BOISE — The tech company office where Mikelle Oliver works as a recruiter opened two and a half years ago and is now so crammed she must share a desk.
Ms. Oliver and her 200 co-workers will soon move to another building and be joined by 300 more employees. A housing development of 3,000 homes on Boise’s edge, planned for a 20-year build-out, is about a decade ahead of schedule. On the city’s hippest strip, young people pack the outdoor cafes on a late spring weeknight.
These are heady times for Idaho’s biggest metro area, with an influx of newcomers, a spike in home prices and a jolt of high-wage jobs in professions like payroll services and accounting that have made Idaho the fastest-growing state in the nation. Boise has driven the growth — more than four in 10 Idaho residents now live within a half-hour’s drive of the State Capitol in the heart of the city.
With that wave of urbanization and economic development has come a new political chemistry in this conservative rural state. Idaho’s new residents, clustering in Boise’s boom zone, are creating uncertainty about how they might vote in Tuesday’s primary for governor in a moment when economics, politics and demographics are all in motion.
No one is expecting a revolution; the long dominance by Republicans is almost certainly secure. Still, political experts said, the election could be pivotal for both parties as a measure of whether prosperity and new blood push Democrats and Republicans toward moderation, or away from it.
Sam McMahon, 22, who grew up east of Seattle and graduated this spring with a degree in computer science from Boise State University, is among the new deciders. He described himself as an enthusiastic but uncommitted Democrat who planned to vote on Tuesday in a primary where the open seat for governor is the headline attraction. Boise’s mayor, Dave Bieter, a Democrat, said newcomers like Mr. McMahon were making some traditionally Republican state legislative seats on the city’s edge competitive for the first time in recent memory.
Tiffany Amos also plans to vote. She came to Idaho from California for college, and she and her husband have put down roots, buying a home here last summer. She said she planned to vote for a Republican but hasn’t decided who will get her support in a crowded field. Gov. C. L. Otter, a Republican known to all as Butch, is retiring after 12 years.
Many residents — some in frustration, others with a sigh of relief — said they thought that Idaho could emerge from this election cycle superficially unchanged, shifted only in the nuances and margins despite the churn of new wealth, new population and anxiety about where it all might lead.
More economic energy than ever is flowing from Boise, but the legislature is likely to remain firmly in the grip of conservative rural lawmakers. More retirees are moving in for the attractive home prices and taxes, but so are more young tech workers who want good schools. Democrats have felt a surge of enthusiasm in the…