Op-Ed: The Kootenai County GOP uses a racist lie to threaten public education and gain political advantage
| October 27, 2021 1:00 AM
It’s no exaggeration to claim that our upcoming Nov. 2 election is a crucial one. The early voting data suggests that the KCGOP’s multi-year effort to threaten public education is working.
Last year, backed by the Idaho Freedom Foundation (a political action committee disguised as a charitable organization), KCGOP candidates took over the North Idaho College Board of Trustees. Once elected as trustees, these partisan officials violated norms, bullied people around and fired the president without cause. Their actions promptly brought the college’s accreditation under investigation. If damaging and discrediting the college was their goal all along, these KCGOP puppets succeeded.
This year the KCGOP frightened voters with blatantly dishonest claims. They told the racist lie that schools teach critical race theory to indoctrinate students. The KCGOP also claimed wrongly that simple precautions against COVID-19 restrict “freedom” and make students feel depressed. Critical race theory is NOT taught in our schools, nor does it threaten “traditional American values.” “Freedom” and well-being are NOT infringed by having to wear a mask to protect against a disease that overcrowds hospitals and kills more Idahoans every day, especially those who are unvaccinated.
But the KCGOP’s lies took hold. Throughout the summer frightened parents disrupted school board meetings with menacing protests. Two Coeur d’Alene School Board members quickly resigned to protect themselves and their families.
Feeling emboldened the KCGOP then doubled down. It supported radicals, like David Reilly, for school board positions. Reilly is a smooth-talking transplant from Pennsylvania whose social media posts revealed his anti-Semitic views and his hatred of women. Hoping voters would overlook Reilly’s immoral values, the KCGOP did not cut him loose.
Faced with the KCGOP’s undisguised attempt to politicize school boards, the Kootenai County Democratic Central Committee, for the first time, voted to recommend individual candidates in a traditionally nonpartisan election.
Before this year, Kootenai Democrats steadfastly respected the norm of keeping its hands off nonpartisan elections. But once the KCGOP openly endorsed a slate of unqualified partisan stooges and deployed racist tactics to campaign for them, Democrats felt we had to respond.
Democrats urge all voters to visit www.kootenaidemocrats.org to view recommendations on the candidates for all the races across the county.
Democrats' recommended candidates came from both parties, and they were not exclusively our choices. We echoed several other organizations led by citizens who understand that the KCGOP poses a significant threat to public education. The organizations included the Democrats & Republicans Together, the Citizens to Elect Qualified Experienced Candidates, the Coeur d’Alene Press and the Nonpartisan Doctors of Coeur d’Alene.
Indeed, the groups listed above contain current or former members of the KCGOP. Some of them were once prominent elected officials.
All the recommended candidates, regardless of their party affiliations, are qualified by their backgrounds and are unified by their support for public education.
The KCGOP’s racist tactics, its fear mongering, and its opposition to public education have no place in Kootenai County because they are baseless and immoral.
It’s important to see the KCGOP’s tactics for what they are, an effort to stoke base voters using white racial grievance to gain political advantage. Nothing is new about that. But if it works, and the public schools are permanently damaged, the people most likely to be disadvantaged are those who are today protesting in school board meetings.
We all depend on nonpartisan elections for accountability, integrity and competence in government.
Working across party lines, we reinforce our mutual dependence, in this case the shared value of good quality public schools. That is how democracies survive.
Democrats urge Kootenai County citizens to join forces and vote for candidates who will save public education.
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Evan Koch is chair of the Kootenai County Democratic Central Committee.