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DART takes election aim

by KAYE THORNBRUGH
Staff Writer | February 27, 2022 1:09 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — You can run for public office.

Yes, you — so long as you’re at least 21 years old and you’ve lived in Kootenai County for at least a year.

A local group wants you to consider it.

Democrats and Republicans Together — DART — is a nonpartisan group that aims to support qualified, moderate candidates in local races, regardless of party affiliations.

Around 40 people gathered Thursday night at the Art Spirit Gallery in downtown Coeur d’Alene for DART’s first in-person meetup. The group also meets weekly via Zoom.

“Believe it or not, you can be the county treasurer,” said Nancy Jones, who spent almost a decade working for the Board of County Commissioners. “You can be the county coroner.”

That’s why residents shouldn’t just show up to vote, she said.

They should look beyond the names or affiliations on the ballot to analyze the qualifications of the candidates.

Some primary elections, where many partisan races are effectively decided, see only around 20% voter turnout.

“By population, that means as little as 8 percent of eligible voters are deciding our leaders in this community,” Jones said. “I think we can do better.”

Voters can encourage qualified candidates to run for local office — and even step forward themselves.

“The change is in the people you know,” Jones said. “We believe we can do more.”

Shari Williams, a Coeur d’Alene resident who ran unsuccessfully for the Idaho Senate District 4 seat in 2020, said DART aims to combat extremist politics by amplifying moderate voices.

“Our biggest hope is reasonable people voting for reasonable candidates,” she said.

DART is collaborating with Nonpartisan Doctors of Coeur d’Alene (NDOC), a group of more than 60 local physicians with a similar objective.

Comprised of Republicans, Democrats and Independents, NDOC promotes “civility and kindness” and supports “qualified, experienced and competent leadership.”

Dr. Benjamin Mandel, a local physician and a member of NDOC, said North Idaho’s reputation as a hotbed of extremist politics has made it tough to recruit and retain skilled physicians.

“That has a direct impact in terms of the quality of health care that’s delivered,” he said.

It’s why Mandel said he supports DART’s goal of changing the conversation about politics in Kootenai County by giving more people a voice.

“(DART) is a group of community members who span the political spectrum, who are all coming together with a common goal of looking out for the health and growth of the community,” he said.

To get involved, contact Ruben Miranda: rmiranda2265@gmail.com