Maybe there's a way through partisan mess
The Kootenai County Republican Central Committee believes all elections are partisan, even those bearing the “nonpartisan” label. The Central Committee endorses candidates based on questionnaire answers and interviews funneled through the filter of what their members value.
The Coeur d’Alene Press editorial board believes that candidates in nonpartisan elections — city councils, school boards, hospital trustees, library trustees and so on — should be evaluated on their qualifications for the job, their commitment to assisting that entity and the community, far more than their stance on abortion, social issues or other planks important to political parties.
Both sides have their supporters. On these pages, you’ve heard from many over the past couple weeks.
The spark that lit the latest fire was KCRCC’s refusal to endorse the most experienced person applying for the volunteer library board job. His name is Bob Fish, and he’s a devout Republican who by all accounts has served the community library network superbly over the past four years.
Fish’s failure, which has been well-documented, is that he would not agree to censor reading materials some on the KCRCC find objectionable. Another qualified candidate dropped out for the same reason.
Since that story broke in The Press, citizens have lined up behind those who support the KCRCC practice and political philosophy, and others have lined up behind those who think Fish should be re-elected simply because he’s the best person for the job. A Boise television station, KTVB, produced an outstanding segment on the issue a few days ago.
The added awareness of what’s going on with these allegedly lower-profile races has come at a cost. The national political divide has hit home, hard, digging up more dirt and creating greater separation based on our different perspectives.
It seems clear that KCRCC is going to go ahead and continue to distribute its list of candidates they believe voters should support, and The Press reserves the right to do the same. It’s possible others in the community may step forward, as well.
But is this the best approach to inform and motivate voters for the long run? We think not, at least for nonpartisan elections. There has to be a better way to provide valuable voter information, particularly to those who don’t subscribe to the newspaper or to one party's platform.
Discussions between various groups — groups that are rarely on the same page — are occurring right now. Perhaps there’s a way going forward to provide greater voter service to the overall community than any of these specific groups could accomplish on their own.
It's sure worth a try.