They're Back 

Bieter and Co. return to City Hall

After one of the quietest election seasons in recent history, Boise's city leadership remains intact.

As widely expected, Mayor Dave Bieter won a second term in office, easily besting challenger Council Member Jim Tibbs. When all the numbers were in, Bieter creamed Tibbs with a total of 63.6 percent, over a mere 35.7 percent for Tibbs.

For Tibbs, it was one failed attempt to grab voter attention after another. Whether it was a missed punch at Bieter over ethics issues, a misdirected volley at Bieter ally Council Member Maryann Jordan, Tibbs never quite managed to set himself apart from the Democratic incumbent.

With that, Boise remains solidly in the Democratic category, with Bieter ascending to a new position of strength, riding a mandate he was quick to identify.

"You hope for over 50 [percent], but these numbers, you just don't see," said Bieter as he celebrated with supporters at the Basque Center.

Tibbs will keep his seat on the council through the end of his term in 2009.

City Council will look the same for at least the next two years as well.

Incumbent Alan Shealy held on to Seat No. 1, with 48.5 percent of the vote, fending off challengers Steven Kimball (27.4 percent) and Frances Wray (12 percent). Of the three council races, Shealy's was the closest, a fact that wasn't lost on him.

"I really didn't know what to expect," he said. "I knew it could be very volatile."

Council Member Dave Eberle managed to hold on to Seat No. 3 with 57.6 percent of the vote, while challengers Redgie Kate Bingham received 10.6 percent and Marlene K. Smith garnered 19.4 percent.

Finally, Council President Elaine Clegg retained Seat No. 5, defeating challenger Carol Wingate, winning 58.2 percent of the vote to Wingate's 29.8 percent.

As he stood surrounded by a packed house of supporters, campaign workers and elected Democratic officials, Bieter said he saw the margin of victory as a clear mandate of approval.

"That's a supermajority," he said, as he acknowledged well-wishers in the glare of television cameras.

Four years ago Bieter fought a tough four-way race, against Chuck Winder, Vaughn Killeen and Max Mohammadi. Bieter took that race with 52 percent. This time around, he said the experience was "even more gratifying."

Over at the more sedate Tibbs party in the Owyhee Plaza hotel, about 50 people listened to Sally Tibbs sing jazz tunes and try to rev up the crowd.

Tibbs, hoarse from the campaign, remained stoic as the numbers crashed in on his campaign.

"We know that our strength was in the grassroots effort," he said in an interview.

Indeed, Tibbs and his supporters were low on big names from the get-go. Although Tibbs had the stated support from Republican luminaries like Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and Lt. Gov. Jim Risch, not a single elected official was on hand for his election night get-together.

Tibbs said he felt like his campaign had begun to hit its stride near the end, with a final debate against Bieter on KTVB Channel 7. But money, and support, never materialized.

"I wanted to raise as much as we could," Tibbs said. "We fell short of the goal."

Going back to council, he said, would require some diplomacy.

"I just hope the relationship is professional and respectful," he said. "That's the way it has to be."

Bieter said he doesn't expect the relationships on the council to change much.

"[Tibbs] has been passive on the council and I don't expect that to change," Bieter said.

Political analysts feared low participation because of the lack of scandal or conflict surrounding the election.

Tibbs's multiple failed attempts to make it a contentious campaign brought only criticism from the other council members. The city's Ethics Committee, which was created by Bieter, called the charges baseless.

Tibbs also tried to take advantage of Bieter's sometimes confrontational style, which has led to strained relationships with valley governing bodies, including the Ada County Highway District and the Ada County Board of Commissioners. Tibbs cast himself as the cooperation candidate, pledging to play nicely with surrounding communities.

Bieter said he wasn't afraid to fight for Boise.

But Tibbs' efforts to make himself an issues candidate never seemed to catch on. Despite releasing plans for public safety and transit, his plans lacked depth, and he was criticized for recycling ideas.

From the beginning of his campaign, Tibbs' detractors pointed to his voting record during his two years on the City Council, during which time he rarely disagreed with Bieter.

Bieter put the power of incumbency to work, making frequent public appearances in his official capacity.

He was also a prodigious fundraiser.

To shore up his lead, Bieter embarked on a parade of fundraisers, offering supporters the chance to do everything from dining to bowling with the mayor. His money hunt even prompted him to miss one of Boise's neighborhood association candidate forums.

According to campaign finance reports filed in October, Bieter raised more than $260,000, and campaign officials expect the final tally to be near $350,000. Substantial donations came from supporters as varied as the Boise Firefighters PAC and Micron CEO Steve Appleton. Other notable donors include Idaho Deputy Atty. Gen. Rob Luce; Pete Cenarrusa; Compass board member AJ Balukoff; Boise Airport Commissioner Edward Stimpson; BoDo developer Mark Rivers; and the Idaho Association of Realtors. The campaign spent more than $225,000 ($24,000 on advertisements alone), which leaves Bieter with roughly $40,000 that could be used for a future campaign or to donate to candidates in upcoming races.

Conservation Voters for Idaho was a major supporter of Bieter and the other incumbents, endorsing each early in the race and spending a substantial amount on several mass mailings.

"We feel that whenever elected officials do the right thing, they deserve our support," said Lee Flinn, executive director of CVI. "It costs a lot to run an official campaign."

By comparison, Tibbs raised just more than $55,000, $12,741 of which was left over from his 2005 campaign for Boise City Council. He spent roughly $42,000 on the campaign, leaving him $12,672 left in his campaign account.

While supporters watched election results on a big-screen television at the Basque Center, Bieter, Shealy, Eberle and Clegg were all promising to continue the work they have begun.

"There's a level of satisfaction today that we're headed in the right direction," Eberle said, as he and his allies prepared to return to council together. "The challenges for the next four years are very clear."

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