Inveterate tax protester Ron Rankin said his answering machine nearly ran out of tape Monday.
That day his friends ran an ad in the newspaper seeking money and a show of support to convince Rankin to run for county commissioner.
It wouldn’t be the first time the former gubernatorial and state senate candidate has run for commissioner.
“When I ran in the past, that was for a platform from which to preach the gospel of fiscal conservatism,” Rankin said Monday, after a day’s work as a laborer at the U.S. Forest Service nursery.
“If I do get into this commissioner race, it would be to run to win,” he said.
If he runs, Rankin would take on Commissioner Bob Macdonald. He originally thought it would be Dick Compton, but the county changed the commissioner districts this winter.
At this point, Rankin is undecided. But Dee Lawless, who has stumped with Rankin for years on the 1 Percent Initiative, is hoping he’ll say yes.
“Quite a few people have said, ‘Gee, I wish he were sitting there in the county commissioner’s seat. He could do a lot more for us,”’ Lawless said. “He could cut down government spending, hear appeals of tax assessments…”
Last year, the county commissioners blamed Rankin for goading people into challenging their tax assessments - which resulted in a record number of tax appeals.
When it was all over, the county processed appeals on 1,452 pieces of property and reduced taxes by $198,000. The appeals cost the county $330,000 to adjudicate.
County officials called many of the appeals “superfluous.”
Some of Kootenai County’s politically active citizens had a hard time believing Monday that Rankin would run for office as anything other than a spoiler.
“I would really be surprised if Ron Rankin would really even run,” said former commissioner Kent Helmer, who beat Rankin in a 1990 commissioner race. “It’s a lot more fun to sit back and criticize than it is to sit down at that position at the head of the table.”
Concerned Business of North Idaho, which joined Rankin this past year in hounding local officials to keep taxes down, was uncertain how to respond Monday.
“This is so volatile,” said spokeswoman Pat Raffe.
Local Republican organizer Kathy Sims said merely, “It’s America. Anybody can run.”
Democrats seemed interested in the prospect.
“It definitely would be a fun race,” said Florence Blackbird, president of the county Democratic club.
As a commissioner, “I would hope…he would divorce himself from personal projects, such as the 1 Percent, and try to look at the county as a whole,” said Bob Brown, county chairman of the Democratic Party.
Rankin made it clear Monday that if he does run, he would not neglect the 1 Percent Initiative.
The measure, which would cap property taxes at 1 percent of taxable property value, already has enough signatures to get on the ballot, he said.
After five years of pushing the proposal, Rankin is confident that this year he has the momentum to get it passed.
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