Thursday, July 25, 2024

OPINION: Main Street Idaho, a breath of fresh air

by PATRICK WHALEN/Guest Opinion
| August 18, 2023 1:00 AM

Last night I sat down to dinner with state Sen. Treg Bernt from District 21. Treg is a fourth-generation Idahoan and a graduate of Idaho State University. He is a lifelong Republican and a small business owner. You would recognize him — he is just the kind of stable, reasonable and intelligent Republican that is no longer welcome by today’s Kootenai County Republican Central Committee. I imagine they would refer to him as a “RINO” as they do so many of our staunchly conservative neighbors.

Todd Banducci, Greg McKenzie, Brent Regan and their pal, Vincent Fox don’t seem to welcome independent thinkers to the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee. If you have attended a meeting of the NIC Board of Trustees in recent years you have seen the often petulant and vindictive behavior from the KCRCC precinct members on the board. They have been vocal in many things but not in expressing a clear strategic view of where they want to take the college. Look for them to desperately avoid hiring an independent thinking attorney for the school. They would prefer another lackey instead, it seems.

Treg Bernt and a group of others have started a group of legislators working on fostering economic growth, free markets and the Idaho economy. You might find that list of topics standard Republican ideals, but you won’t be surprised that they get short shrift from our friends in today’s Kootenai County Republican Central Committee. Instead, we get a steady diet of conspiracy theories and fear mongering.

The Main Street Idaho group is also working on tax reform and reducing the regulatory burden facing small business owners in Idaho. Other topics include promoting Idaho’s many advantages in the development of nuclear energy and expanding exports into new markets.

Sen. Bernt spoke about these goals and his experiences as a freshman senator in Boise. I left dinner thinking that it was refreshing to talk politics with a guy trying to move things forward for the state. As a North Idaho resident, I am far more used to hearing from our legislators conspiracy theories and the tearing down of institutions like NIC and the libraries. Idaho really does have some positive Republican leaders.

He is a fascinating guy and I think his group ( shows the way forward for all Republicans who want to govern the state and protect its institutions, grow its economy and educate its children.

Reading the website, I see the group supports conservative values just like the North Idaho Republicans. Principles like limited government, individual liberty, fiscal responsibility and the capitalist system of economic prosperity are what makes America (and Idaho) stand out from the rest of the world. We need to stand together to support them.

I look forward to hearing more about the Main Street Idaho group and I recognize that they are grappling with the same issues and share the same goals as many of us that belong to the North Idaho Republican group. We all need to work together to restore the Idaho Republican Party to its former stature and elect positive-minded leaders who will work on Idaho’s real problems and reject calls to Christian nationalism and white supremacy. Please join us.

• • •

Patrick Whalen is a founding member of the North Idaho Republicans,