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Two approaches to nonpartisan races

| October 28, 2020 1:00 AM

For years now, local Republican Party leadership has tried to take the “non” out of “nonpartisan races.” The Press has editorialized that nonpartisan races should be kept that way because they emphasize candidates’ qualifications and community commitment, rather than loyalty to a political party and its ideology.

In Saturday’s Press on the Local section front, we shared with readers an opinion piece by Brent Regan, chairman of the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee. In it, Regan argues that his group’s approach of vetting candidates through a Republican lens provides more information to voters, and that it strikes a blow for transparency.

Judging from letters to the editor and other comments from citizens, there’s no shortage of people here who agree with Regan. There is also a good number who disagree. So in the name of transparency and providing more information to voters, here’s a little background that might help the undecideds figure out whom to support in two non-partisan categories on the Nov. 3 ballot.

For three openings on the North Idaho College Board of Trustees, the KCRCC has endorsed Todd Banducci, who’s unopposed, as well as Greg McKenzie and Michael Barnes. McKenzie is an aerospace engineer and Barnes is an information computer security professional. Neither has higher education management experience.

McKenzie’s and Barnes’ opponents, Joe Dunlap and Paul Sturm, respectively, are professional educators, with many years’ experience in higher ed management. Dunlap is a former NIC president and incumbent trustee. Depending on what’s most important to you, it should be easy to select the candidates that you think will best serve the community.

In the eight-way race for four Kootenai-Shoshone Soil & Water Conservation District seats, the KCRCC has endorsed three candidates: John Minichino, Wes Evans and Steven Van Zevern. The KCRCC describes all three as “good conservative men.”

“They recognize the impact unleashed growth has on our community and environment,” the party’s endorsement reads. “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.”

While all three checked the boxes as good Republicans, their mastery of conservation or natural resources is less distinctive, according to Robert Flagor, a 17-year District veteran who was the board's administrator for a decade. (A stance with which letter writer Mike Quinn disagreed Sunday.)

Flagor recently lauded the three supervisors seeking re-election: Stan Thornton, Linda Ely and Laurin Scarcello. He also mentioned the qualifications of two challengers: Valerie Wade and Birgid Niedenzu. Wade is an environmental health specialist and Niedenzu is a science teacher at Coeur d’Alene High School.

Again, voters have choices, and those choices can be guided by what voters value most. Regan is definitely right about one thing: More information is helpful. We hope this editorial sheds a little more light on these local nonpartisan races.