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'Competent, Qualified, Honest, & Experienced'

Staff Writer | October 31, 2021 1:00 AM

Several bipartisan groups have emerged ahead of the Tuesday election, encouraging residents to vote for the most qualified candidates.

Citizens to Elect Qualified Experienced Candidates - CEQEC - and Democrats and Republicans working Together - DART - recently published endorsement lists covering races around the county.

CEQEC is a citizen-based organization filled with longtime residents and community leaders from across the political spectrum. Judy Meyer, Len Crosby, Shawn Keough, Ron McIntire, Sandi Bloem, Brad Corkill, Dr. Jack Riggs, Lora Whalen and Sandy Patano are among the many helping lead the group. 

According to the organization's website, its purpose is "shedding light on specific candidates, races, initiatives, and important election issues."

Former Kootenai County Chief Deputy Treasurer Laurie Thomas is a founding member of CEQEC and helped get the group off the ground in May. Having been involved in local politics for over 20 years, Thomas felt the area needed a new voice in the elections arena. 

"We're trying to make sure our community has a broad spectrum to make educated choices at the polls," Thomas told The Press. "I live here, my kids live here, and I want the best government possible for my community. I want my kids to stay here, and I want other people's kids and grandkids to stay here."

According to its website, part of the CEQEC's mission is to spread a message that "resonates with every ideological spectrum, especially those tired of the far-right agenda," according to its website. 

"As a Republican, we subscribe to this big tent theory, and it felt like the tent was getting smaller and smaller," Thomas said. "A group of nonpartisan folks was concerned about this and said, 'Wait a minute, they don't speak for all groups," and that's why we started this effort." 

Thomas and several other CEQEC members participate in DART, another nonpartisan group that has partnered with CEQEC to promote "informed" and "smart" voting.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines nonpartisan as "free from party affiliation, bias or designation." 

Activating CEQEC for the May and November elections aims to ensure the longevity of a nonpartisan election process. 

"We want to maintain nonpartisan elections in nonpartisan races," said Corkill, the CEQEC chairman. "I don't see why we need a political agenda to run a fire district, school board, or water district. Politics need to be left at the door in these positions." 

Corkill has a long history of representing North Idaho in state and local offices. Recently retiring as an Idaho Fish and Game commissioner, Corkill has served as a state charter school commissioner, CASA president, and Kootenai County Republican Central Committee chairman. He's also a business owner. 

Many CEQEC members are former elected officials who know "what it takes to care for an agency and what the responsibilities are," Corkill said. 

"If you focus on a political agenda as a fire commissioner or school trustee, then you're not focusing on the qualifications to do the job," he said. "These positions require certain talents. They do not require a political point of view. We want people in there who are there because they can do the job." 

Shawn Keough, the longest-serving female senator in Idaho history, joined the group because of her respect and experience with several CEQEC members, including Corkill. As a former U.S. senator, Keough believes that good government is “critically important” to provide “continuity in services.” 

“Most citizens, regardless of their political viewpoint, expect good schools, roads, law enforcement, and first respondents,” she said. “That means qualified and experienced candidates need to be elected in the positions that manage them.” 

Keough noted that the Idaho Constitution set up city councils, school boards, and fire districts to be nonpartisan because they are service-based organizations.

“It’s about the nuts and bolts of running an organization and making sure that the services they pay for through taxes are executed well,” she said. “I think sometimes partisan politics get in the way of good decision making based on the facts at hand.” 

Twelve-year school board trustee Wanda Quinn joined CEQEC to help engage the area about the importance of nonpartisan elections. She said running for positions now is much different than in the past.

"When I ran, there were no signs, no ads, and I don't think there were ever any editorials," Quinn said. "You just ran, and it wasn't burdensome for the candidate." 

To Quinn, nonpartisan roles like school board trustee are "super volunteer positions" held by active participants in the community. Before running for school board, Quinn was a former educator who volunteered with parent-teacher organizations to help pass levies and bond measures. 

"Nonpartisan elections should be for members of the community that are interested in helping their community and aren't inclined to get into a political career," Quinn said. "I think we lose a lot of people who would want to be in these positions if it has that political bent." 

The CEQEC and DART have endorsed candidates in the November election they believe "will focus on the good of their constituents." 

For more information or to join: 

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