Parking lot tussle following May 21 primary leads to battery, property damage charges

Fight involved current, former legislative candidates and disgruntled citizen

By Zach Hagadone
Reader Staff

Drama followed swiftly after the May 21 primary election, when reports surfaced online of a physical altercation involving Spencer Hutchings, who had just failed to win the Republican nomination for Idaho Legislative District 1A representative; Dan Rose, an Independent candidate for Idaho District 1 Senate in November; and Mike Franco, who described himself to the Reader as “a grassroots volunteer” with the local Republican Party.

A screenshot from a video showing the fracas in the parking lot of Sheepdog Supplies in Sagle. Video courtesy of

According to footage shared on YouTube, Hutchings and Franco tussled to the ground in the parking lot of Hutchings’ gun store — Sheepdog Supplies in Sagle — while Rose was apparently on his cell phone. At one point during the incident, Franco stamped on an object on the ground, picked it up and threw it at Rose, who deflected it with his arm.

Bonner County sheriff’s deputies responded.

Now, Franco, who resides in Clark Fork, is under a no contact order from both Hutchings and Rose, and has entered not guilty pleas for two counts of battery/willful and unlawful use of force or violence against a person and one count of malicious injury to property.

“It is an unfortunate event that was not staged for political effect, and which did result in real medical injuries/complications and property damage,” Rose said in a statement shared with the Reader on May 29. “Limits of appropriate and lawful civil interaction were allegedly transgressed and will be handled in the appropriate venue of the First District Court of Bonner County in the months ahead.”

Hutchings did not respond to requests for comment. 

Interpretations of the altercation by multiple parties have suggested that it stemmed from political disagreements between the men, with Franco allegedly unhappy with Hutchings and Rose for not supporting his preferred candidate or candidates. At least one individual — unidentified but for being described by a right-wing blog as “one of the higher ranking members” of the Politically Active Christians PAC — which reports suggested Franco supports — suggested that the fight had been a “staged event” for purposes that were immediately unclear.

The fracas hints at deeper divisions within the local conservative political community.

Rose had been a member of the Bonner County Republican Central Committee, representing Grouse Creek as a precinct committeeman, but according to the BCRCC website that position is now vacant. Rose has also publicly sparred with Scott Herndon, who serves as chair of the central committee and lost his primary bid to Jim Woodward on May 21. Rose will run against Woodward for Idaho District 1 Senate in the November general election.

Hutchings lost his District 1A House race against incumbent Republican Rep. Mark Sauter, and had served as treasurer of the BCRCC until the membership voted to remove him in September 2023. He also unsuccessfully ran against Cornel Rasor for the Southside precinct committeeman position. Rasor won his primary race for House District 1B.

In a May 16 letter to the Bonner County Daily Bee, Rose made no secret of his support for Hutchings’ legislative bid as “conservative to the core” and his disagreements with the BCRCC, writing that its endorsements had been “driven” by what he referred to as the “Fight Club” — “a Christian political group that has already proven unconstitutional activity” and had therefore “lost immense credibility.”

Rose has also referred to “Fight Club” in letters to the Reader, claiming in one instance in December 2023 that, “Herndon and his ‘disciples’ — self-identified affiliates of the local political Christian organization … solicit and select political candidates from their religious clan, or attempt to convert non-clan candidates with the leverage of prematurely bestowing a prized BCRCC recommendation/endorsement.”

For his part, Franco has spoken publicly twice at business meetings of the Bonner County commissioners about the incident involving Hutchings and Rose.

On May 28, he participated in the meeting remotely, saying, “for the record very clearly that I am innocent and the very extreme, violent person is still at large. That’s all I have.”

He spoke again on June 4, repeating that, “I am still an innocent man.”

“We need to ask ourselves why an extreme man — an extreme, violent man — is walking amongst us, and further ask ourselves why people … like state Rep. Heather Scott and the sheriff’s department for Bonner County continue to protect the guilty party.”

When asked May 29 by the Reader to identify the “extreme, violent man” to whom he referred, Franco wrote in a Facebook message that the altercation had been “mostly political except for the extreme violence perpetrated [by] Spencer. Dan and I are not violent. Spencer to my dismay is. He tried to hurt me bad, and could have killed me inadvertently.”

Hutchings has featured in more than one highly visible instance of heated words — the first time in an expletive-laced verbal altercation with a restaurant server in Ponderay in 2018 while running for a position on the Lake Pend Oreille Hospital Board as well as frequently sparring with Commissioners Steve Bradshaw and Luke Omodt during the public comment portions of Bonner County board of commissioners business meetings.

During his June 4 comments before the BOCC, Franco suggested that he and Rose had been friendly since 2003, when they were acquainted and supportive of the same political candidate in Massachusetts, from which both Franco and Rose came to North Idaho.

“[W]hat I was doing with that individual in Sagle [Rose] was trying to locate him to give him one last chance — to encourage him to leave a cult-like entity,” Franco said.

He told the Reader that he is “caught in between at least two political power structures here. But I’m only a grassroots volunteer with very little means … I have no official capacity with any groups. I’m not a conspiracy theorist and I’m just a traditional Republican, from a family supporting Reaganism since 1980.”

The Bonner County Sheriff’s Office declined a request from the Reader for a copy of the arrest report, as the case is ongoing.

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