On Tuesday, Lewiston voters embraced change on the city council.
But how much change and what kind?
The big winner was former 2nd District Court Judge John Bradbury, who captured 23.17 percent of the vote, along with Kevin Kelly, who got 17.77 percent.
In the process, voters dispatched incumbents Jim Kleeburg, who got 11.89 percent and Ged Randall, who came in at 8.34 percent.
But it wasn’t a clean sweep. First-term incumbent Cari Miller won reelection with 16.71 percent while challenger Mike Menegas fell short with 14.02 percent.
l There was a hint of partisanship. Bradbury has run as a Democrat. Kelly and Miller have registered to vote in Democratic primaries. In the 2018 GOP primary, Kleeburg ran for county commissioner. Randall is registered as a Republican voter. Menegas, while unaffiliated, was publicly promoted by the GOP.
In a nonpartisan election, however, the bulk of voters either did not know or did not care.
l Effort mattered. While money isn’t everything, it serves as a barometer for who was actively campaigning and who was not.
Bradbury raised and spent about $4,200 leading into the final week of the campaign. That compares to the roughly $2,300 Kelly raised and $3,400 that Miller generated.
By comparison, Randall raised about $1,100 and spent half of it going into the last seven days.
Kleeburg had raised $450.
Menegas had more than sufficient resources. He raised $3,020 and spent all but $167 of it before the last week of the campaign.
Something else is behind his loss.
l Don’t look to turnout for an explanation. It certainly does not tell you whether one side mobilized its base while the other stayed home.
At 23.59 percent, turnout was within the range of past city elections, including 22.35 percent during last May’s water and sewer bond election, 21.72 percent in the 2017 city council election or 19.69 percent in 2015.
l Coalitions mattered. Chief among them was Bradbury’s, which included Democrats, Republicans as well as people skeptical of business as usual at city hall. They remember Bradbury’s successful challenges to faulty management at the library as well as the city leadership’s attempt to bypass voters on the bond issues through judicial confirmation.
What’s the unifying theme of this election? Where’s the mandate?
It wasn’t the airport. If the clandestine pro-airport Grow Lewiston group had prevailed, the winners would have been Bradbury, Menegas and Kleeburg, not Bradbury, Kelly and Miller.
It wasn’t necessarily voter dissatisfaction with rising water and sewer rates required to replace the city’s antiquated infrastructure. If that had been the case, you would have heard more grumbling much sooner — and the May bond issue would not have passed so overwhelmingly.
Nor can you say voters embraced Bradbury’s talk about reforming Lewiston from a city manager to a strong mayor form of government. Kelly won on his resume. Miller prevailed on her record. The defeat of Kleeburg and Randall sticks more to Lewiston’s history of incumbent fatigue.
This was not so much a triumph of message as it was a personal victory for Bradbury. After three decades in public life, he’s a known commodity. Voters gave him license to shake, rattle and roll at city hall.
They want him to ask questions.
They want him to challenge conventions.
They won’t mind too much if he puts City Manager Alan Nygaard and City Attorney Jana Gomez back on their collective heels from time to time.
But if he goes too far, there will be six other councilors to restrain him. — M.T.