First Things First

Kootenai County government relies on willing citizens to serve on various advisory boards to help oversee our hospitals, schools, libraries, highways, and water/sewer districts. Moreover, the people who are elected to these roles are meant to work in a nonpartisan manner. In other words, partisan politics are irrelevant to providing community services. Therefore, political agendas and ideology should be left at the door.

KCRCC Chooses Blatant Partisan Interference

Unfortunately, the Republican Central Committee does not see it this way. Consequently, they actively recruit and finance ideologically pure candidates to run for these nonpartisan positions. It does not even matter whether their preferred candidates are qualified if they toe the partisan line. To ensure their allegiance, candidates must submit to a loyalty test. Those that pass muster are given the KCRCC seal of approval. The KCRCC then distributes a list of approved candidates to their partisan voters. Although they deny it is blatantly partisan, their tactics speak for themselves.

Whatever they call it, their actions damage community trust and impede cooperation. For example, it is well known that their vetted candidates took over the North Idaho College Board of Trustees. Now, the Coeur d’Alene Library Board is threatened by a partisan candidate with an agenda of censoring books that she deems as inappropriate. The quality of care at our county hospital is also threatened. A candidate with a conservative agenda wants to cut critical services. If successful, this restriction will force some Idahoans to seek care in Spokane. In addition, the cuts could induce members of an already strained medical staff to seek employment elsewhere.

Our Response

As mentioned last week, these actions have prompted us to consider shifting from our longstanding and cherished practice of staying out of nonpartisan elections. However, before making a firm decision, we debated the issue at great length. One option was to counter the KCRCC by issuing our own list of vetted candidates. We also discussed what to do with such a list. Democrats on both sides of this matter voiced deeply held opinions. And as I said, we voted to issue and promote such a list.

The decision was not an easy one. None of us want to depart from our tradition of respecting the independence of these elective positions. The fear being that once this line is crossed, there is no return to nonpartisanship. At the same time everyone desperately wants to protect our local institutions from an ideological ambush by unqualified partisan candidates.

At this point, the debate continues. Your KCDCC Executive Committee encourages all Democrats to voice your opinion at our May Central Committee meeting. We also ask you to only support qualified candidates. For now, please plan to vote in the May 18 election. Good government can only survive if we elect candidates who will work on behalf of our shared schools, libraries, hospital, and local infrastructure. The way to ensure this objective is to vote for candidates who commit to leave their partisan politics at home.