Voters, take note of Jan. 12, 2022.

That’s the date of the sinking of the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee’s first Titanic.

With political fervor and deep pockets, the KCRCC has done everything in its power to take over virtually every elected office in the area. Its first notable successful coup — in a nonpartisan election, no less — was the North Idaho College board of trustees.

Just one year ago, arch-conservative Todd Banducci was joined by similarly-minded Greg McKenzie and Michael Barnes as the NIC board majority. Who could have predicted the damage these KCRCC-endorsed darlings could do to an otherwise good higher ed institution so quickly?

That’s not just our opinion, either. Next week, the agency accrediting colleges and universities including NIC will be investigating what’s gone wrong here and, hopefully, help chart a path to get back on the right track.

Momentum took a huge turn Wednesday when, hours after The Press published a front-page story citing questions about Barnes’ residency and calling for his immediate resignation, he complied. In a press release issued late Wednesday morning, Barnes said he was stepping aside because he does “not wish to allow my residency status to be yet another distraction for NIC.”

In other words, he took one for the good of the team? That’s pure bunk. Michael Barnes quit because the hounds were closing in, and his connection to a legal but questionable residency-for-hire outfit was being peeled back like layers of a rotten onion.

The point today is not to continue to pound on Barnes. For whatever reason, he helped the college and the community by stepping down, making way for what should be a significant improvement for NIC and higher education in Idaho.

The battle for electing good leaders, though, is far from over. KCRCC, a branch of the Idaho Freedom Foundation tree that unfortunately has roots throughout the state, will only double down after this staggering failure of its ideology-over-qualifications platform.

It will continue to weed out every possible candidate who is not in lockstep with their extremist, divisive and destructive agenda, attempting to make good on its pledge to derail public education and replace independent thinkers from across the political spectrum with robots who will always put party above people.

Wednesday’s resignation and the impending shift of NIC board control, though, are cause for celebration. May it serve as a stark example to conscientious voters about what happens when we put the wrong people in positions of power — and not to give up when such mistakes inevitably are made.

Written by Managing Editor Mike Patrick for The Press editorial board.

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