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Voters favor incumbents

Wed., Nov. 7, 2007

Coeur d’Alene voters allowed two longtime City Council members and former mayors to keep their jobs Tuesday while electing Planning Commission Chairman John Bruning to an open seat.

Councilman Ron Edinger, a former mayor in the 1970s and the longest serving councilman with 33 years of service, led challenger Dan Gookin all night, winning with 54 percent, or 2,626 votes.

Councilman Al Hassell, a mayor between 1986 and 1998, beat three challengers: Jim Brannon, Jerry Weaver and Chris Patterson. Hassell captured 43 percent or 2,067 votes; Brannon received 39 percent, Patterson 10 percent and Weaver 9 percent.

Bruning won easily against four challengers: Susie Snedaker, Anita Banta, Wayne Frisbie and Joseph Kunka. Bruning, who has been a planning commission member for 25 years and board chairman for 20 years, will replace Councilwoman Dixie Reid, who opted not to seek re-election. He was the only new person elected to the council, with 48 percent or 2,331 votes. Snedaker received 30 percent while Banta got 9 percent, Frisbie 8 percent and Kunka 5 percent.

“When you run a campaign that is honest and straightforward with no lies, you end up a winner,” Edinger said Tuesday evening. “And that’s what happened tonight with Al, John and myself. We were out there and met the people and didn’t spread any stories or tell any lies.”

Gookin and Brannon both challenged the incumbents, arguing its time for new leadership. Gookin, a technology writer of numerous “Dummies” computer books, argued that the current council is disrespectful to residents, and he questioned the city’s urban renewal agency’s use of tax dollars, especially for private development.

Edinger said the voters proved that only a minority of residents share those feelings. During the campaign, he said he was upset with the “harassment and nitpicking” by a small group of people unhappy with city government. Instead, he touted the positive accomplishments in Coeur d’Alene, including the new library and the Salvation Army Kroc Community Center.

Gookin noted that the race was close – he lost by just 366 votes in final, unofficial results – and said that means his message resonated with voters. “I just wish we could have gotten it out to more people,” he said.

Across Kootenai County, voter turnout was low – about 21.5 percent.

Gookin pledged to run again but wasn’t specific about which office. “I’m going to stick on those issues and keep asking the tough questions,” he said.

Bruning said one of his strengths is his ability to listen, a skill he proved on the planning commission.

“I think it was a vote of confidence in what I’ve done on the planning commission the last 25 years,” said Bruning, whose closest challenger was Snedaker, a former planning commission member.

Bruning said he hopes Snedaker, a long-time activist, continues to bring neighborhood issues to the council’s attention.

“We need people like that to bring those things forward and keep us on our toes,” he said.

Bruning’s top priority is ensuring local workers can buy a home. He wants the city to work with the urban renewal agency to start work on affordable housing projects. “We’ve got to get going on that,” he said.


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