Local GOP rides national success

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Rick Souza, center, cheers with fellow Republicans at Fedora as Donald Trump's victory of Florida is announced Tuesday evening.

COEUR d'ALENE — National election results fueled local optimism with Republican state legislative candidates Tuesday night, despite the lack of solid voting numbers in their own races.

Incumbent District 4 State Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d'Alene, told The Press during a Republican viewing party at Fort Ground Grill in Coeur d'Alene that voter turnout on both local and national levels was unprecedented. That boded well for the Republican Party as a whole and, as of midnight Tuesday with three precincts and early in-person voting totals counted, for North Idaho Republicans in state legislative races.

"If the national election shows us anything, it's that the American people are tired of being ignored," Malek said.

When it came to confidence in his own race against Democrat Patrick Mitchell, Malek said he was feeling good about his chances. At that stage he’d captured 65 percent of the vote. The outpouring of support for his candidacy, Malek said, was extremely humbling.

"I pledge to continue to represent this community by listening to everyone who needs a voice in my district," he added.

Republican Paul Amador, who beat incumbent Rep. Kathy Sims in the May primary and captured 60 percent of the vote Tuesday, said this election cycle has seen him grow from a relative unknown in North Idaho politics to a serious contender. No local voting results had been posted when The Press spoke with Amador at about 10 p.m. Tuesday, but the Republican was feeling optimistic about his chances.

"We ran a positive campaign and had a great deal of local support," Amador said. "I want to give a huge thank you to my supporters. Campaigns are no small task and I feel like we had a huge groundswell of support for my candidacy."

Tom Hearn, a Democrat running against Amador for state representative in District 4, told The Press Tuesday night that he was feeling good about the positive message and outpouring of support his campaign received. Hearn, who had received 40 percent of the vote, noted that his campaign raised more money than any other Democrat has in the area for quite some time.

"I think we can win," Hearn said. "If we don't win, we put up a heck of a fight."

On the senate side in District 4, incumbent Sen. Mary Souza, R-Coeur d'Alene, said she was feeling very optimistic about retaining her seat in Boise. Turnout from local voters, according to Souza - who had 59 percent of the vote and 4,543 total votes in her favor - was impressive.

"I think that's wonderful," Souza said. "I'm going to be thankful for all of the support I received no matter the result."

Democrat Kristi Milan, who had captured 41 percent of the vote in her race against Souza, told The Press she felt like she did everything possible during her campaign. From the time she began her campaign in March up until election night, Milan said she had knocked on more than 5,500 doors and gotten a good feel for what the electorate in the region is seeking in its elected officials.

"Whether I win or lose, I'm going to continue to work for public education and to provide health care to all Idahoans," Milan said. "I am so thankful for the support. If I loved Coeur d'Alene before, I love it even more now."

In District 2, Incumbent Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, was on the way to retaining his seat with 66 percent of the vote and 4,873 voters supporting his re-election. Barbieri told The Press that his district is very conservative, and added that he thinks the Democratic Party has not given the electorate enough credit for being knowledgable about the issues.

"The reason I've been elected in the past is because I've stuck to Republican and conservative policy," Barbieri told The Press at a gathering at The Fedora. "I feel that I will be sent back to Boise for a purpose, and that purpose is to represent North Idaho's conservative and Republican perspective every chance I get."

Democrat Kathy Kahn, who had 34 percent of the votes in support of her challenge to the incumbent, said she was feeling really good Tuesday night about both the election results and the process of running. This election, Kahn said, was her first foray into politics.

"Almost everyday I've done something new, and almost everyday I feel I've done it well," Kahn said during a gathering of Democrats at the Best Western Coeur d'Alene Inn. "Thank you so much. I felt the support and I appreciate it."

Incumbent Rep. Eric Redman, R-Athol, exuded confidence Tuesday night at The Fedora and told The Press he was aided by his opponent who "didn't really work too hard." Redman, who had captured 70 percent of the votes, added that he was excited to see the national results, and thankful to his supporters.

"Hopefully I can give them the results they want to see," Redman said.

Democrat Richard Kohles, who obtained 30 percent of the vote in his race against Redman, told The Press he was overwhelmed by the national news. The country, he added, went in a Republican direction, but Kohles said he was heartened by his message of kindness resonating amongst residents.

"There's a real thirst and hunger to head toward a more kind and peaceful society," Kohles said.

There were no contested races for state legislative seats in District 3.

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