BLACKFOOT — In perhaps the most contentious Blackfoot mayoral election in recent memory, Marc Carroll was re-elected Tuesday night to another four-year term over challenger Craig Stuart.
A 50-percent-plus-one-vote majority was required to win, and the night turned into a horse race as votes were tallied by hand in the Bingham County Courthouse Courtroom #1 due to the quick turnaround between the Nov. 2 municipal election and Tuesday’s runoff election and not having enough time to set up voting machines properly for the runoff, according to county Clerk Pam Eckhardt. The votes in each precinct were counted at least three times to ensure accuracy.
In the end, Carroll finished on top with 702 votes or 52.6 percent, while Stuart came in with 632 votes or 47.4 percent. The last precinct tally for Precinct 2 came in around 10 p.m. Carroll and some of his family members waited on edge through most of the night at the courthouse as results were posted on a white board. Stuart was reportedly with supporters at a watch party away from the courthouse.
“It was a very, very close election,” Carroll said. “I appreciate everybody who came out to vote. Would love to see more people turn out. ... But I appreciate everybody who did come out. I especially appreciate those who supported me, that includes my family, my daughters who’ve put in a tremendous amount of time, my wife, my granddaughters. I’ve got to give special kudos to the Firefighters Local 4454 and Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 35. Both of those bodies of first responders did endorse my re-election and I sincerely appreciate it.”
Carroll also received a key public endorsement on Monday from a previous challenger, city Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Ron Ramirez. Carroll said that endorsement said a lot to him as well.
“Ron is a fine, fine man,” Carroll said. “He’s a high quality leader in the community. He comes in probably four or five hours a week at a minimum to sit down and discuss different perspectives with Planning and Zoning. We have good conversations. I treasure my friendship with Ron Ramirez.”
As far as the tone of the campaign that took place between Carroll and Stuart, shifting just days before the municipal election with a Facebook advertisement from an online citizens’ group and carrying into social media with charges from Stuart of Carroll acting in a “sketchy” manner in how he conducts business right up to the day of the runoff election, Carroll expressed concern about the harshness of the tone he had seen.
Carroll reflected back to the 2017 election which saw another four-man race which resulted in Carroll winning his first term over then-incumbent Paul Loomis, calling it “very friendly” with “good conversations before and after the forums.
“For whatever reason, that didn’t seem to be the case with this election. I think there were other factions that were entering into it. I think it’s something we need to work on, I need to work on, and I will. I’ve got to reach out to those factions and talk some more to them. I know the issue is annexation but, again, it’s something every city has to do. The city has to grow. If you don’t grow, you’re going to fail.”
As for priorities following his re-election, Carroll noted that Stuart pushed hard on recreation.
“Recreation is something that is near and dear to my heart, and there have been different meetings that have been held looking at how we can provide more recreation in the area, how we can bolster the existing recreation,” he said. “For example, I don’t know that a lot of people know that we have disc golf at Jensen Grove and there are tournaments held there. There are fun runs at Jensen Grove around the greenbelt. We’re looking at ways to improve the fireworks show for Celebrate Blackfoot next year.
“Right now, we’re focused more on infrastructure, on water and sewer. Much of our piping underground is approaching 100 years old. I talked before about the downtown sewer system, that was built in the early 1920s. There are pipes that are failing and we need to address those before we do recreation.”
As for final thoughts, Carroll said, “It’s been a long month. It’s been a long day. I guess I’m ready to go home and hit the rack and be in the office first thing in the morning.”
With the way the night went with hand tallying, the results were like watching a horse race as they were posted.
Absentee and early voting results were posted first with Carroll and Stuart tied at 76 votes each in absentee voting. In early voting, Carroll was on top 96-65, giving Carroll a lead of 172-141.
Precinct 4 results were next and Stuart had 98 votes, Carroll with 55 votes to make it 239-227 in Stuart’s favor.
Precinct 5 came in and Carroll narrowed Stuart’s lead with 115 votes to Stuart’s 109, making it 348-342 for Stuart.
Carroll retook the lead in Precinct 3 with 82 votes to Stuart’s 56, and Carroll led 424-404.
Then Carroll’s lead narrowed with Precinct 1 going up on the board. Stuart had 86 votes, Carroll 78 votes, and Carroll’s lead was down to 502-490 with two precincts left to count.
Carroll started pulling away in Precinct 6 — Carroll with 123 votes, Stuart with 82, putting Carroll’s lead at 625-572. Precinct 2 was all that was left, and observers were left figuring out any possibilities.
Carroll took Precinct 2 77-60 to wrap it up.
Carroll will be sworn in again during the January city council meeting.
The difference in money put into the campaign was a stark contrast and showed how serious the challenge was to Carroll.
Stuart was the only candidate among the original four who was required to file a campaign financial disclosure report with the Idaho Secretary of State’s office. The report showed total contributions for Stuart’s campaign at $6,275, with all but $100 of that coming from two loans from Stuart — one loan of $3,000 dated Sept. 23 and another of $2,975 dated Sept. 6, with the remainder coming from a $100 donation from a private citizen.
Total expenditures for the Stuart campaign were listed at $5,289.81. He had spent $2,013 with an advertising agency, and the report showed $575 going to Facebook ads.
Carroll said Monday he has spent a little over $400 on 50 new yard signs while using more yard signs left from his previous campaign in 2017.