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Nonpartisan Group Wins Big Against Republicans In North Idaho

Duane Rasmussen
Balance North Idaho-backed candidates in Coeur d’Alene (from left to right) Amy Evans, Woody McEvers, Steve Widmyer and Kiki Miller. ";

A group in north Idaho says they’re tired of the Democrat versus Republican national drama.

For the last few years, Republicans have been trying to make local races more partisan. Now, a group called Balance North Idaho is fighting back. Its slate of candidates won big in Tuesday’s election.

Balance North Idaho had candidates in four city council races and both mayoral contests in Coeur d'Alene and Post Falls. The president of the political action committee Eden Irgens says election night was tense.

“It's 9:00. It's 9:05. It's 9:10. And the first results came out," she says. "And you have never heard more cheering. Ever.”

All of Balance North Idaho's candidates won.

Irgens and others started this campaign because she says Republicans were trying to stack school boards, hospital district boards and other local positions with ideological party members.

“We started this to try to impact it, but I honest to God didn't think we were going to come in like this.”

This is the group's second election, and the second time most or all of its moderate, independent and even left-leaning candidates have been elected in nonpartisan races.

Irgens is a Republican. But, she says, races this local should be decided on qualifications, not ideology.

“It makes no sense to me that you would just put your hat on one little letter – the R or the D," says Irgens. "What are ya? We want depth of people. We want people who care. We don't care what their party affiliation is.”

And how did Republican activists read the results?

“It couldn't have gone any worse. I have to tip my hat to the Balance North Idaho candidates. It was very impressive,” says Ron Lahr, one of the founders of Kootenai County Reagan Republicans.

That group that started backing local candidates in 2009. It was the same year the Idaho Republican Party central committee urged members to start getting more involved in nonpartisan city races.

Lahr says north Idaho leans Republican, so it makes sense it would have Republicans running local government.

“Another name for nonpartisan races is low information races. The party identification is a relevant piece of information because it's a predictor of how people are going to act when in office.”

Lahr says once election results are finalized, the Reagan Republicans will sift through the numbers and re-evaluate their strategy for the next go round.