end, over 63% of voters supported protecting public school funding in a very conservative county. Lakeland Joint School District, Weiser School District, and Bonneville Joint School were also able to pass levies for vital operations.
In Ada County, voters united against book bans. Meridian Library District incumbents, Destinie Hart and Josh Cummins, handily beat the far-right-backed opponents. And the Ada County Free Library saw the election of Mary Anne Saunders, who ran a platform opposing attacks on libraries. In Boundary County and Latah County, Democratic-backed candidates also prevailed.
Our county parties helped recruit or support candidates in 21 races across the state. Notably, these candidates were not all necessarily Democrats. They earned our endorsement in their nonpartisan races for having values we all ought to share when it comes to our libraries. Of them, 15, or nearly 75 percent, won their races. With partisanship removed from the equation, Idahoans overwhelmingly sided with Democrats — even in the reddest of districts.
I am heartened to know that many voters who traditionally identify as Republican share our Democratic values and priorities: adequately funding schools for our children and maintaining open libraries free from censorship. Importantly, these Idaho voters also rejected most of the far-right candidates that embody the new Idaho Republican Party.
We have much more in common than the contentious political discourse suggests. Idaho Democrats will continue leading the fight to reject extremism at the ballot box.
This week’s election demonstrated that we can succeed.
Lauren Necochea, Idaho Democratic Party Chair