In most counties and states, a Republican primary is a weeding-out process — a choice made by the party to decide who faces a Democrat and possible third-party candidates in the fall general election.
In Republican Kootenai County, a GOP primary is important because the winner usually becomes a favorite to win in November.
In Kootenai County’s District 3 (Hayden, Hayden Lake, Rathdrum, Athol, Spirit Lake and Bayview) this year, the Republican primary is a winner-take-all event. No Democrats or third-party candidates are running for the state Senate seat and two state House seats are up for grabs. On the Republican side, however, voters have clear choices among experienced candidates who in all but one case have served in the Idaho Legislature or as a Hayden Lake area city council member.
In a Senate primary rematch that includes an incumbent and a former four-term senator he defeated two years ago, the candidate that stands out and receives The Spokesman-Review endorsement goes to newcomer Mike Jorgenson. In the two House races, the newspaper endorses the re-election bids of state Reps. Jim Clark of Hayden and Wayne Meyer of Rathdrum.
Senate District 3: Mike Jorgenson
Jorgenson, the Hayden Lake City Council president, wins our nod over Sen. Kent Bailey of Hayden and former Sen. Clyde Boatright of Rathdrum for his grasp of issues, ability to think on his feet, forcefulness and promise to work to establish a caucus among North Idaho’s 15 legislators. At this point, North Idaho has shown little ability to push regional issues because representatives from the five districts largely have tunnel vision rather than a bigger picture outlook. In an interview, Jorgenson said he wanted to see a caucus formed along the model of the Idaho congressional delegates, who are capable of taking strong stands individually but band together on vital Idaho issues.
On the other hand, incumbent Kent Bailey had an uneven voting record in his first two sessions, which included a follow-the-leader vote to try to shirk a state duty to provide safe schools for all Idaho children and his support for heavier truck loads in southern Idaho, which, although he assures it won’t happen, someday could come back to haunt North Idaho. Also, in questionable votes, he supported an attempt to hamstring Indian country by trying to tax cigarettes sold on the reservation; opposed the new smoking ban in Idaho restaurants; and opposed giving Idahoans a chance to vote to reduce the two-thirds supermajority needed to pass school bonds.
Bailey, to his credit, co-sponsored the local-option sales tax bill that eked through the 2003 Legislature and sponsored bills to establish a special motorcycle license plate for Idaho veterans. But his overall record reveals a tendency to follow southern Idaho GOP leadership — a shortcoming he shares with his predecessor, Boatright.
House District 3A: Jim Clark
In the House races, Reps. Clark and Meyer have mixed voting records, too, but they have strengths that outweigh them.
Clark’s greatest weakness is his prickly personality that at times has alienated other local lawmakers, as well as leadership, and may have cost him a seat on the powerful budget committee. He’s a loner and a maverick who has an uncanny ability to detect flaws in legislation. He drives us crazy at times with his legislative gymnastics and an occasional oddball vote — for example, his vote in 2003 against the local-option sales tax, which was vital to help Kootenai County pay off jail bonds.
Clark, however, has enormous strengths, too. A board member of the Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy, he has been instrumental in creating and protecting Idaho’s charter school system and statewide virtual academy. Clark also sponsored legislation which created the state rainy-day fund, which enabled the state to survive recent lean years.
Challenger Jeri DeLange, a Hayden councilwoman, is an up-and-comer with good connections in the community and a better temperament than Clark, but she isn’t up to speed on the issues, yet. She would make a good legislator someday. She simply needs more seasoning in local politics first.
House District 3B
Meyer, a Rathdrum grass grower who has worked to protect field burners, has a bull’s-eye painted on him. In the past year, he has voted for bills to reduce grass growers’ exposure to litigation and to keep university academic research secret until published. Also, he, like Bailey, voted for the unconstitutional bill that tried to dismantle the school safety suit.
As chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and a budget committee member, however, Meyer is North Idaho’s most powerful House member. He used his clout with leadership to resurrect the local-option sales tax for Kootenai County in 2003 after it was rejected several times by the ultraconservative Revenue and Taxation Committee. And he was instrumental as a co-sponsor in winning funding for the North Idaho College nursing science building, which is now under construction. Meyer also deserves credit for fighting for aquifer protection funding and for helping recoup funding for air-quality monitoring in North Idaho after it was axed.
Phil Hart of Athol, a former Constitutionalist, is an attractive candidate for fiscal and social conservatives. But North Idaho would be losing a great deal if he upsets Meyer.
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