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A New Attitude For County Commission Rankin Or Sheroke - Either Way, It Will Be A Different Leadership Style

Regardless of the election outcome, the Kootenai County Commission could face a shake-up of sorts after the November vote.

The board’s direction may not change, but its style almost surely will.

That’s the word from some county politicos in the wake of tax crusader Ron Rankin’s upset Tuesday of two-term Commissioner Bob Macdonald in the Republican primary.

Rankin drew 52 percent of the vote to Macdonald’s 41 percent. Computer consultant Reed Simpson picked up 7 percent.

Macdonald, defined by what county planning commissioner Katie Brodie called his “calm approach,” served six years on the board, learning the art of compromise.

“He knows the difference between what you hope to accomplish and what you actually can accomplish,” attorney Peter Erbland, another well-known Republican, said before the election.

Since 1994, when two GOP commissioners were elected - including leader Dick Compton - there has been no public disagreement within the three-member board.

But with Rankin or Democratic opponent Chuck Sheroke - both known for strong opinions and a lightning tongue - that’s bound to change.

“Both of us have a clear set of ideas,” said Sheroke, an environmental attorney who ran unopposed in the primary. “And neither of us has ever been evasive about the issues.”

For their part, area Republicans are welcoming Rankin as one of their own despite his years of bucking the party mainstream.

Even Compton was conciliatory despite having squared off against both Rankin and Sheroke during his first two years in office.

He and Rankin traded jabs last year over record-setting assessment appeals. He and Sheroke have been on opposite sides of legal battles over county land-use decisions.

On Wednesday, Compton congratulated Rankin, offered his support and said they should work together if Rankin wins.

“You don’t want one commissioner constantly trying to upstage the others,” Compton said.

Rankin, in typical tongue-in-cheek style, promised to run to the media “only when we disagree.”

“I am not a rubber stamp, I never will be,” Rankin said. “I never have been. And I’m unchangeable.”

While Sheroke on Wednesday already was looking forward to the general election, discussing changes to impact fee legislation, Rankin was savoring his victory.

It was his first successful election in 10 races spanning 35 years.

Rankin lost an earlier bid for county commissioner, a 1994 campaign for governor, five elections for the Legislature and one for a school board seat. He even lost a long-ago race for highway district commissioner.

In California in 1960, he was defeated in an Orange County school board campaign after earning 32,000 votes.

“That would have been enough votes to win governor of Idaho that year,” he said.

Rankin once complained of being beaten by a “simple majority,” saying he’d never win “as long the majority remained simple.”

The 3,726 voters who gave him Tuesday’s victory, however, was an “enlightened” majority, Rankin said.

“Well, … it’s a whole lot different than losing,” he said.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Photos

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