Conservation Wins and the Work Ahead

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2020 has certainly been a challenging year. At Conservation Voters for Idaho, we’ve stood alongside members of communities we serve, local partners, and our own staff and families as the nation has grappled with the devastating impacts of a global pandemic, climate change, political turmoil and racial injustice.

And despite threats of voter intimidation at the polls, the ongoing threat of coronavirus, and a volatile political environment, Idahoans mailed in their absentee ballots and took to the polls like never before. 

Twenty of our endorsed candidates were elected to local and state offices with one of our endorsed candidates, Alexis Pickering, heading into a recount – currently leading by two votes. Voters of all political persuasions, from the capital of Boise to eastern Idaho, have overwhelmingly shown their support for these candidates who ran on the platform of protecting our clean air and water, our parks and trails, and farmland and open space. 

This astounding win for conservation is because of people like you, who got involved, volunteered to get out the vote, and cast your vote to elect pro-conservation candidates. Yesterday’s election results helped secure pro-conservation candidates in some of Idaho’s most populous counties and legislative districts. We secured a 100% pro-conservation majority on the Teton County Commission, elected 14 Idaho State Legislative seats, and kept some of the most extreme anti-public land advocates and climate change deniers out of the Legislature. 

Some of our election highlights include Senator Michelle Stennett’s win over Eric Parker for the State Senate seat in District 26 – a victory for public land enthusiasts everywhere. Known as the “Bundy ranch sniper,” Eric Parker participated in the 2014 armed confrontation outside of Mesquite, Nevada, and who – if elected – would have worked to greatly undermine public lands and conservation policy in the Legislature. We are confident Sen. Stennett will continue to work hard to protect what we all value most about Idaho—the unparalleled quality of life, including access to our public lands.

Senator David Nelson’s victory over Dan Foreman, a well-known climate change denier, for the State Senate seat in District 5 was a resounding victory. We’re thrilled Sen. Nelson will continue to represent the values of his rural constituents – balancing working landscapes with protecting Idaho’s critical natural resources. 

With the Treasure Valley being one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in one of the fastest growing states, the Ada County Highway District race was absolutely critical to ensure we develop a more balanced transportation system in our region. With this District overseeing over 2,000 miles of roads and streets in Ada County, with an estimated value of $3 billion, we need strong conservation candidates who will work toward a financially and environmentally sustainable path forward as we continue to deal with the strains and needs of our growing community. Our endorsed candidate Jim Hansen was elected to this special district office, while Alexis Pickering’s race will likely be heading into a recount.

Full List of Elected Champions

Sen. David Nelson, D5 Senate

Rep. Steve Berch, D15 House

Sen. Grant Burgoyne, D16 Senate

Colin Nash, D16 House

Ali Rabe, D17 Senate

Rep. Ilana Rubel, D18 House

Rep. Brooke Green, D18 House

Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking, D18 Senate

Rep. Melissa Wintrow, D19 Senate

Chris Mathias, D19 House

Rep. Lauren Necochea, D19 House

Sen. Michelle Stennett, D26 Senate

Rep. Muffy Davis, D26 House

Rep. Sally Toone, D26 House

Commissioner Jacob Greenberg, Blaine D2

Commissioner Tom Lamar, Latah D2

Commissioner Cindy Riegel, Teton, D1

Mike Whitfield, Teton, D2

Commissioner Jim Hansen, Ada County Highway District, D1

Commissioner Alexis Pickering, Ada County Highway District, D2

Mayor Ned Burns, Bellevue Mayor

Unfortunately, in every cycle we experience losses that none of us at Conservation Voters for Idaho like to see, but ultimately have to prepare for – losing conservation majorities we worked so hard to elect in previous years.

As the largest, most-populous county in the state, there is a strong need for a conservation-minded Ada County Commission – a Commission that will work hard to protect the character and charm of our neighborhoods from the threat of unplanned and reckless growth. We are very disappointed over the losses of Commissioner Diana Lanchiondo and Bill Rutherford’s races in the Ada County Commission, which would have solidified a pro-conservation majority on the Commission, and ensured we had experienced leaders who will work to protect our quality of life, protect taxpayer investments, and make sure that Ada County grows in a responsible and healthy way.

As such, we will be making strong investments in political organizing and accountability to make sure the newly elected Ada County Commissioners know that Idahoans support conservation, and we’ll be watching every step of the way. 

We’d like to congratulate all the hard-working candidates. Win or lose, we know that all the conversations with voters have helped make our community and our state a better place and advanced our state forward on conservation issues.

And, of course, I’d like to thank all of you for casting your vote for conservation, and continuing to support Conservation Voters for Idaho. 

While we work to impact the political environment to protect the natural environment– our work is never just electoral, and as election results roll in this morning here and across the nation, we’re reminded of the work that must continue. The fight for our future continues. 

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