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Heads You're Mayor: Coin Toss To Decide Tiny Idaho Town's Leader

Idaho quarter, coin toss
Flickr Creative Commons

John Davis says he is not a gambler. In all his 73 years he doesn’t recall having won anything from a coin toss.

“I think I won a bottle of after shave lotion at the carnival one time, throwing horse shoes or something,” Davis says.

But Thursday Davis’ hopes for a political career will come down to the flip of a coin. Davis ran for mayor of the town Albion, east of Twin Falls. Last week's election left the town of fewer than 300 people evenly split on their mayoral choice.

Idaho law says ties in municipal elections will be resolved with a coin toss. Davis says he’s not nervous.  Sometimes he thinks he wants to be mayor and sometimes he doesn't. Davis says he ran to send a message to his American Legion buddy, incumbent mayor Don Bowden. The message was he wasn't happy with how Bowden was doing things. Davis says getting half the vote made the message clear, so he accomplished his main goal.

Bowden didn’t respond to repeated requests for an interview. But Mary Yeaman did. She's Albion's city clerk and by law she'll toss the coin and declare the winner. That seemed like a lot of pressure at first. 

“For right now I’ve just decided that whatever happens, happens and I’m not really responsible,” Yeaman says. “Probably before the coin toss I might be a little nervous.”

Maybe too nervous to catch a spinning coin.

“I actually think I’m just going to let it land on the floor,” she says. “We’ve got a little carpeted area and I’m going to flip it there. I don’t think it will bounce too much.”  

The law doesn’t say she has to catch it. In fact it doesn’t dictate any of the details. The city’s lawyer is trying to figure out things like who gets to call heads or tails.

An Albion citizen has volunteered a silver half dollar for the occasion. Yeaman has an Idaho state quarter in case he forgets.

She says she doesn’t leave anything in her life to chance, and would never make an important decision, or even a small one, by tossing a coin. Still, she can’t think of a better way to settle a tie race because another election would be too expensive.

Challenger John Davis expects a lot of people to come watch since the coin toss has been the talk of the town.

“People that are supporting me are telling me they’re going to bring me their special two headed coin,” Davis says.

He acknowledges that it’s an exciting event for the town and, laughing, says that’s because there’s nothing else going on in Albion.

The results are in. See the coin toss here.

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