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Partisan complaints persist

by CRAIG NORTHRUP
Staff Writer | October 17, 2020 1:08 AM

While the controversy from the North Idaho College trustee positions swelled over the past month — as conservative vetting by the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee led to endorsements for a non-partisan race — another voice echoed similar complaints about a different, impartial race.

In a letter to the Kootenai Environmental Alliance, Robert Flagor, board supervisor for the Kootenai-Shoshone Soil and Water Conservation District, wrote that the questionnaire the KCRCC sent to its supervisor candidates for the upcoming election asked questions that had little, if anything, to do with nature conservation.

“I am the first to agree that all of us, not just conservation district supervisors, should have good character, virtue and integrity,” Flagor wrote, “but I object to requiring supervisors to support the state Republican Platform, and ‘Constitutional and Traditional Values’ are vague, abstract, and open to interpretation. Those ideologies have no place in a non-partisan group dedicated to conserving natural resources.”

The questionnaire — submitted to candidates in every race up for grabs in the Nov. 3 election, including the eight in the Conservation District race — asks about each candidate’s views on fiscal responsibility, social views and activity and compliance within the Republican Party. The form drew the ire of two non-partisan candidates for the NIC trustee race, Dr. Paul Sturm and Dr. Joe Dunlap, who both refused to answer the KCRCC questions out of protest.

Brent Regan, chair of the KCRCC, said the vetting for the Conservation District race — just like with the NIC trustee race — was a necessary function for the committee to perform, particularly in a non-partisan race.

“Precinct committeemen frequently field inquiries about candidates,” Regan said. “In order to be consistent and transparent, our committee tasked our Elections Standing Committee with developing a questionnaire for all candidates. As we know, party affiliation is frequently used as an abbreviated way to determine a candidate's position on certain policy issues, which are articulated in the political parties' platforms. Since the "non-partisan" races do not use party affiliation-based primary elections, it is reasonable to inquire directly about the candidate's positions on various policies.”

Voters will select four candidates from an eight-person pool to sit on the board for the district dedicated to resource management, wildlife habitat and conservation in the area. This week, the KCRCC’s Facebook page re-iterated its support for three particular candidates in the upcoming elections: John Minchino, Wes Evans and Steven Van Severn.

“Kootenai-Shoshone Soil & Water Conservation District has good conservative men running for District Supervisors,” the Tuesday post reads. “They recognize the impact unleashed growth has on our community and environment. It is their hope to help facilitate a clean, healthy environment and assist landowners, farmers and ranchers in good stewardship of their lands, and maintain their profitable rural business.”

Flagor insisted in his letter, however, that the questions that dug into each candidate’s political leanings has no place in a non-partisan race.

“None of us should care a whit if a supervisor is of any political or social persuasion, as long as that supervisor is dedicated to conserving natural resources,” he wrote.

Flagor also wrote a letter to the editor of The Press, published this week. In it, Flagor noted that the three candidates listed above who were endorsed by the Central Committee admitted they have no resource management experience.