Candidate Forum draws capacity crowd

By Cameron Rasmusson
Reader Staff

A primary election candidate forum filled the Sandpoint High School auditorium Tuesday night, leading to some detailed discussions and occasionally rowdy moments.

There were almost two dozen candidates that attended the forum. Photo by Ben Olson.

In the Republican primary for District 3 commissioner, candidates Dan McDonald and Carol Kunzeman traded blows over the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness proposal, which McDonald opposes and Kunzeman supports. Kunzeman said it wasn’t appropriate for McDonald to be so vocally opposed to the proposal. McDonald countered that former County Commissioner Cary Kelly traveled to Washington, D.C., to support the proposal, and no one spoke against him.

On other issues, McDonald emphasized his cutting more than $8 million from the county budget, as well as his commitment to serving as many hours as possible to get the job done. Kunzeman highlighted her previous experience on the Ponderay City Council, as well as her willingness to work in service of all residents and not an ideology.

Scotchman Peaks also proved a testy issue for Steven Bradshaw and Glen Bailey, Republican candidates for District 1 commissioner. Bradshaw, the pastor of the Cocolalla Cowboy Church who positions himself as a deeply conservative Christian, criticized Bailey for voting against a proposal to include the word “federal” in the Scotchman Peaks advisory vote language. Bradshaw also criticized the proposed Newport smelter, saying it was arranged illegally.

Bailey defended the Scotchman Peaks ballot language, saying it was clear that the wilderness was a federal issue. He also called for a full assessment of facts before making a decision on the smelter issue. On county management, he emphasized the need to offer competitive salaries to county employees to prevent them from finding more profitable work elsewhere.

Also in the race for District 1 commissioner, Bruce Hollett said he wasn’t yet against the smelter, preferring to take a wait-and-see approach. He declared his opposition to Scotchman Peaks Wilderness and emphasized his background as a third-generation resident, saying his lifelong history in the area gave him an understanding of its issues.

Those in attendance numbered over 300, filling nearly every seat. Photo by Ben Olson.

District 1 Rep. Heather Scott, running for the Republican nomination against Mike Boeck, balked at a question over her no vote on a bill that hiked fees for out-of-state motorboat invasive species stickers, saying it was unfair. She added that she wasn’t against invasive species checking stations. Scott also took a firm stance against the smelter and said she led efforts to oppose it. On education, she said schools were being hurt by Common Core and high administrative salaries. She said that her coalition of like-minded legislators is growing in Boise, and they’ve been making progress.

Boeck, meanwhile, emphasized the importance of calming the divisive politics that have split the community, whether it be Scotchman Peaks or differing conservative ideologies. Instead, he presented himself as a common-sense conservative who would serve all constituents. He emphasized the need to be diligent in combating invasive species and said he will oppose the smelter if the facts show it to be as harmful as people fear.

Ellen Weissman, running against a no-show Bob Vickaryous for the Democratic state representative nomination, said she supports Scotchman Peaks, opposes the smelter and calls for improved education.

Danielle Ahrens, running against Scott Herndon and Jim Woodward for the Republican state senate nomination, said that years of political work has prepared her to serve in Boise. She said she stands against Scotchman Peaks and called for more parent choice in education, giving them freedom to choose public, private or charter options.

Woodward said he hopes to bring the professional, common-sense approach to Boise that he honed over his years of military service and business ownership. He said Scotchman Peaks Wilderness legislation could be written to address the concerns of its opponents and called for a revised look at Idaho’s education funding mechanisms.

Herndon said that national and state governments have fallen astray of their constitutional roots and called for a return to those principles. To that point, he said he would work to enact constitutional audits if elected. He said that home-school households deserve more support in Idaho and called for the prohibition of abortion.

In the Bonner County assessor race, Dennis Engelhardt said that he had the administrative and leadership skill to manage the office effectively. Donna Gow said that as someone who has worked in the office for years, she knows precisely what its problems are and how to fix them. Richard Miller said his business experience prepared him to keep the assessor’s office from becoming a bureaucracy.

There were many more subjects covered at the forum, not to mention candidates in unopposed races who introduced themselves. Visit and check out the podcast.

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