The Bannock County Democratic Party has crossed party lines for the first time in its history to support a Republican in Pocatello's mayoral race.
Though it's not a formal endorsement, the Bannock County Democratic Party is supporting incumbent Republican Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad ahead of Tuesday's mayoral runoff election.
Steven Landon, chairman of the Bannock County Democratic Party, said his organization typically stays out of nonpartisan mayoral races and races without Democratic candidates, but the group’s leadership felt it needed to offer its full support of Blad as a “stand against extremism and unacceptable policies,” which they believe Blad’s challenger David Worley represents.
Blad and Worley, who considers himself to be a Republican, were the top vote-getters in the Nov. 2 election, but neither candidate secured more than 50% of the total vote, forcing a runoff election that is set for Tuesday.
“This has never ever happened before,” Landon said of the Bannock County Democrats supporting a Republican candidate. “But it’s really not about supporting a Republican. It's about supporting the best person in the race at this time.”
The Bannock County Republican Party has not issued an endorsement of either candidate in Pocatello's mayoral runoff election. But Bannock County Republicans said that at their October meeting their organization decided to encourage local Republicans to vote for Republican candidates in local races.
Landon described the Bannock County Democratic Party's support for Blad as “a decision that was made in a vote by the leadership to support Brian over extremism.”
“We've made a habit of staying out of nonpartisan races in the past. We basically just let it be what it is,” Landon said. “But in this situation where there's not a Democrat in the race and we think that there is a clear difference between the two candidates, as far as the city of Pocatello and the benefits to the city of Pocatello are concerned, we've chosen to stand up and say this is what we believe.”
When contacted for comment, Worley said that Blad “has been governing like a tax-and-spend Democrat and he fully deserves their endorsement.”
Worley pointed to his notable endorsements and approvals as having come from “hundreds of private citizens who have donated enough time, talent and funds to challenge the entire political establishment.”
Regarding the Bannock County Democrats’ support for him as the first Republican candidate they’ve ever backed, Blad said that it shows the local Democratic Party leadership is “willing to set aside political differences for the better good of the community.”
“It's definitely a privilege for me to have that honor, quite frankly,” Blad said. “There is a great concern of extremism in our community. I have that same concern."
Blad acknowledged that the current political climate does not promote unity among political parties. The Republican mayor said his receiving the support of the Bannock County Democratic Party is indicative of his ability to bring people together regardless of their beliefs.
“I believe that one thing we have lost in America is that ability to unite and bring people together,” Blad said. “This is a great example of my ability to do that.”